Classic Rock Review

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Led Zeppelin Early Days: Best of Led Zeppelin 1 (1999)


Review I love Led Zeppelin. The “(fourth album)” is my favourite all-time rock album. I love “3” despite it often being trashed as subpar Zeppelin. I can groove to the atypically slow “That’s the Way” just as easily as “Whole Lotta Love” or “Trampled Under Foot.” But there are two essential problems with making a Zeppelin compilation album.

The first is that, if you’re a true Zep fan, you could name 50 great songs by them and still have some great tunes left over. You sure could not pick a total of 23 songs (including “Latter Days”)and call it a complete collection.

The other is that everyone has their own idea of what the best of Zeppelin is, except basically that “Stairway to Heaven” is their best song (but truthfully “Kashmir” is my favourite). My friend who got me into Zeppelin’s favorite song from the double album “Physical Graffiti”–“The Rover”–is absent from “Latter Days.” “Misty Mountain Hop,” my third favourite song from the affore mentioned “(fourth album),” is not on here. I like a few songs from the “In Through the Out Door” and “Coda” albums, but my friend sold his vinyl copies of them and has no desire to buy the CD copies.

Different people like different songs is my point. I disagree with a lot of Jimmy Page’s choices, particularly “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You.” One must formulate their own list of favorites, not listen to the favorites of others, especially if their only picked by one person. If you think Jimmy Page would immediately have a fair idea of what the best songs by his group are in the public eye, think again. This along with the “Latter Days” collection omits such hits as “Heartbreaker,” “Fool in the Rain,” and “D’yer Mak’er” (which reached #20 on the US pop charts, “Fool…” reached #21 at its peak). I’ve “rambled on” for long enough I think. So let me just give you instructions on purchasing Zep already.

First, buy the “(fourth album),” or “Zoso” as it is sometimes referred to, “Led Zeppelin II,” or “Houses of the Holy.” If you REALLY like what you hear there, I recommend buying one of the box sets that has the 4 extra tracks and all the songs from the studio albums, I recommend the 1993 10 disc set which has the extra tracks tacked at the end of “Coda.” But if you don’t feel it’s good enough to purchase the box set, but you still crave more Zep, get the self-titled debut followed by “Physical Graffiti.” If you purchase “Led Zeppelin III,” “Presence,” “In Through the Out Door,” or “Coda,” you will probably be discouraged to buying more Zeppelin, although they tend to sound better after multiple listenings, particularly “3.” But I strongly advise you to get them anyhow (maybe not “Coda”) and to not buy any collections.

Review I’m relatively new to Led Zeppelin and certainly to heavy metal music, so it was with some reservation that I bought “The Early Years” to sample what has been represented as the best of the early works of this legendary group.

Yes, while critic and fans alike have advocated listening to the original albums rather than compilations to really appreciate the music of this band, I wasn’t about to splurge on four albums without getting a foretaste of what they had to offer….and what a discovery this has turned out to be. This is one masterful compilation. Sequenced chronologically according to their source, you sense their musical progression with each track. The four opening cuts (from their debut album) signalled a promising start but they are quickly overshadowed by what was to follow.

Their hit singles, “Whole Lotta Love” and “Immigrant Song” sound as fresh and powerful today as they did three decades ago. Even “What Is and What Should Never Be” and “Since I’ve Been Loving You”, which some reviewers consider less than adequate choices from their second and third albums respectively, seem perfect as they provide contrasting pace and relief from the rampaging hits they follow. But it is the final brace of five songs from their untitled fourth album that displays the group at its peak and in all its glory.

They all sound like classics, from the full blooded howl of “Black Dog” to the heavy metal transformation of its self-titled subject “Rock and Roll”, and the wistful musicality of “The Battle of Evermore” (featuring the guest vocals of Sandy Denny). What’s more, the compilers have left the best to the last. Just when you think the music can’t get any better are you served with the amazing “When The Levee Breaks”, a masterful display of the collective musicianship and craft of the band members and finally, the magnificent opus “Stairway To Heaven”, which has become the anthem for listeners on rock music radio stations. Wow ! This is one hellavu compilation album…. all great stuff except for the tiresome “Dazed and Confused” which goes on a bit.

Led Zeppelin fans understandably regard “The Early Years” as a redundant product but for newcomers like me, there is probably no better way to start.

May 23, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Early Days: Best of Led Zeppelin 1 | | Leave a comment