Led Zeppelin II

Led Zeppelin

Atlantic Records, 1969


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


There is an imminent danger when reviewing an album that not only came out a year before you were born, but also has been overplayed by rock radio to the point that you almost don't even need to pop the CD into the player to hear it.

Yet there is no denying that, no matter how many times radio stations play the duet of "Heartbreaker" and "Livin' Lovin' Maid (She's Just A Woman)" into the ground, there is still something special about Led Zeppelin II, the follow-up release from the British supergroup. It's something to note when a group puts out a sophomore release which outperforms a strong debut effort. It's another thing to realize that not only was this Zeppelin's second album released in 1969, it was recorded for the most part while the band was on tour.

The radio standards are undoubtedly well-known to all but the youngest readers. "Whole Lotta Love" is a five-minute explosion of sound that dares to push the envelope in the middle with its sonic collage. Likewise, "Heartbreaker" slices together two distinct performances -- listen to how Jimmy Page's guitar break isn't quite in the same key - and makes it seem like this was the intention all along. Whatever the case, it works… even if I do wish people would stop pairing this together with "Livin' Lovin' Maid (She's Just A Woman)." It's been 35 years now, people… these are two unique tracks, and should finally be treated as such.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The most powerful performances on Led Zeppelin II, however, are some which don't get the most airplay. "The Lemon Song" is a powerful blast of British blues (even if some of the concepts were lifted from older, lesser-known songs -- something that Led Zeppelin eventually was called on the carpet for) with just a hint of double entendre to keep things fresh. The manic choruses played by Page, bassist John Paul Jones and drummer John Bonham keep listeners on their toes. (This isn't meant to ignore vocalist Robert Plant, who shows up throughout the disc in fine form.)

Likewise, "What Is And What Should Never Be" and "Bring It On Home" both showcase a group which was already nearing the peak of its craft and could consistently deliver the goods. "What Is And What Should Never Be" is a personal favorite of mine, possibly because it was the only guitar solo of Page's I could actually play (even if that last series of chords right at the end still confuses me). And one has to admire that Led Zeppelin were ahead of the Lord Of The Rings craze as heard on "Ramble On," a song that is now reaching the point of oversaturation on the radio.

Perhaps the best moment for me on this disc is the beautiful "Thank You," a song which shows both the gentler side of Led Zeppelin (without sacrificing the power) and reaffirms Page's ability on the acoustic guitar (as used on his solo). It does kind of surprise me that this song hasn't become a standard at weddings -- the message of love in this one is quite powerful.

Led Zeppelin II may have had more radio success than its predecessor, and for good reason. While their first disc remains a classic, it was this second release that fully cemented Led Zeppelin's place in the eternal halls of rock music. And, as the old saying goes, they were just getting warmed up.

Rating: A-

User Rating: A-



© 2004 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Atlantic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.