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Book Review: Giants of Rock: Led Zeppelin Box Set by Guitar World Editors

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As a subject for retrospectives, only The Beatles top Led Zeppelin. But where The Beatles’ impact was as much cultural as musical, with the mighty Zep it was almost all about the music. Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Bonham and John Paul Jones created a hard rock din of unparalleled majesty, which was generally dismissed by contemporary critics as so much noise. Those of us who were listening to something as gorgeous as “That’s The Way” on Led Zeppelin III knew the real score, and that was all that mattered.

Although Rolling Stone and Creem did not get the band, guitar magazines certainly did. In the case of Guitar World, all of the extensive coverage they have lavished on the band came after the fact. The magazine began publishing in 1980, the year Zeppelin called it quits following John Bonham’s death.

Guitar World’s new box set Giants Of Rock: Led Zeppelin contains some very cool stuff. The main attraction is the DVD: How To Play The Best Of Led Zeppelin. In this three-hour plus instructional disc, Guitar World’s Jimmy Brown takes us through four Zeppelin classics, note-for-note. The four songs are: “Rock And Roll,” “The Song Remains The Same,” “Stairway To Heaven,” and “Since I’ve Been Loving You.” Brown’s step-by-step examples are painstakingly precise, and should allow even the most novice player to be able to eventually play these classics.

Also included are three magazines. The first is the November 2010 “Collector’s Issue” of Guitar World, with Jimmy Page on the cover. Not only does this one celebrate the 40th (!) anniversary of Led Zeppelin III, it does so in 3-D. Yes, the ephemeral (one hopes) fad of all things 3-D proved too much for GW to resist, so we get glasses and the requisite fuzzy photos to go along. The magazine also offers a great deal of coverage about a landmark album that arrived in stores some 30 years ago, Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

The second magazine is a six-song collection of guitar tablatures. This is a form of sheet music for guitar players, where the notes are diagrammed out on the strings of the guitar. The songs are an interesting mix: “Black Mountain Side,” “Celebration Day,” “Good Times, Bad Times,” “Misty Mountain Hop,” “The Crunge,” and “Whole Lotta Love.” I have never met anyone who has considered Zep’s James Brown tribute “The Crunge” an essential one to learn, but here it is nonetheless.

The third and final magazine is the one I found the most interesting. This is simply a collection of five previously published Led Zeppelin articles from Guitar World, dating back to 1991. What has kept the periodical in business all these years is the tremendous knowledge and care their writers put into their work. These five articles contain all kinds of little known facts about the band and their music, and make for a rewarding reading experience. Rounding things out are two guitar picks, each with an image of The Hindenburg screened onto them.

The tally: one DVD, three magazines, two guitar picks, and a handsome cardboard box to display it all in. I’m a fan, and my recommendation is based on that fact. There is quite a bit of information here, most especially for those of us who struggle with learning the songs. Also “The Complete Story” magazine (consisting of the previously published articles) is very worthwhile. All in all, Alfred Publishing has managed to put together a unique box set of all things Zeppelin.

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About Greg Barbrick

  • Bill Holdship

    Since when did Creem magazine not get Led Zeppelin? On the contrary, Page and Plant loved Creem and the respect they received from that publication. Zep received almost nothing but rave reviews from Creem and was on its cover numerous times. Rolling Stone was another story, though.