Ranking the Songs on Every Led Zeppelin Album

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January 7, 2016 by NowhereButPop

by Andrew Doscas

led zeppelin

 

 

We all know that Led Zeppelin is the greatest rock band of all time; you know that, I know that, people from Bhutan know that, even those shitty Nazi kids from Lord of the Flies know that.  The fact that six out of their eight original releases can be argued as their best is a testament to the band’s versatility and mastery of music.  Instead of doing a rudimentary countdown of the band’s best songs, ranked worst to greatest, this list takes each of the band’s albums and ranks the songs of each album within that album.  For example, all the songs on Led Zeppelin are ranked from worst to best, and so on and so forth for each album.  Each album is treated individually with the rankings taking place within the confines of the album.  Here we go:

 

Led Zeppelin (1969)

lz i

Led Zeppelin’s eponymous debut album set the stage for what was to come.  It’s the perfect springboard for the musical territories the band would explore over the next 10 years.  However, it pales in comparison to what the band would eventually accomplish.  While a strong debut album that cemented the band as an upcoming force, it still sounds like they’re playing to a specific sound that isn’t totally sincere.  On Led Zeppelin, the band wasn’t as cohesive or unilateral as they would be on later albums.  Coupled with some serious pacing issues, Led Zeppelin is an album that succeeds within a vacuum, but when held up to the standard of later albums finds itself in the bottom half of the band’s discography.

 

9) “You Shook Me”

What a draaaaaaaaaaaaaaaag this song is.  In virtually every sense of the word, “You Shook Me” mercilessly grinds on like a dull guillotine hacking away at a 1790s Frenchmen’s neck.  As we see on later songs, it’s not like the band can’t do slower tempos or longer songs, they can; it’s just that “You Shook Me” is so boring and so languished that it’s just no fun to listen to.  A rarity indeed in the world of Led Zeppelin.

 

8) “I Can’t Quit You Baby”

Without question one of the band’s most non-descript songs, “I Can’t Quit You Baby” doesn’t really offer listeners anything at all.  Even while constructing this list, I had to go back and listen to the song because I completely forgot what it sounded like.  Being vaguely better than “You Shook Me”, and mildly worse than “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You”, this song is probably the band’s least essential.

 

7) “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You”

More than it rightfully should, and more than any other Led Zeppelin album, their debut album sounds way too monotonous.  “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” is way too similar to the first two songs listed and “Dazed and Confused” as well.  “Babe” just sounds way too similar to a slew of other tracks on this album to actually standout and distinguish itself as one of the better cuts.  There’s very little diversity on this album which ultimately proves to be its biggest set back.  However, kudos to this song for first experimenting with the the slow/fast/slow tempo structure that the band would perfect on later songs.

 

6) “Communication Breakdown”

According to Chuck Klosterman, the roots of punk music lay in “Communication Breakdown” and some 13-year-old moron’s inability to get the chords right.  Klosterman, however hit the nail on the head as the simple chord structure of the song and Plant’s harsh wailing all serve as a precursor to the musical fad that would take hold about eight years later.  All things considered, this is probably one of the most basic songs in the band’s catalogue.  That doesn’t make it bad or weak, as “Breakdown” is still an entertaining song that can be played out of your car as your going 70 MPH, or when evil right-wing toys come to life and try to fuck up the neighborhood.

 

5) “Black Mountain Side”

“Black Mountain Side” is actually a great song that breaks up the monotony of Led Zeppelin.  It’s an acoustic track that features only Jimmy Page, but it’s still a great track that showcases his innovation and skill.  It has a slight Eastern influence to it that further adds to its distance from the rest of the psychedelic inspired tone of the album.  It serves as a nice reprieve and a great change of pace for an album that desperately needed one.

 

4) “Your Time is Gonna Come”

The first Led Zeppelin song to showcase John Paul Jones’ skill with an organ and cementing his importance to the band, “Your Time is Gonna Come” is as Rick Rubin puts it: “It’s like the drums are playing a big rock song and the guitars are playing a gentle folk song”.  It’s one of the few times on Led Zeppelin where the band actually sounds like a unified and fully formed band, instead of just Jimmy Page & CO.  The lyrics are bluesy, the drums are rock and roll, and the guitars are folky, and on “Your Time is Gonne Come”, everything comes together for the band in great form and spectacular fashion.

 

3) “Dazed and Confused”

Without question, “Dazed” is the band’s most psychedelic song.  More than any of their other albums, Led Zeppelin is most influenced by the times in which the album was recorded and “Dazed” proves that fact.  It’s slow, plodding pace requires listeners to have patience with it, but when it erupts in the middle of the song, it’s well worth the wait as all four members cut loose with everything that they have.  Three tracks into their debut album, and they already had their first masterpiece.  Not bad, not bad at all.

 

2) “Good Times Bad Times”

Outside of “Welcome to the Jungle”, “Good Times Bad Times” is the best introduction to any band.  Blues inspired lyrics, pounding drums, and titanic guitars highlight the first song on the band’s first album.  “Good Times” is a fun and easily accessible song on an otherwise slow-footed, lumbering album.  From the very first chords and drum smashes, listeners are immediately sucked into this charismatic groove and announces Led Zeppelin as the primal force that they would shortly become.

 

1) “How Many More Times”

If all the other epics on Led Zeppelin were as kinetic and focused as “How Many More Times”, Zeppelin’s debut album would have been infinitely better.  It’s the most finely produced and structured effort on the album, as if the band made a concerted effort to end things with an explosive bang.  And much to listener’s delight the TNT is supplied by drummer John Bonham who pulls out the stops with his dynamic precision and his bolero-inspired drumming to keep tempo on a track that sounds more like snippets of other songs cemented together.  While Page’s vision is to be applauded, it’s Bonham who keeps the song stitched together like a Dr. Frankenstein sewing disparate body parts together to create this monster rocker.  The best track on Led Zeppelin is also it’s final track leaving listeners eagerly awaiting more.  A challenge that Led Zep would be more than capable of accepting.

 

Led Zeppelin II (1969)

LZII

Only the first of many near-perfect/perfect albums in the band’s discography, Led Zeppelin II serves as the blueprint for every other rock album that would come after it.  On II they ditched the labored psychedelics of their debut album and replaced them with blistering guitar licks and a lively vigor that would become the band’s patented sound.  II is straight up blues-inspired hard rock and serves as the first Led Zeppelin album to sound as if all four members were equal contributors to its creation.  All nine tracks on this album are classics, which makes ranking the songs on II much more difficult than on any other album.  The songs selected last or second-to-last aren’t bad songs, as there isn’t one on this album; it’s just that there are better songs instead.  Organizing this ranking isn’t a matter of going from worst to best, but more so a matter of going from great to excellent to awesome.

 

9) “Thank You”

Up through this point “Thank You” was the band’s best and most heartwarming ballad as it serves as a cry of devotion from Robert Plant to his wife (a wife whose sister Plant would later knock up, the same sister who served as the inspiration for “What is and What Should Never Be”).  It’s a very tender and sweet ballad highlighted by Plant’s beautifully imagined lyrics, and Jones’ gentle play on the organ makes “Thank You” the band’s most enjoyable ballad through their first two albums.  The biggest drawback however, is the 40 second fadeout to silence that’s eventually filled with a crescendo from the organ.  “Thank You” could have and should have been a minute shorter, but it still remains one of the band’s sweetest songs.  On II there are no bad songs, it’s just that one song had to be at the bottom of this ranking.

 

8) “Living Loving Maid”

If “Communication Breakdown” is the pre-cursor to punk rock, then “Living Loving Maid” is the pre-cursor to 80s hard rock odes to various groupies.  “Maid” is the predecessor to Motley Crue’s “Girls, Girls, Girls” and Guns N’ Roses “Anything Goes”.  It’s a gunning rocker with a loose guitar riff, fun lyrics, and an easy attitude.  “Living Love Maid” is a great song on a great album, it’s just that this album offered better songs.

 

7) “What Is and What Should Never Be”

A much more successful attempt at experimenting with tempo and dynamic changes, “What Is and What Should Never Be” perfectly conveys the bi-polar contemplations that Robert Plant had about his secret affair with his wife’s sister.  On the one hand, the song is soothing and relaxing, only to abruptly shift gears into a maniacal torrent of nonsensical lyrics, until it finally descends into unrestrained madness.  In short, “What Is” proved to be the perfect song for Silver Linings Playbook.

 

6) “Heartbreaker”

“Heartbreaker” is one of the heaviest songs on II and it is also arguably Page’s finest work as a guitarist on the album.  His solo during the middle section of the song is a masterpiece and literally takes place in a vacuum, and the main riff is one of the heaviest that he had written up to that point.  John Paul Jones’ bass will leave your bones quivering and Plant’s harsh lyrics are some of his most blues-inspired.

 

5) “Moby Dick”

Everyone always makes note of Bonham’s innovative drum solo which occupies most of the song, but Jimmy Page’s riff is amongst his finest and it would have been awesome to have an actual song constructed around that riff.  As it stands however, Bonham is the standout of this track as he leaves listeners with a sense of eager suspense as to what he’ll do next.  “Moby Dick” isn’t the reason why Bonham is the greatest rock drummer of all time, but it’s a good place to start.  What holds it back however is that the studio version of “Moby Dick” is essentially a neutered, watered down version of the masterpieces that Bonham would put together during live shows.

 

4) “Whole Lotta Love”

Not only is “Whole Lotta Love” Zeppelin’s highest charting American single (#4), it’s also one of their most recognizable hits.  This is really the first “real” Led Zeppelin song as it was the first one credited to all four members.  That and the fact that for the first time in the band’s history, they actually sounded like a band coming together with one vision uniting them all.  Page’s riff works in synch with Plant’s delivery and lyrics, while Page also offers his best work as a producer on II, especially during the middle psychedelic bridge.  Although it still keeps some of the psychedelic influence that held back their debut album, Led Zeppelin officially announciated themselves with “Whole Lotta Love”, the first track on their sophomore album.

 

3) “The Lemon Song”

“The Lemon Song” absolutely, positively drips of the blues in every way, and the results couldn’t have been better.  Maybe because it was directly inspired by a blues song, “The Lemon Song” could have been recorded in the 1950s when blues ruled the scene and most people would have been none the wiser, that’s how great of a blues song this is.  Plant is literally howling like a man on fire, Jones’ bassline is as groovy as it’s ever been, Page is fantastic during the song’s double-time section, and Bonham brings it all together with his brand of meticulous chaos on the drums.  His precision and articulation on the drums wraps up the song in a nice bow as the perfect ode to the blues which inspired Led Zeppelin more than any other genre of music.  And what an ode “The Lemon Song” turned into.

 

2) “Bring It On Home”

From the beginning of this song, marked by harmonica whispers and gummy murmurings by Robert Plant, listeners know that they’re in for a real treat.  What starts off as a deep southern soul-blues song spontaneously morphs into a hard rocking number that ends II with a raucous bang.  As if clear waters suddenly gave way to an unpredictable typhoon, “Bring It On Home” changes the dial to close out the album as ferociously as it began.  As he does on the rest of the album, Jimmy Page proves to be the MVP on this track as his infectious riff saddles the song like a secure beat of hard rock.  Plant’s punchy lyrics and Bonham’s wild drumming all run rampant as neither one holds anything back bringing Led Zeppelin II to a blistering end.

 

1) “Ramble On”

In the span of only four-and-a-half minutes, Led Zeppelin somehow merged folk music and hard rock into one song more perfectly than anyone else has ever done.  “Ramble On” is the first song to explore Plant’s love of The Lord of the Rings and fantasy literature in general, and he does so in the coolest way imaginable.  Who’d have thought that a song about Gollum and Mordor would be one of the best songs to blast out of your car on a beautiful spring day?  It’s on “Ramble On” that the band finally perfect the slow-fast-slow-fast tempo change that they had been experimenting with throughout 1969.  “Ramble On” is a song about just that—Sojourning wondrously around with no aim, but full of explorative desire, and that’s what makes it such a fun song.  Bonham’s soft percussions contrasted with his powerful drumming is mimicked by Plant’s disinterested vocals during the soft verses and his enthusiastic bellowing during the harder chorus.  Both of which serve as the lynchpin to “Ramble On” that make it the best song on one of Led Zeppelin’s greatest albums.

 

Led Zeppelin III (1970)

LZIII

With so many great albums in their discography, it’s hard to believe that Led Zeppelin could have made an album that wasn’t greeted with raving reviews, but Led Zeppelin III remains the band’s most underrated album.  Despite this, III is a seminal album, not just for the quality of songs, but also because it proved that Led Zeppelin wasn’t just another rock and roll band.  They could spend an entire album experimenting with folk music and be just as good at it as they were with blues rock.  Led Zeppelin III would become even more important as it lay the foundation and set the precedent for the presence of future acoustic tracks.  III showed that the band weren’t just adept at playing a certain kind of music; it demonstrated that they were omnipotent musicians capable of mastering any genre.  As a side note, despite not being on III due to time restraints, “Hey, Hey What Can I Do” is still the best song recorded for Led Zeppelin III.

 

10) “Hats Off to (Roy) Harper”

Unlike II which had no bad songs, Led Zeppelin III is plagued by “Hats Off to (Roy) Harper”, the second worst song in the band’s catalogue.  The distortion and reverb make the song literally unlistenable and untenable.  I really have no idea what the hell Page and Plant were thinking when they recorded this song, and when they chose to put it on the album instead of “Hey, Hey What Can I Do”.  It just goes to show that although it was rare, the world’s greatest rock band could still make the occasional mistake.

 

9) “Friends”

Although not as dreadful as “Hats Off”, “Friends” doesn’t really offer much to the band’s overall catalogue.  It’s uncharacteristic in that there’s an accompanying string arrangement, but besides that and Plant shouting altruistic platitudes, there’s nothing really remarkable about “Friends”.

 

8) “Out on the Tiles”

The one word that would be used to describe “Out on the Tiles” would be “generic”.  Plant’s lyrics are pretty basic and stereotypical of his writing style, the song structure is simple enough and it never really sounds like the band was on the same page with this song.  There’s nothing wrong with “Out on the Tiles”, but it doesn’t really have anything working to its advantage either.

 

7) “Celebration Day”

Inspired by the band’s trip to New York City, “Celebration Day” possesses a hyperactivity to it that’s neither maniacal or threatening.  Jones’ moog synthesizer reminds me of those old cartoons where one character plays the Adams’ Apple of another character on their outstretched neck.  That was a cartoon right?  Anyway, “Celebration Day” is a pretty cool song.  Give it a try.

 

6) “That’s the Way”

“That’s the Way” is like a spring running gently through the countryside on a sunny summer day.  It’s an incredibly, almost uncharacteristically mellow turn for the band, even though it’s present on the serene III.  The song occupies this strange emotional atmosphere of being pensively dazed.  “That’s the Way” is the sound of stopping to smell the roses and appreciating the everyday beauty of the world.  While a solid song in its own right, it’s a song that no one in 1970 expected Led Zeppelin to write.

 

5) “Immigrant Song”

I don’t know if it’s maybe the people I know, or if this is a common point of contention, but the song is called “Immigrant Song”, not “The Immigrant’s Song”.  But then again, I live on Long Island…  Anyway, this is the song that was playing in the background when Caesar crossed the Rubicon, and when Teddy Roosevelt was invading Cuba, and when Leif Erikson came to America.  The point is, if you’re looking to kick some ass, “Immigrant Song” is the hype song that you’re gonna play as you charge into battle.  Its proto-metal, Calvary inspiring rhythm is matched only by the war-cries of Robert Plant shrieking his clarion call of doom.  “Immigrant Song” makes your blood hot with energy fooling unsuspecting listeners into thinking that the rest of III would follow suit.  As it stands, the rest of the album functions to calm listeners down after the charging torrent of “Immigrant Song”.

 

4) “Since I’ve Been Loving You”

“Since I’ve Been Loving You” is the blues, plain and simple.  If Plant’s guttural howls aren’t enough to convince you, then Jimmy Page’s melancholy solo should aptly suffice.  Every Led Zeppelin album has at least one epic on it, and “Since I’ve Been Loving You” is Led Zeppelin III’s epic as it slowly grinds out a niche on the otherwise folk-inspired third effort by the band.  “Since I’ve Been Loving You” is the epic ballad that a third of the songs on I wish they were, which just goes to show that Zeppelin got better as time went on.

 

3) “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp”

Despite his simple drumming on “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp”, it’s John Bonham who stands out most on this track as his beat turns the song into a Welsh hoe-down of sorts.  Meanwhile Plant’s excited lyrics about his dog add a layer of playfulness to this country twang.  Led Zeppelin III exists for songs like “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp”, inasmuch as it demonstrated to the public just how much the band was inspired by folk music as much as American blues.  Contrary to what most people believe, on III the band wasn’t experimenting musically; they were merely revealing another aspect of themselves.  “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp” showed fans and critics alike that the band was just as adept at folk music as they were with rock and roll.

 

2) “Tangerine”

“I was her love, she was my queen, and now a thousand years between”, is nothing short of pure poetry from a band that took too much glee in creating new euphemisms for sex.  Amongst the many, many songs laced with hedonism and debauchery lays the eternally innocent and beautifully somber “Tangerine”.  No doubt an inspiration on IV’s “Going to California”, “Tangerine” shares the same sense of wistful longing, but is even more successful in execution.  Along with “Ten Years Gone”, and “The Rain Song”, this song is one of the three best ballads ever recorded by Led Zeppelin.  After hearing this song, how could there be any detractors about Zeppelin going acoustic?

 

1) “Gallows Pole”

Not only is “Gallows Pole” the best song on Led Zeppelin III, it’s also one of Jimmy Page’s favorites on the album.  Always fans of black comedy, the band really chalks up the playfulness retelling the age old story of a man seeking to bribe his way out of the hangman’s clutches.  After his brother, sister, and friends all pay off the hangman in exchange for the prisoner’s salvation, the hangman still proceeds to execute the poor bastard.  Page’s banjo is a nice touch to this flawless track and Plant’s spastically spirited shouting really makes the song come alive.  More than anything, what “Gallows Pole” proved is that Led Zeppelin didn’t need to be loud to be exciting and dynamic.  They could still be the world’s greatest rock band even while being Amish.

 

Led Zeppelin IV a.k.a. ZoSo a.k.a. Runes a.k.a. Untitled (1971)

LZIV

With the release of Led Zeppelin’s fourth album, the band took everything that they had learned on their previous three albums and mixed those ingredients together to create one of the most perfect albums ever made.  With Led Zeppelin IV, Zeppelin provided that 1+2+3 = 4, as their first three albums seemed like mere stepping stones on the way to this mammoth 1971 release.  IV contains the epics of their debut album, harvests the hard rocking ferocity of their sophomore album, and finds inspiration in the the folky nature of their third album.  Led Zeppelin could have disbanded right after the release of this album, and their legacy would have still been cemented as one of the most influential and greatest bands of all time.  Similarly to Led Zeppelin II, there are no bad songs on this album, it’s just a case of certain songs being more better than others.

 

8) “The Battle of Evermore”

“The Battle of Evermore” is the folksiest track on IV, yet still manages to fit in with the overarching density of the album because of the song’s epic nature.  Despite being only one of two acoustic tracks on the album, somehow, as if almost defying logic, “Evermore” not only fits, but ultimately works in conjunction with the rest of the songs on the album.  As with every other song on this album, there’s a real heaviness and a mysticism to this song even without banging drums or a bassline.  If the point of IV was to make an album of mythical proportions, then “The Battle of Evermore” only adds to the mysterious intrigue of one of the greatest rock albums of all time.

 

7) “Four Sticks”

Besides being one of the most difficult tracks for the band to record, “Four Sticks” is also famous for inspiring the riff for what would become “Rock and Roll”.  With it’s rolling drums and spiraling guitar chord progression, “Four Sticks” is something of an enigma on IV since it’s not as epic as “Stairway” or “Levee”, nor is it a folk track like “Evermore” or “Going to California”, nor is it a straight up rocker like the remaining songs on the album.  Yet, much like “Evermore” because of its distinctiveness, “Four Sticks” becomes a crucial portion of IV.

 

6) “Misty Mountain Hop”

More than any other track on the album, “Misty Mountain Hop” is John Paul Jones’ baby as his distinctive keyboard skills are fingerprinted all over this song.  As a keyboardist, “Misty Mountain Hop” remains one of Jones’ best endeavors as he becomes the driving force behind the song.  Plant’s rhythmic delivery is right in line with the keyboards which augments the song even further, making it the anthem of drug addled hippies the world over.

 

5) “Going to California”

Although it’s one of the few tracks not to feature John Bonham, “Going to California” is arguably the band’s best acoustic offering.  With wistful lyrics by Plant, and resigned guitar work by Page, “Going to California” provides listeners with a rare sense of longing and melancholy from a band better known for it’s zest and lust for life.  Because it serves as a stark contrast from what people expected from Led Zeppelin, “Going to California” more than holds its own with the other, heavier, and more popular songs found on this album.

 

4) “Black Dog”

Whereas “Going to California” presented listeners with an unknown aspect of the band, “Black Dog” is the summation of everything the band came to be known for.  It offers thinly veiled lyrics about sex, impossible drumming, and innovation guitar licks that couldn’t have come from anywhere else save for the omnisciently demented mind of Jimmy Page.  Much like a wet dog drips water into the house, “Black Dog” drips sexiness right into listener’s ears.  John Paul Jones has often said that the point behind the rhythm of “Black Dog” was to make something that people couldn’t dance to.  But, in trying to do so, the band gave us one of their most infectious and grooviest songs that they’d ever record.

 

3) “Rock and Roll”

Like many of Zeppelin’s songs, “Rock and Roll” is immediately recognizable as soon as listeners hear the opening drum crunch.  Appropriately enough, the song is based off of the 12-bar blues progression, one of the most popular in rock music, and if rock music had an anthem it would be “Rock and Roll”.  Robert Plant steals the show on “Rock and Roll” as his descending style of delivery during the chorus is one of the most memorable choruses in music history.  For a band that had been a folk band, a hard rock band, and a heavy metal band at various points in their career, and for a genre of music that has become so fragmented over the past 50 years, it’s almost ironic that this band would produce the definitive, and aptly titled, rock and roll song.

 

2) “Stairway to Heaven”

Nothing more needs to be said about “Stairway to Heaven” since it’s been lauded with every accolade possible.  The most spectacular thing about this song however, is that it was the first one to actually progress and transmute itself on such the grand scale that it did.  It starts off as an acoustic folk ballad before the drums come in, and shortly thereafter, it explodes like an atomic butterfly from its claustrophobic chrysalis into the grandiose and mesmerizing rock epic.  Most importantly, “Stairway” never loses and ounce of beauty will undergoing this metamorphosis.

 

1) “When the Levee Breaks”

On an album rife with immortal tracks, IV proved that epics can come in any size and duration; it’s just that its most epic track also happens to be one of its longest.  In every facet of the word, “When the Levee Breaks” is one of the two most powerful tracks the band ever recorded (the other being “Kashmir”).  After listening to the song for the first time ever, who could ever forget the sheer power of Bonham’s drums, or the stormy guitar work of Jimmy Page, ever so appropriately imitating the encroachment of an oncoming storm?  Page’s wails better resemble a destitute cry for help from this oncoming tempest intent on laying waste to everything in its path, and like an imminent storm with no mercy, IV, with the fierce strength of “When the Levee Breaks” backing it up, laid waste to any lingering doubt and pessimism that Led Zeppelin wasn’t the greatest rock band on the planet.

 

Houses of the Holy (1973)

houses of the holy

Easily the band’s most experimental album, on Houses of the Holy, Led Zeppelin sought to push the boundaries on everything they had accomplished on IV.  Using IV as a springboard, the band decided to forge an album that drew upon funk, reggae, and progressive rock.  For the most part these experiments worked out well, with few exceptions.  Nonetheless, Houses showcases John Paul Jones’ skill as a multi-instrumentalist and Robert Plant’s sun-inspired lyrics and zest for life.  Houses of the Holy is a spring album, one that puts listeners in a good mood much the same way that the prolonged days of spring cure the seasonal depression heaved on by the cruel and unforgiving winter.  Houses is a celebration of life, light, and all the beauty of life; it’s the starry-eyed hopeless romantic of the band’s discography and that’s what makes it so special; it’s the sound of hope springing eternally.

 

8) “D’yer Mak’er”

There really is no purpose to “D’yer Mak’er” as bassist John Paul Jones even referred to the song as a “studio joke”.  The song is a whiny, draggy song that clearly sounds like a prankish outtake and not an album worthy track.  Led Zeppelin was a band that didn’t always take their recording sessions seriously, but “D’yer Mak’er” sounds as if the band wasn’t even trying.  With its faux- reggae beat, and non-descript lyrics, it’s plain to see that this is what it looks like when Led Zeppelin half-asses it.

 

7) “The Crunge”

I guess this is what a Led Zeppelin funk song would sound like…Also, what the fuck is a crunge anyway?  Much like “D’yer Mak’er”, “Crunge” is an extremely unfocused song that’s nowhere near as comical or amusing as the band originally intended.  The only things that work in this song’s favor are Bonham’s driving beats and Jones’ surprisingly funky bassline.  Not even Plant’s mock James Brown delivery is enough to save this misbegotten ode to funk music.

 

6) “Dancing Days”

“Dancing Days” is actually a really fun song that shows the band at their most capricious yet harmless.  Page gives us one of his catchiest chord progressions, and Plant sings some of his sunniest lyrics describing the youthful feelings of the exciting over a first love.  “Dancing Days” along with about three other songs on this album all contribute to the positive and jovial disposition of House of the Holy, and it’s songs like this that make the album so much fun to listen to.

 

5) “No Quarter”

Who’d have thought that a song about impending doom would be led by keyboards?  In conjunction with Plant’s riveting riff, and Bonham’s solemnly predatory drumming, Robert Plant doesn’t even need to say a word for “No Quarter” to be a masterpiece.  For an album inspired by genesis, life, and vitality, “No Quarter” is the bleakest that the album ever gets.  In fact, the song is almost better suited for IV, if not for its clear prog influences that makes it the perfect contrast to the obvious cheeriness of Houses of the Holy.

 

4) “The Song Remains the Same”

With “The Song Remains the Same”, Houses of the Holy starts off with an explosive bang that doesn’t really let up.  The opening track perfectly sets the mood for what listeners can expect of Houses, as it’s a jolly celebration of life and music.  Originally intended as an instrumental piece, “The Song Remains the Same” is the sound of Led Zeppelin enjoying their status as the best band in the world.  Bonham and Jones are so in synch together that they seem to spin in and out and around each other with the same precision as two spiders weaving the same web.  Page goes off the deep end with his solos and overdubs that it’s clear to see how much he cherishes this song.  After only one listen, this song puts listeners in the right mindset to really enjoy and understand the rest of the album.

 

3) “The Ocean”

An ode to their ocean of fans, “The Ocean”, like the rest of the album is just such a fun song to listen to.  But, unlike the rest of the album, it’s one of the only few tracks that channel the band’s rocking energy.  With it’s distinctive guitar riff, sly lyrics and crisp drumming, “The Ocean” is one of the standout tracks on an album that ends as explosively as it began.  We may take for granted that it’s a straight up rock song, but the sheer cohesion in intent and execution that the band exudes is impossible to deny on one of the simpler arrangements on Houses of the Holy.

 

2) “Over the Hills and Far Away”

The spiritual and sonic sequel to “Ramble On”, “Over the Hills” starts off with a slow, folk inspired intro and then takes a sharp turn into the roaming rocker that ignites fans with energy and joy.  Lyrically, Plant is explaining all that he’s learned in his travels and all the thoughts he’s wondered along the way.  Musically, “Over the Hills” is a beautifully strange cross between country music and hard rock that somehow merges Led Zeppelin III with Led Zeppelin IV.  The only thing holding back this song from being the best on the album is the unnecessary minute long fadeout, reminiscent of “Thank You” from Led Zeppelin.  Had the song faded out at about the four-minute mark, it would have been the best on the album.  As it stands that honor goes to the song preceding it on the album.

 

1) “The Rain Song”

In a word, “The Rain Song” is beauty, perfect and unabashed beauty at that.  It’s a celebratory and excited ballad of discovering love after charting the perilous seas of despair and loneliness.  The way that “The Rain Song” crescendos to its monumental and triumphant climax makes the song analogues to “Stairway to Heaven” and even rivals its sister track in grandiosity.  Being the sweeter and more delicate of the two however, makes “The Rain Song” all the more beautiful as it’s a celebration of love and the resurrection of the spring over the bleakness and hopelessness of the winter.  With IV, Led Zeppelin led us on a journey through the heaviness and harshness of winter.  On Houses, they took us by the hand and pull us out of that winter and into the bright, sunny jubilance of Spring.  Without “The Rain Song”, Houses of the Holy is left sorely incomplete.

 

Physical Graffiti (1975)

physical graffiti

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, Physical Graffiti is the greatest rock album ever recorded.  In 15 tracks, it encapsulates everything that rock music was, is and could ever aspire to be.  It’s an utterly merciless album that grabs you in and tosses you around in a maelstrom of blistering drums, incendiary guitar riffs, unstoppable basslines, and multi-faceted lyrics that draw upon a wide range of emotions.  Physical Graffiti is the sound of the best band in the world being the best band in the world.  It’s the mythological equivalent of an Achilles who was fully dipped in the river Styx and made immortal.  With Physical Graffiti Led Zeppelin deified themselves making their own self-propagating myths a reality.  From the immortal epics to some of the hardest rocking tracks in the band’s catalogue, to some of their most sensitive ballads, Physical Graffiti presents Led Zeppelin at their most omnipotent.

 

15) “Down by the Seaside”

Much like Led Zeppelin II and Led Zeppelin IV, there are no bad songs on Physical Graffiti.  With that said, “Down by the Seaside” is rendered a little obsolete because it’s followed by the perfect “Ten Years Gone”, arguably one of the best ballads ever written.  “Seaside” brings the juggernaut that is Physical Graffiti to a screeching halt with its meandering pace.  Had it not been paired next to one of the best songs the band would ever write, “Down by the Seaside” would definitely have garnered more respect.

 

14) “Bron-Yr-Aur”

This acoustic solo effort by Jimmy Page is more of a dreamy trip through the clouds, and as such doesn’t really fit with the physical pounding that the rest of the album delivers.  It’s a folk inspired song that was originally recorded for III and as such its inclusion is a little baffling.  However, coming off the heels of the monolithic “In the Light”, the mysticism that “Bron-Yr-Aur” brings with it is understandable given that Physical Graffiti is the album with which the band used to scale Mt. Olympus.

 

13) “Night Flight”

Compared to the rest of the album, “Night Flight” is a fairly rudimentary song, despite Plant’s memorable shouting at the middle of the song.  It’s an enjoyable song that actually works within the confines of Physical Graffiti; however, it’s clear that it was recorded a few years prior.  Despite this, the light tone of the music balances out the tearfully beautiful “Ten Years Gone” and the libidinal “The Wanton Song”, its neighboring tracks.  There’s nothing wrong with “Night Flight”, it just proved that Led Zeppelin didn’t have to pull out all the stops to make great music.

 

12) “Black Country Woman”

“Black Country Woman” is another song presumably written about Robert Plant’s sister-in-law (his wife’s sister who he would eventually have a child with).  With lines like “Hey, hey mama, why you treat me mean…That’s alright, I know your sister too”, it’s pretty obvious to see the intent behind this song as more of a threat than anything else.  Anytime Plant busts out the harmonica good things happen, and “Black Country Woman” is no different.

 

11) “In the Light”

This epic that kicks off disc two of Physical Graffiti simply oozes slick confidence as it bruises along.  Like a boulder rolling through, crushing everything in its path, “In the Light” is the quintessential Physical Graffiti track as it demonstrates the band’s aspiration to make music fit for a divine pantheon.  Plant’s ominously positive lyrics and Bonham’s cavernous drumming convey a sense of colossal terror that contrasts the triumphant wails of Page’s guitar by the songs end.  Despite a two minute synth intro befitting of Styx, “In the Light” holds its own alongside the two other epics on the album.

 

10) “Houses of the Holy”

Harkening back to the youthful celebrations of the album of the same name, of which it was originally recorded for, “Houses of the Holy” is a jubilant number that lightens up the mood of the otherwise immense Physical Graffiti.  On probably the only track in the band’s catalogue, John Bonham plays the cowbell, which is enough right there to be ingratiated by the song.  On top of this, Plant’s lyrical excitement and Jones’ grooves perfectly serve to lighten the mood of the band’s heaviest opus.

 

9) “Custard Pie”

Re-configuring old blues songs into hard rock masterpieces as always been a staple of Led Zeppelin and “Custard Pie” is no different.  Having drawn inspiration from three separate blues songs, “Custard Pie” is the only way that an album like Physical Graffiti could have begun.  It kicks off with a bang as if the band threw in their collective skills into an electric cauldron, brewed it all together and then served the elixir known as “Custard Pie” to a fan base starving for new material.  Maybe it’s because of Page’s wah-wah solo, or Plant’s inaudible shouting, or the underrated use of Jones clavinet, but in a word, “Custard Pie” is simply cool.

 

8) “In My Time of Dying”

Somehow, “In My Time of Dying” manages to be both gloomy and dynamic; maybe it’s because the song is 11 minutes long and it can afford to be, but whatever the reason is for all the twists and turns on this song, it ranks highly amongst the band’s efforts.  Bonzo absolutely kills it from behind the drum kit, fueling the song like the energizer battery that he is.  This frees up Page to shred his guitar to pieces during the middle solo of the song.  As it stands, “In My Time of Dying” is one of the finest examples in all of rock music of the synergy between a drummer and a guitarist.

 

7) “Boogie with Stu”

Although it’s one of the only few (maybe even the only one) where Robert Plant plays guitar and not Jimmy Page, special guest Ian Stewart (of Rolling Stones fame) is the one who steals the spotlight in this boogie-woogie inspired jam.  His piano is the motivator of this song, of course without which there would be no aforementioned boogie.  It’s partly because of Led Zeppelin III that a song like this could exist since it set the precedent that the band could do acoustic well.  And, without a doubt “Boogie with Stu” certainly makes it seem like the band could have held their own back in the 1950s as an acoustic rock band.

 

6) “The Rover”

Despite originating as an acoustic piece recorded during the production of Houses of the Holy, the impassioned pleas of Robert Plant make “The Rover” better suited for their follow up double album.  Page’s guitar solo somehow wraps itself around the entire globe that Plant sings about wandering, and Bonzo keeps time as only he can.  As they’d done many times before, “The Rover” is another song about roaming the world, and for an album as coherent and indivisible as Physical Graffiti, “The Rover” is a necessity.

 

5) “Trampled Underfoot”

If it’s not the finest display of his skills as a keyboardist, then “Trampled Underfoot” is certainly John Paul Jones’ most effective exhibition.  Everything is pushed to 11 on the only single release from Physical Graffiti.  Bonham is almost playing a disco beat, Page is shooting flames from his guitar, Jones makes the clavinet cool somehow, and Plant is at the top of his vocal prowess shouting sexual proclamations using cars as a metaphor.  Whereas “Kashmir” is the sound of Led Zeppelin scaling Olympus, “Trampled Underfoot” is the sound of the band bringing fire to us mere mortals.

 

4) “The Wanton Song”

“The Wanton Song” is most memorable for the fact that it features the sexiest guitar riff ever recorded.  Combined with one of Bonham’s best beats and Plant’s erotic musings make “The Wanton Song” a hard rock classic.  It’s a song that’s manic and dynamic and never takes its foot off the gas.  In a way, it serves as a microcosm for the rest of the album in that it’s an unrestrained and perfectly crafted ditty that comes in hot and heavy.  “The Wanton Song” is one of their hardest rocking tunes and rock music should be eternally grateful for its existence.

 

3) “Sick Again”

By 1975, Led Zeppelin had become known for ending their albums with atomic force.  Closing tracks like “Bring It On Home”, “When the Levee Breaks”, and “The Ocean” are all blistering rock tunes, and “Sick Again” is no different.  Although with its sister track, “The Wanton Song”, the final track on Physical Graffiti is one of the band’s two hardest rockers.  Without question, “Sick Again” is the best straight up rock song the band every recorded as it reminds listeners just how heavy and unrelenting the band could be.  Page plays like a man possessed, while Bonham, the MVP of Physical Graffiti drums like a madman on this ode to a few of the band’s more nefarious groupies.  On “Sick Again”, Led Zeppelin blurs the line between blues rock and heavy metal; and that shade of gray never sounded as deviously potent.

 

2) “Ten Years Gone”

Although George Harrison penned “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, it’s actually Jimmy Page who makes it sound as if tears are streaming out of his guitar with one of the most heartbreaking solos in all of rock history.  Along with the solos from “Comfortably Numb” and Guns N’ Roses’ “Estranged”, Page’s solo here ranks in the top three of all time.  Plant’s lyrics express not only loss and regret, but for the first time in the band’s career, a very palpable sense of vulnerability.  “Ten Years Gone” is a song rife with pain and sadness and poignancy, and it remains one of the best combinations of music and lyrics ever recorded.  “Ten Years Gone” recounts the tale of a lost love, and all the conflicting emotions that arise from seeing that love a few years later.  However, it’s a good think that the band didn’t let this gem get away as fans all over would have been robbed of some truly beautiful music.

 

1) “Kashmir”

As great as all the other songs on Physical Graffiti are, there really is no better song on the album as the perfect “Kashmir”.  “Kashmir” transcends music itself and becomes a force of nature.  The very first note of this eight-minute epic floods your ear like a class 5 hurricane.  The simple, yet unstoppable riff, Bonham’s driving drums and the flawless Eastern-inspired string arrangements by John Paul Jones are the stuff of legends.  Even Plant’s lyrics themselves, seem to be in awe of the sheer majesty of this massive epic.  Epic, that’s a word we throw around all too often today, but it’s the only word capable of describing the grandeur that is “Kashmir”.

 

Presence (1976)

presence

While Led Zeppelin III might be the band’s most underrated album, Presence is, without question, their most underappreciated.  Although it houses the worst Led Zeppelin song ever, Presence is still rife with entertaining and exciting songs.  Because they were just hanging around, playing music all day, Presence became the band’s jammiest and loosest.  Coming off the heels of the omnipotent juggernaut that is Physical Graffiti, Led Zeppelin scaled down the scope of their experimentation and made a bare bones hard rock album.  It’s a much simpler album, no doubt, but it’s still a canonical Zeppelin album despite its stripped down approach.  There was nothing wrong with this approach considering the many quality tracks on Presence.

 

7) “Tea for One”

Bar none, “Tea for One” is the worst song Led Zeppelin ever recorded; it’s just a bad song.  It drags on waaaaaaaayyyy too long and it too boring to justify its nine-minute run time.  Led Zeppelin was fully capable of writing slow, exciting ballads that were over six minutes…it’s just that “Tea for One” wasn’t one of those songs.  If someone took away everything that made “Since I’ve Been Loving You” good, somehow convinced John Bonham that he wasn’t John Bonham, and had Billy Joel write the lyrics to a rock opera created by Pete Townshend, you’d get “Tea for One”.  Instead of trying to go back to their roots with this song, Led Zeppelin instead took a step backwards.

 

6) “Hots on for Nowhere”

While “Tea for One” may be the band’s worst song ever recorded, “Hots on for Nowhere” is the band’s most superfluous.  Yes, Jones and Page provide a bouncy rhythm to contrast Plant’s biting lyrics (directed towards Jimmy Page no less), but it’s a song that never really comes alive the way that other songs on Presence do.  Plant is no less charismatic than he ever was, but the rest of the band just sounds a little tired, as if they’re simply going through the motions.

 

5) “Candy Store Rock”

This prequel to IV’s “Rock and Roll” sees Led Zeppelin delve into rockabilly territory with a surprising degree of success.  Bonham owns the breakdown sections of the song with his funky drumming.  Page’s guitar play is as kinetic as ever and Plant’s Elvis-like delivery entertaining when it very easily could have become grating.  On “Candy Store Rock” the band had no great aspiration beyond making a throwback rock song, and judging from the results, it’s clear to see that they succeeded.

 

4) “Royal Orleans”

John Paul Jones once said something along the lines of lead singers being the least important member of a band.  Taking exception to his, Robert Plant wrote the lyrics of “Royal Orleans” exposing Jones for having mistook a transvestite prostitute for an actual woman, got high with him, and accidently burnt their hotel room down.  Its funny lyrical content, crisp bass playing by Jones, and Bonham’s danceable drum beat make Royal Orleans a hidden gem with the band’s catalogue.  Add to this the Latin-inspired bridge and “Royal Orleans” is easily cemented as a great find on an oft-ignored album.

 

3) “Nobody’s Fault but Mine”

The heaviest song on the album, “Nobody’s Fault but Mine” features a bassline powerful enough to grind your bones to powder.  The song is a proverbial rolling stone cruising downhill crushing anything in its path.  Plant’s harmonizing with Page’s slide guitar is euphoric, as is Plant’s unrestrained harmonica solo.  Bonham’s drums are as powerful as they ever were and along with Jones, the rhythm section of the band plays in such a tight unison that it muscles the song right through listener’s ears.

 

2) “For Your Life”

For some reason “For Your Life” is either one of the band’s least known song, or their most disliked song.  Apparently Zeppelin disagrees with this sentiment however, as they chose to play this song at the 2007 reunion for the very first time live.  “For Your Life” has an incredibly rugged, western sounding twang that adds to the song’s power and heaviness.  Jones is looking to steamroller right over anyone in his way while Plant alternates between shouting accusatory concerns (“Heard you cry for mercy in the city of the damned, in the pits you go no lower”) and critical condemnation (“Exhibition is your habit, emotion secondhand”).  “For Your Life” is a song that doesn’t really sound like any other Led Zeppelin song, and maybe because of its individuality it doesn’t get even a fraction of the love it deserves.

 

1) “Achilles Last Stand”

Physical Graffiti is the sound of Led Zeppelin scaling Mt. Olympus and immortalizing themselves.  Presence, by contrast, is the sound of the band descending Olympus to rejoin the rest of the world.  No other song on this album best epitomizes this idea more than “Achilles Last Stand”, the last great epic the band had to offer.  Singing from the confines of a wheelchair, Robert Plant delivers one of his finest vocal performances ever.  Bonham leads the chart, drumming as if he’s trying to escape some terrible mortal peril.  The real driving force behind the song however, is Jones, whose galloping triplet notes feeds the gas into the engine known as Bonzo.  And then there’s Jimmy Page, who overdubbed 12 guitar tracks onto the song to make the song as grandiose and supreme as it was meant to sound.  In short, “Achilles Last Stand” is in fact Led Zeppelin’s last stand.

 

 

In Through the Out Door (1979)

in through the out door

The final album to be released by Led Zeppelin while all for members were still alive, In Through the Out Door is the band’s only pop album as it strays far away from the band’s blues rock influence.  The creative and personal low point of the band, it’s also the band’s most mediocre outing.  During this time, Plant was grieving the death of his son, Page was growing more dependent on heroin, and Bonham’s alcoholism would only leave him with one more year of life.  This left John Paul Jones in prime position to lead the musical direction of In Through the Out Door, a fact made evident by the massive amount of synth and keyboard oriented tracks on the album.  Judging by the music on the album, maybe this wasn’t the best course of action.

 

7) “South Bound Saurez”

Ulgh!  I don’t know what the hell the intent behind “South Bound Saurez” was.  It’s a pretty lazy sounding track with unnecessary backing vocals and an extremely overproduced feel.  “South Bound Saurez” sounds like the band really wanted to do an Elton John song and this was the best they could come up with.  This is just one reason why John Paul Jones dictating the musical direction of the band was doomed to fail.

 

6) “Carouselambra”

The biggest reason why Jones shouldn’t have been in charge of musical direction on In Through the Out Door is “Carouselambra”, an extremely self-indulgent 10 minute prog bastard that showcases Jones love affair with his new Yamaha synthesizer.  When a band has one of the greatest guitarists of all time and the greatest drummer of all time, the prudent thing to do would be to never ever overpower them with a synth during the mixing of a song; yet that’s exactly what happens on this track.  With inaudible lyrics and a terrible mixing job, “Carouselambra” is a song more suited for Styx or Genesis, but instead John Paul Jones crammed this inappropriately catchy number down our throats.

 

5) “In the Evening”

This is what it sounds like when Led Zeppelin phones in an attempt to phone in a song.  For some reason, it was decided that on most songs on this album, it really wasn’t important to hear Robert Plant’s lyrics, so on songs like “In the Evening”, his vocal track sounds more like enthused scatting.  “In the Evening” is way too overproduced and has way too many effects that it detracts from the musicianship of the band.  Obviously this was a blatant attempt to mask the inability of certain band members to function properly, but Led Zeppelin’s heaviest track on In Through the Out Door still remains a pop-rock song at best.

 

4) “Hot Dog”

Despite not being a typical Led Zeppelin song, “Hot Dog” is still a really fun and inspired effort by the band.  On an album plagued with personal issues, bad songs, and an imperative sense of pressure to perform, “Hot Dog” stands out as one of two laid back and lighthearted songs.  It’s one of the very few songs on the album that justifies such heavy use of the piano.  Page and Plant, meanwhile do everything in their power to make sure that it has the necessary country-swing melody and lyrics to make this song a simple, enjoyable ditty when their effort could have very easily backfired.

 

3) “All My Love”

Apparently, John Bonham once claimed that “All My Love” was Robert Plant’s best vocal performance.  If it’s not his best, then it’s certainly his most impassioned as this song was written as an ode to his deceased son.  The dreamy atmosphere created by the string arrangements, the synthesizer, Bonham’s overproduced and 80s sounding drums wrap the song in a dreamy, almost ethereal blanket that sounds like Plant is actually lullabying his son to Heaven.  Arguably their most sensitive song, “All My Love” is a tender ballad that will definitely live on as a tearjerker.

 

2) “I’m Gonna Crawl”

The last song on Led Zeppelin’s last album of original material is an oddly fitting end for the most dynamic and exciting rock band of all time.  The song’s dreamy tone, evoking 50s soul music is the perfect send off for the blistering band.  Plant’s smoky vocals add to this wonderfully strange ballad by making listeners feel like they’re dancing on the clouds.  What no one knew at the time however was that this was the sound of the band waving goodbye as they sailed off on the clouds of Mt. Olympus, leaving us forever behind.  The beautiful irony of it all is that Led Zeppelin didn’t end with a bang as many expect them to, but with a dreamy whisper instead.

 

1) “Fool in the Rain”

In Through the Out Door isn’t a particularly fun album.  There aren’t too many good songs, and the album itself is too concerned with sounding cool.  The brightest beacon on the album however, turns out to be its most fun song in the form of “Fool in the Rain”.  It’s a pop song no question, but it’s a lighthearted and pleasant pop song.  The sweet caressing riff by both piano and guitar convey a feeling of sweet gentle rain cascading down while Bonham’s samba breakdown serves as his final masterstroke.  Plant’s lyrics are both innocent and playful recounting the tale of a man waiting on the wrong block for his love, proving that the band hadn’t lost all sense of levity as they were beleaguered by pressure and turmoil from all sides.  If more songs were as sincere and relazed as “Fool in the Rain”, then In Through the Out Door would have been much better off.  As it stands though, it’s just a great song on a halfway decent album.

 

Coda (1982)

coda

Although it’s technically a Led Zeppelin LP of (mostly) new material, Coda really shouldn’t count as a Zeppelin album for three reasons: 1) It’s only made up of outtakes recorded for other albums, 2) It was released after the death of John Bonham, and 3) Coda was only released due to contractual obligations because they owed their label Swan Song another album.  Although there are some good songs on Coda, it’s not really a necessary album.  But it’s always interesting to hear a band’s unreleased B-sides.  Coda does offer quiet a number of surprises and hypothetical ponderings about what certain albums would have sounded like had they included the tracks saved for Coda.

 

8) “I Can’t Quit You Baby”

Did we really need a live version of this song?  No, we didn’t.  The inclusion of this song at the expense of “Hey, Hey What Can I Do” makes absolutely no sense.  But hey, Jimmy Page was in the midst of his tryst with heroin, so I guess that explains that.

 

7) “Walter’s Walk”

Apparently, “Walter’s Walk” was originally recorded during the Houses of the Holy sessions, but Plant’s vocals and the production value sound like they were done in during the sessions for In Through the Out Door.  On top of that, certain guitar parts sound extremely similar to “Hots on for Nowhere” leading the song to sound terribly sloppy.  The song literally sounds like Jimmy Page just mixed and matched incongruent pieces from different times in the band’s history.  Because of this, “Walter’s Walk” never comes together as a fully formed song.

 

6) “Bonzo’s Montreux”

A John Bonham drum solo is always fun to listen to, and “Bonzo’s Montreux” is no exception.  After repeated listens to the song, I still don’t know if I love the electronic effects as a stroke of genius to play in concert with the drum solo, or if I hate them as much as I hate Luis Gonzalez and the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks.  It definitely makes the song more 80s sounding, but I don’t know how it makes me feel.  It’s a cuckoo enough idea that it could work, but at the same time, it’s a crazy idea for a reason.  It’s sort of like having Peter Gabriel write songs for the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

 

5) “Wearing and Tearing”

“Wearing and Tearing” was originally intended to be the band’s response to punk rock and the accusations hurled by punk rockers that Led Zeppelin was an outdated relic.  What “Wearing and Tearing” actually is, is the band’s most abrasive and aggressive song…And it’s kinda good.  It’s one of Page’s more energetic riffs from 1979, and Bonham gives one of his most spirited performances of the In Through the Out Door sessions.  The ending is particularly satirical as it descends into controlled chaos, complete with Plant imitating the inaudible snarls of punk rockers.  It’s not a good punk song because to be a good punk rocker, you have to be a bad musician; but it’s certainly much better than half of In Through the Out Door.

 

4) “Darlene”

Like “Wearing and Tearing”, “Darlene” was recorded during the In Through the Out Door sessions, and like its sister song, “Darlene” is more of a rocker and a better overall song than four of the songs on In Through the Out Door.  A throwback to late-50s, early-60s rockabilly, Jones piano works perfectly within the context of the song.  It enhances the feel of what the band was trying to accomplish without ever being overpowering or unnecessary.  If all three of the unused songs from In Through the Out Door were actually put on that album, it would have improved the album by leaps and bounds.

 

3) “Poor Tom”

There’s a country drawl to “Poor Tom” that makes it a really unique song.  Maybe it’s Plant’s harmonica playing, or Bonham’s light tapping on the snare drum, but really feels like the band is playing the song out in front of a countryside log cabin next to their toothless uncle and their cousin/aunt.  Not to say that the song is unattractive, but there’s a homeliness to “Poor Tom” that makes it pleasant but charismatic at the same time.

 

2) “Ozone Baby”

By 1979 Led Zeppelin was no longer the band it had once been back in 1973.  “Ozone Baby” does wind the clock back a little bit as despite being recorded in 1979, it could easily fit on Houses of the Holy.  It’s another fun song that could have made In Through the Out Door looser and more fun but was instead exclude from the album for some reason.  Jones’ bass playing his bouncy and groovy, Plant’s vocals are springy and full of life, and Bonham’s drumming is better than almost every track that actually made the cut for In Through the Out Door.  Thank God it made the light of day with Coda.

 

1) “We’re Gonna Groove”

The song that links Led Zeppelin to Led Zeppelin II, “We’re Gonna Groove” occupies a sonic space that would make it perfect on Led Zeppelin 1.5.  Everything from the drums, the vocal delivery, the dense bass playing, and the trippy guitar solo makes this one of Led Zeppelin’s fieriest songs.  It overflows with zeal and a lust for life unmatched by most other Led Zeppelin songs.  “We’re Gonna Groove” rushes out and grabs listeners and refuses to let them go until the very end.  Just like the band itself, “We’re Gonna Groove” just busts loose and refuses to be contained in any way.  It’s such a shame that it was left off of Led Zeppelin II

 

0) “Hey, Hey What Can I Do”

This is the best Led Zeppelin song never to appear on an album.  Although it wasn’t originally released on Coda, it did make the re-release of the album back in 1993.  “Hey, Hey” fits on the hypothetical Led Zeppelin 3.5; it’s the perfect bridge between III and IV.  It’s folky like III, but there’s a heaviness to it more similar to the songs found on IV; it’s like…blues-folk.  Plant’s snarky lyrics about being in love with a prostitute function perfectly alongside Bonham’s drumming of resigned acceptance and Jones’ expertise with a mandolin.  Not only is “Hey, Hey” the best Led Zeppelin Song to never be put on an LP, it’s also one of the very finest the band ever recorded.

 


 

I realize that there are quite a few unorthodox choices on this countdown, listicle thing (Like naming “For Your Life” as the second best song on Presence or “How Many More Times” as the best song on Led Zeppelin I), but isn’t that kinda the point of these rankings?  They’re really there just to spread new ways to think about things and introduce different opinions into the conversation.  I mean, what’s the point of reading countdowns that all share the same opinion, borrow the same point of view, or paraphrase the same information?  There should be a sense of individuality and uniqueness to these kinds of countdowns, otherwise you’d just be reading another soulless listicle saying the exact same thing as countless other websites.  And, as we all know, there’s no point in saying something that someone else already said.

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Ranking the Songs on Every Led Zeppelin Album

  1. UncommonLoon says:

    Great post! It’s always good to hear Zeppelin fans whose opinions differentiate the mainstream. After reading this post, I still don’t understand how you dislike the debut album. It’s a true blues rock gem.

  2. Brad says:

    I agree with your Led Zeppelin III review. Hey hey what can I do should have been on that album. If on there, it would arguably be the best song on that album imo. LZIII isn’t as highly rated as say IV and II, but I’m not sure they were going for that. The best bands can change direction and allow the listener something new. In III’s case it was a step away from the electric guitar driven bluesy rock n roll and displaying how great a folk rock band they really were. At the time no band currently recording had an arsenal as big as Zeppelin. straight up early era metal, brilliant folk rock, blues inspired rock that also seen them dipping into punk rock before it was even born. I don’t think Zeppelin created III to compete with II. I firmly believe at this stage they felt anything they did would sell and it did. But by stepping into somewhat softer tunes allowed the toughest of critics to jump all over Led Zeppelin and therefore they created a masterpiece that could be mentioned with LZII when they released LZIV. A “let the music do the talking” attitude album. I rank their albums
    1. LZII
    2. LZIV
    3. Led Zeppelin – this is a masterpiece for me. It was a bit raw and didn’t separate them from the rest of rock like II or IV, but it’s their 3rd best album track wise for me.
    4. Houses of the Holy – just about any band in the world would trade almost anything they have done for a tune like the ocean. Absolute fantastic song. But this albums has much more than just that.
    5. Physical Graffiti – maybe their most overrated as I cant even come close to placing it in the same breath as II, IV or their debut for that matter. It’s still a great album and one of the best double albums ever recorded. It would be a lot of bands number 1 album, but with Led Zeppelin it sits at 5 for me.
    6. III – I love III. It’s laid back and I listen to it often. It has a lot of good tracks and while it is the lesser of their first 6 studio albums, I think I would have it above Physical Graffiti at number 5 if “hey hey what can I do” were on it. Hey hey what can I do is their absolute best acoustic track. More than ahead of its time. I believe this is the acoustic rock song that inspired bands still today to pick up an acoustic and deliver fantastic acoustic rock tunes. A fantastic acoustic take as Page’s loose guitar strumming and licks are timeless to this day.
    7. In through the out door – I just like this better than Presence or coda even though their last 3 albums just aren’t up to the level of their first 6 albums.
    8. Presence
    9. Coda

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