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Led Zeppelin I, 1969(6X Platinum)

Energy and optimism was running high when Led Zeppelin gathered to record this, their first album. This energy shows. Led Zeppelin I is a marvellous, energetic collection of rock and blues songs, the emphasis put firmly upon each of the four members specialities; mesmerisingly quick guitar solos, ingenious base lines, unfaltering vocal acrobatics and dramatic drum-work.

There's nothing particularly outstanding in the compositions themselves on the album. Essentially, it is nothing more than rock/blues album cranked up a few decibels and given a big dollop of showmanship. However, it's the quality and professionalism of the music which really grabs your attention. 'Dazed and Confused' shakes you by the very turn-ups of your trousers, 'Communication Breakdown' leaves you reeling from the rapidity of the beat whilst 'I Can't Quit You Babe' leaves you feeling strangely seedy!

Led Zeppelin I was nothing more than a taster of what was to come. It held all the anticipation and opportunities that one could ever want from a debut album.

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Houses Of The Holy, 1973(8X Platinum)

After they had shaken the musical world with the massive Four Symbols, Led Zeppelin made a bit of a departure with this, their fifth release. Houses of the Holy is a curious blend of the boogie rock and metal which works reasonably well but fails to generate nearly as much atmosphere or wonder as any of their previous releases. What success there is with this album is undoubtedly down to the professionalism of the musicians and the production, under the ever studious eye of Page.

Admittedly, there's a lot of interesting ideas generated within this album, an album whose tunes don't make an immediate impact upon the listener (except for 'The Song Remains the Same' which literally thumps you into submission). They do take a while for the listener to fully digest and consider from where they have been pitched. However, the overall effect is an oddly unsettling one. The direction taken with 'The Crunge', the off-handishness of 'Dancing Days' all make you wonder from where Led Zeppelin really were coming from and, more importantly, where on earth they were headed.

A daring, if somewhat disenchanted, release.
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Led Zeppelin II, 1969(8X Platinum)

The second album released by any musical band is often the most telling, with regards to the direction in which they are going to go and whether or not they have the ability and qualities to get there. Led Zeppelin II provided a perfect picture as to their calibre and their direction. They proved that they were wondrously talented musicians, all working in the one same direction; heavy metal but with good-grooming! A well oiled machine pumping out rocking blues songs with a twist of the mysticism, just for good measure, the combination of energy, vitality, intelligence and wit was ideal for moment and the mood of the late sixties.

You know exactly what you're going to get with this album when the opening resonate cries of Plant's vocals are branded with the instantly addictive rift of Page's guitar. Led Zeppelin II drags the listener through a montage of lazy blues tunes to blistering rock and sumptuous, quirky tunes about goblins and ring-wraiths. This bizarre collection of themes would generate the emphasis of their music for the next three albums, eventually to be replaced with the more orthodox rock/blues methodology demanded by an increasingly conservative audience.

But for the moment, they were a band playing beyond themselves to an audience who just couldn't get enough.
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Physical Graphitti, 1975(9X Platinum)

Before the world's music critics got to hear Physical Graffiti, it was considered that the album would be the disastrous step that would finally topple the Led Zeppelin beast; bring it down in flames. They had suffered somewhat within the marketplace as their previous release, House of the Holy, had been mauled by an overly vicious music press and their reputation as a disreputable band on the road had begun to gain moment. Red snapper tales, urine soaked plane seats and copious amounts of Cuba's finest were (apparently) starting to take their toll. And yet, when the world got to hear Physical Graffiti no one dared insult the band again (at least not for another few years).

Physical Graffiti is, in no uncertain terms, a masterpiece, an album of such unsurpassed wonder that its like very rarely comes out of any studio. Fans and critics alike are still divided in their thoughts as to whether Physical Graffiti is better than Four Symbols (that other monolith of a musical revolution). I am in no way going to draw thoughts (or fire) and voice my opinions on this ever raging subject, but I will say that Physical Graffiti is a must for any music collection, regardless of the owner's musical slant.

There's no padding for an instant in this double album (an achievement in itself.) The songs are powerful, clever, masterfully laid down and riveting in their delivery. From the raw edge of 'The Rover' to the dynamic heights of 'Kashmir' to the violent wonder of Page's slide guitar magic on 'In my time of Dying', to the melodic, dreaminess of 'Down by the Seaside', the listener's in for a treat, every time, even after countless listenings.

Nothing more really can be said to reflect just what an album this is, other than, buy it, play it and enjoy it time after time.
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Led Zeppelin III, 1970(4X Platinum)

By the release of Led Zeppelin III the band were so big that they had started to naturally attract petty-minded critics, claiming their music was no longer progressing in the way it had when they had first appeared on the music scene two years earlier. Such is the fate of fame; the higher you climb, the more visible and tempting a target you become to the critics. From the flamboyant cover of the album, it was obvious that Led Zeppelin were fully immersing themselves within the role they had achieved, rock idols, and the music continued within mirrored this, the tracks adopting a lofty, irrepressible presence.

With a heavy slant towards the acoustic, the tracks saunter and sway their way here and there, taking the listener away to Viking raids, country dances and Hangmans' pedestals. It's the arrogance of the tracks which make this album, the apparent ease they display at changing style, mood and rhythm at moments unaccustomed within music, to suit, so it would appear, their own whim. The songs are made up from deeply layered vocal, bass and acoustic accompaniments, Bonham doing his very finest to accompany them with every percussion instrument under the sun, and more.

Enticing, if not completely fulfilling stuff, Led Zeppelin III is still a handsome album to have within your collection.
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Presence, 1976(3X Platinum)

By the release of Presence, Led Zeppelin had already tested themselves with complex musical compositions, such as the grandeur of 'Kashmir', from the Physical Graffiti album. And they further continued to investigate complex musical themes with this album, most notably highlighted by 'Achilles Last Stand', a wondrous tune full of swerving melodies and passionate bridges.

Despite the 'unmainstream' direction they had chosen to take four years previously, Led Zeppelin still proceeded to generate a great deal of interest from fans and critics alike with their album and single releases. And there's a great deal, just like with all Led Zeppelin compositions, to consider here. The tracks on Presence are by no means simple one off melodies to capture the imagination at first play. They take time to develop and attach themselves within the listener's head. However, once they have, they become, like the album title itself, a powerful presence.

For the listener's pleasure here are such gems as the mournfully brave 'For Your Life' and the relentless 'Nobody's Fault But Mine'. Not an immediately amenable album but one which grows with time.


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Led Zeppelin IV, 1971(17X Platinum)

They didn't even bother to put their name on this album cover, a move which critics claimed would have catastrophic effects on the sales on Four Symbols, the fourth release from Led Zeppelin. In answer to their critics, who felt they only sold the number of albums they did because of their name, this 'anonymous' album went on to become one of the biggest selling albums of all time; equalled only by U2's The Unforgettable Fire and Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon.

Four Symbols is quite unashamedly an extraordinary album in both its quality and message. It is a rock album, but quite unlike any rock album written before it or since. In a manner which had worked on their previous three releases, Four Symbols starts with a thumpingly good, rift driven rock'n'roll number, 'Black Dog', whose rift is quite honestly astounding. To follow, they simply showed off their skills with 'Rock And Roll', showing all other bands just how rock'n'roll was done. 'The Battle of Evermore' continued their fascination with Tolkien's masterpieces, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, perfectly capturing the essence of pure fantasy within music. Heaven knows what Tolkien would have thought of the music himself if he ever heard it, but one feels he would have been suitably impressed with 'Evermore'. The first side finishes with undoubted champion of rock songs, 'Stairway to Heaven', whose very title conjures up a position within music to which all musicians aspire.

Side two takes a far deeper and socially conscious approach than side one, with the resulting tunes having less immediate impact on the listener but which, over time, grow into monstrous creations which just cannot be shaken from the imagination. The mood and feel of the early seventies is perfectly captured and placed onto vinyl, to such a degree that if ever you wish to know what this time was like, simply play this side. The mood however darkens with the closing track, 'When the Levee Breaks', an apocalyptic song of mammoth proportions. Just try listening to it and not finding yourself worrying about what we are doing to this world.

They would never go higher than this album (although they would come very close). Hardly surprising really. Sheer unadulterated brilliance unlikely ever to be matched on record again.
In Through The Out Door, 1979(6X Platinum)

There's a separating of standards with this, the last release before the death of John Bonham. Following a similar formula as the previous three releases, complex musical tunes twinned with unusual styles and accompaniments, In Through the Out Door sounds tired and worn-out, alongside its superior earlier cousins. Why this should be cannot be easily gauged. Perhaps the methodology of touring and writing, with no social stability affected the showmanship and musical creativity on the members of the band? Perhaps the relentless schedule of live performance with outrageous 'extra-activities' corrupted the innocence of ingenuity of Page and co.?

Whatever the reasons, In Through the Out Door fails to conjure up anything more than the now recognised Led Zeppelin sound. By transforming the way they, and music as a whole, was written and produced, they found themselves in a corner of their own making, with no where to turn. The now standard 'elongated' opening track of the album, in this case 'In The Evening', shines out, along with 'Carouselambra'. The remainder is heavy and plodding.

It would have been interesting to see where they would have gone next but during one particular post-gig alcoholic party, John Bonham choked on his own vomit after comsuming 48 units of alcohol and the long magical ride came to a close.



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