Thursday, August 29, 2013

Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin III

In my pre-punk adolescence, and before I discovered the pre-punk Detroit high-energy bands, the late 60's/early 70's hard rock/heavy metal bands gave me the closest approximation of raw power to cure my pubescent blues. I assume that I first heard Led Zeppelin via the first big single, "Whole Lotta Love", but not sure when I really started delving into the albums. Having been brought up as a folkie, I did appreciate their acoustic side, as well, so this album has always appealed to me and remains one of my favorite of theirs.

The Valkerie shriek opening "Immigrant Song" was nothing short of a berserker cry coming out of the usual AM Radio drek (and this was kept short enough to be a single without meat-handed editing), and this simple, driving tune brought many to Zeppelin's shores. Being a fan of Marvel's Thor comic book, I appreciated the lyrical content, as well! But, the acoustics come out right afterwards in "Friends", with Page playing with unusual tunings, somewhat off-beat rhythms (sorta reminiscent of what would be done in "Kashmir" later) and even a string section (though I think this may have been done with Jones' mellotron). "Celebration Day" is a bit of a high-speed blues, complete with slide work, that morphs into a pop chorus, as they create more of their own sound based on the blues, rather than simply ripping off the old guard.

Speaking of which, "Since I've Been Loving You" was given some new arrangement in their hands, but it really was an Otis Rush tune. Nonetheless, they give an emotional reading to these minor-key blues and Bonham really lays down a heavy backbeat and gives some truly effective accents to the proceedings. Of course, Page lets loose with  a blazing flurry of notes so fast and furious that they are sometimes hard to follow, but are still well composed. LZ were also masters at turning weird, off-time riffs into head-banging bashers, as they do with "Out on the Tiles" - this shouldn't make any sense, but somehow it does - I suspect again that Bonham has a lot to do with this - and, of course, it is also tempered with its catchy chorus.

One of my favorite things that these cats ever did is their arrangement of the traditional tune, "Gallows Pole", with it's mandolin and banjo in addition to the acoustic guitar. This was adapted by many early folk, country and bluegrass artists in the States, but Zep reverts it a bit to its old country (British) roots, but adds a modern touch with Bonham's entrance punching the tune into high gear. They do create a truly pretty folk song with "Tangerine", though again add drums and electric guitars to the sonic mix. This continues in "That's the Way" - again, primarily an acoustic guitar/mandolin folk track but with some electrics adding to the soundscape.

"Bron-Y-Aur Stomp" (named after a locale in northern England, as I recall, where they were writing songs for this album) is a cool, little acoustic country/blues bouncer which moves directly into "Hats Off to (Roy) Harper", an acoustic slide blues taken from a number of older songs but given an interesting twist by these boys.

This is considered Zep's "acoustic album" and I guess that is a reasonably fair assessment despite the few heavy tunes - even though all of their records have their share of wooden music. I dig the many sides of the band that are shown here - good stuff!

Of course, today's youngsters can't fully realize the tactile and sensory experience of playing with the vinyl album cover with the moving wheel exposing different images beneath. Ah for the days when record covers were works of art!