Led Zeppelin (1969)
Their initial release leans heavily on blues influences and shows very little of the mixture of melodicism and hard rock that would develop soon. The lyrics can be horrible (this applies to most Zeppelin albums, actually) at times, but the music does the talking when it has to. “Dazed And Confused” is the perfect example of this. Just based on this, there’s no way I’d think this group would go onto anything more than blues remakes and bluesy, stoopid semi-originals. I’m glad I was wrong.
(“Dazed And Confused”)
2010: (Really GOOD blues remakes and bluesy, stoopid semi-originals) Grade: B+
2012: Yeah, it’s really good. But it’s not great. Not with lyrics that make Black Francis look good. Grade: B+
Led Zeppelin II (1969)
More blooze, stupid lyrics, and blatant sexual references from the boys. All three of these things are able to be overlooked when the band is rocking the way it can. Here, that’s limited to just a few songs. Their second worst studio album, after the posthumous ‘Coda’.
(“Whole Lotta Love”)
2010: (Testosterone poisoning…I mean, how STUPID can you get?) Grade: C-
2012: Ehhhh…testosterone doesn’t poison the riffs, and there are riffs. Some. Grade: C
Led Zeppelin III (1970)
A switch from overkill hard rock/blues, this album contains mostly ballads. It shows promise in points – the Page and Plant synchronization of guitar and vocal on “That’s The Way”, the “Stairway To Heaven” prequel “Tangerine”, etc… I don’t think anyone had any idea what was to follow after this.
(“That’s The Way”, “Immigrant Song”)
2010: (Upped a notch for radical transformation, and meaning well) Grade: B+
2012: It’s actually very good because it’s very good. They drop the overkill of I and II and add melody and harmony in believable (and more importantly, listenable) ways. Grade: B+
Led Zeppelin IV (1971)
Their generally acknowledged masterpiece, and who am I to argue with songs like “Stairway To Heaven”, “When The Levee Breaks”, and others. Plant manages to write some interesting lyrics for once on this album. Some of them I don’t fully understand, but at least they’re not obviously and embarassingly stupid. The whole band contributes to make this a seriously great album/undeniable classic.
(“Stairway To Heaven”, “Black Dog”, “Misty Mountain Hop”)
2010: (Transcendent) Grade: A+
2012: They get by with a little help from their Spirit. Grade: A+
Houses Of The Holy (1973)
A great follow-up to IV, this album shows no signs of Zep letting up in their current formula (that is, light and shade mixed together for a wonderful end result). I’ve become a little bit sick of some of these songs after playing them repeatedly, and I wonder (as I always do) if the music is dated and not as good as originally thought, OR if I just got sick of it for a time. With this album I think it’s mostly the second option.
(“Over The Hills And Far Away”, “No Quarter”)
2012: Only “The Crunge” makes me cringe. Grade: A
Physical Graffiti (1975)
A double album that, for a change, doesn’t make me wish they’d chopped it down into a single one. There’s a little bit of filler here, sure. And the best songs aren’t exactly what you would call “classic” (“Kashmir” excluded). But there’s a whole lot of good-to-very-good stuff here. Disc one I could truly call great. Disc two gives a slight feeling of Deja Vu (“Sick Again”, try to find its near-twin) and isn’t so great. But it’s interesting and at least fairly good. An album worth listening to all the way through.
(“Kashmir”, “The Wanton Song”, “Trampled Under Foot”)
2010: (Pride before the fall) Grade: A
The worst Zeppelin album (yes, including ‘Coda’) of them all if all you’re looking for is the killer track. If good, solid music is what you’re after (or at least, willing to accept) then it’s not a bad selection. I listen to it…occasionally.
(“For Your Life”)
2012: It’s only got two good songs on it. And they’re not all THAT good. “Achilles Last Stand” is an interesting but failed attempt at “Stairway, part 3” or “Kashmir, part 2”. And the fact that every song is at least ok shouldn’t be regarded as a monumental achievement. Grade: B-
In Through The Out Door (1979)
“In The Evening” was quite enough to sell me on this album for a long time. Jimmy Page’s repeated hooky riff and Robert Plant’s perfectly synchronized vocal response are upstaged only by the mid-song solo, one of Page’s best ever. One of ANYONE’s best ever. Unfortunately, after that song the album is a bit of a let-down. They always did like light and shade, but here the shadiness fades quickly, and what is left behind is a great hard rock band either running out of hard music or switching to synth-pop. Neither of those options do all that much for their legacy. “All My Love” is a fine song, but it just somehow doesn’t seem quite right for Led Zep. Calling it quits here seems now to have been a good idea, John Bonham or no John Bonham.
(“In The Evening”)
2010: (“In The Evening” is really really really good) Grade: B
10/3/16: Ok, take away one really. Grade B-
When I first started listening to this album, I was not surprised that the tracks weren’t particularly good. After all, they’re admittedly scraping the bottom of the barrel with songs that weren’t good enough for previous release. I fail to see how John Bonham’s death makes them worthy of release now, excepting the possible tribute to him, “Bonzo’s Montreux”, which fails to produce much excitement. The only track that kept me wavering on trashing this album was “Wearing and Tearing”: A nice, fast, riff-heavy, meaningless song. Then I realized I wasn’t giving a couple of other songs their due, mainly “I Can’t Quit You Baby”. It’s still the worst studio album
they’ve ever released, but as is always the case with Led Zep, even their failures have bright spots.
(“Wearing And Tearing”)
2012: Update: Still their worst. Grade: C-