My road to Led Zeppelin took a bit of a winding route. I basically wandered through different types looking for something that caught my interest. I started getting into blues music in college and followed that path back to Zeppelin and other blues-based rock. Back in high school, I had thought Zeppelin was the music for the stoners and never really paid attention. Of course, it was music for stoners, but it was something much more. By the time I started listening to them, I was past tracks like “Black Dog” and “Rock and Roll” and get to what I think is the better stuff, like “Misty Mountain Hop,” “Going to California” and “When the Levee Breaks.” Picking favorite songs from the group is difficult. For me, it needs just the right amount of each of the elements of the band. I don’t want Robert Plant to get too crazy with vocals, and while I want Jimmy Page’s amazing guitar work, it shouldn’t be over-the-top. I’ll take John Bohnam’s unparalleled drums all day long, and I want the underrated genius of John Paul Jones to show. Even that leaves a huge depth of songs to choose from. The Beatles may be considered perhaps the perfect band at the perfect time, but there might not be a better combination of four musicians.
LED ZEPPELIN IV
No need even to fool around here. There’s a reason this album is considered the band’s greatest. It just is. You’ve got a first side that is absolute Zeppelin energy for any regular fan with three of their biggest hits in “Black Dog,” “Rock and Roll,” and little ditty called “Stairway to Heaven.” The fourth track is “Battle of Evermore,” so even the weakest track ain’t bad. But then you go to the second side. For the Zeppelin purist, the connoisseur, the devotee who appreciates the band’s blues base and the subtleties of all four masters working together, there may not be a better four-song grouping. There’s “Misty Mountain Hop,” the one track I keep going back to as my top Zeppelin single. Then there’s “Going to California,” a beautifully-styled piece that shows the band’s total range. And there’s “When the Levee Breaks,” another on my go-to list, a blues-bending tour-de-force. The fourth track is “Four Sticks.” While it may not be among the critics’ favorites, I love to hear John Bonham just let loose. It certainly has its place on my list.
With a band as huge as Led Zeppelin, trying to rate albums and songs is nearly impossible. Critics have their favorites based on certain criteria, and fans have theirs based just on what they like. My choice came down to two albums. I have to give a huge nod to “Led Zeppelin II,” which is just a monster album. It’s got a lot of blues-based, Zeppelin-treated works, which is a big part of why I listen to Zeppelin. It’s a non-stop crush, a grip-it-and-rip-it. The reason I list “Physical Graffiti” a tick ahead is because of the range the band shows throughout the double album. Only “Kashmir” and “Houses of the Holy” stand out as top individual tracks, but the band shows off what it really can do. It has the hard-edged Led Zeppelin sound. It also has the middle eastern and orchestrated “Kashmir,” and a funk style in “Trampled Under Foot.” There are also acoustic tracks, country stylings, and even prog rock. “Physical Graffiti” takes Led Zeppelin from merely great to legendary.
Misty Mountain Hop / Led Zeppelin IV
Going to California / Led Zeppelin IV
When the Levee Breaks / Led Zeppelin IV
Kashmir / Physical Graffiti
Black Dog / Led Zeppelin IV