Led Zeppelin already had an impressive touring schedule under their belts when they released their sophomore album, Led Zeppelin II. They had completed touring around the UK and the States, but Led Zeppelin II would be the album that would cement them into rock history.
The album was released in October 1969, a mere nine months after their debut, and was recorded and produced in between their hectic touring schedule. The blues influenced quartet took their initial more psychedelic approach and fused it with harder, bluesier rock to create one of the most influential rock albums to date.
“Whole Lotta Love” is one of the band’s biggest, most recognizable songs. Jimmy Page’s opening riff accompanied by John Paul Jones’ bass starts off the album in true hard rock fashion. The other rock of the late 1960s was nothing compared to the heaviness that Page and his band mates were bringing to the forefront. This paired with the wailing vocals of the “golden god” Robert Plant made the track an instant classic. It oozes sex appeal without losing any of its integrity.
“Whole Lotta Love” is followed by “What is and What Should Never Be,” which starts out in a bit of spacey fashion but picks up in the chorus. While it is overall a good song, the lyrics aren’t the strongest. Plant’s delivery is great, but other tracks on the album are superior in lyrical content.
Next up is “The Lemon Song,” the longest and by far the sleaziest track on Led Zeppelin II. The band digs deep into their blues roots for this one and they don’t disappoint. Page’s blues guitar work is gritty and groovy, with the rhythm section following suit. Of course, it wouldn’t be fair not to mention Plant’s stunning vocals. Very few vocalists could take the phallic symbol of a lemon and scream out some of the best blues rock of the 20th century.
Led Zeppelin II also contains two more of the band’s biggest tracks, “Heartbreaker” and “Living Loving Maid.” “Heartbreaker” features another Page riff that is instantly recognizable, while “Living Loving Maid” contains one of the catchiest choruses.
“Ramble On” is one of the album’s best both musically and lyrically. It starts with Page’s soft acoustic playing, with Jones laying down a solid bass in the back. The chorus, however, changes everything with Page, Jones, and drummer extraordinaire John Bonham ripping and playing at full force. Plant’s vocals and song writing are also on full display, with his infamous nods to J.R.R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings making an appearance.
When talking about Zeppelin, it also wouldn’t be fair not to mention the genius that is John Bonham. His skills are some of the best the music world has ever seen, which is evident on “Moby Dick.” While some may find the track odd or boring, it truly shows how masterful Bonham was as a percussionist. Whether with his sticks or with his hands, Bonham knew how to make the drums speak and no one did it so powerfully.
The album closes with the blues tune “Bring It On Home,” which seems fitting. Led Zeppelin II was and is some of the heaviest work the band has ever produced and really delves into the dirty blues on which they were raised.
It is very easy to say that this album is some of Zeppelin’s best work. “Whole Lotta Love” has spanned decades and is still a staple on any rock lovers’ playlist. Page’s iconic riff and Plant’s incredible, powerful vocals entrance the listener, keeping the song relevant over 40 years later. “Heartbreaker” and “Living Loving Maid” are other classic, catchy tunes that have stood the test of time.
The band’s longevity cannot be credited to any one member. It must be attributed to the individual talents of Plant, Page, Jones, and Bonham. Each member is a key ingredient that could not be subtracted from the equation. Page’s guitar, Bonham’s drums, Jones’ bass, and Plant’s wail are all individually stunning but sound even better when combined.
While the songwriting developed and expanded over the years, Led Zeppelin II is still a masterful creation from one of the most distinctive bands in all of music history. They crafted a blues based style of rock and made music that is nostalgic but timeless. No one can imitate the mighty Zeppelin…and no one ever will.
Following the release of Led Zeppelin II, Zeppelin continued to tour and build a massive following. In 1970, the band began working on Led Zeppelin III, which was highly influenced by Celtic and folk music. 1971 saw the release of the band’s most notable song, “Stairway to Heaven,” which is said to be the most requested song in rock radio.
After a string of incredibly successful album releases, tragedy struck in 1980. Drummer John Bonham was found dead in his hotel room. The band’s scheduled tour was cancelled and the members decided to part ways.
Since the breakup, the band has reunited at various points over the years, with Bonham’s son Jason filling in on the drums. Their last gig together took place at the O2 arena in 2007. The band has no plans for a reunion, but is set to release a complete discography in 2013.
Reviewer: Hilari Barton
IRC: Bill Pulice
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