Jimmy Page didn’t know it at the time, but when he joined The Yardbirds during 1966, it was the first step on the road to rock ‘n’ roll immortality.
By July of 1968, Page and bass player Chris Dreja found themselves the only remaining Yardbirds members. The problem was the group was committed to a series of concerts in Scandinavia. Page recruited singer Robert Plant and drummer John Bonham to fill out the band and they performed the gigs as The New Yardbirds. Chris Dreja then made one of the worst decisions in rock history as he withdrew from the band to become a photographer. His replacement was John Paul Jones, and so Led Zeppelin was born.
Their self-titled first album was released January 12, 1969 to mixed reviews. It would climb to number 10 on the American album charts but would continue to sell for years and would eventually pass the 8 million mark. Rolling Stone Magazine ranked it at number 29 on their list of The 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time.
The fusion of blues and a heavy rock sound would set the tone for their career and would influence bands to the present day.
I had just started working for my college radio station when this album was released and it just passed me by at the time. I, as well as millions of other fans, did not climb on the Led Zeppelin bandwagon until their second release. Still, this album has grown on me over the years and I still give it a spin now and then.
The short guitar bursts by Jimmy Page on the opening track, “Good Times Bad Times” set the tone for the rest of the album. “Babe, I’m Gonna Love You” moves from acoustic guitar to power riffs as Plant’s vocal wails above the mix. “Dazed and Confused” is a complete group performance. Jones’s bass and Bonham’s drumming combine with Page’s guitar and Plant’s vocal to show that the individual members are excellent artists not only on their own, but that the whole is actually better than the sum of the brilliant parts.
The two Willie Dixon numbers give a glimpse of the band’s roots. “You Shook Me” and “I Can Quit You Baby” are slow blues jams that are twisted into unique Led Zeppelin interpretations. They were innovative at the time and remain fascinating today.
The album contains no real weak tracks. “Communication Breakdown” has an interesting bass line and another wonderful guitar solo. “Your Time Is Gonna Come” features a unique organ introduction from John Paul Jones. “Black Mountain Side” is solid evidence of just how good a guitarist Page was at the time.
Led Zeppelin was a revolutionary album at the time of its release. Today it is a part of rock history and essential to any collection.