Bring It On Home: ‘Led Zeppelin II’

❉ An appreciation of Led Zep’s second album, which recently turned 50.

The first of the Zeppelin masterpieces, it is a wonder how the album was recorded at all. Performing on a rigorous and often painful American tour from January to August 1969, the band’s second album was recorded in studios whenever they found themselves free from performances. Their live prowess had, however, jumped in leaps and bounds, attributes they brought with them into the five studios stated across the UK and USA (one of which, as Jimmy Page later recalled, lacked headphones!).

Led Zeppelin (1969) had shown promise, yes, but it was largely because of Jimmy Page’s guitar playing, while Robert Plant took a less significant role. Here, he very much proved himself Page’s equal, receiving writing credits on eight of the nine tracks and creating a vocal style that changed rock forever.

Singing over Page’s beautiful crescendo (a tuning called DAGGAD, one which would be used on their studio zenith Kashmir), Plant’s sexual deviance on Whole Lotta Love pushed any forbearance rock may have held previously into the depths of hell. ‘I want to be your back-door man’ he screams during the song’s coda, a phrase that pushed sexual come-ons into the mainstream. A brilliant opening track (its riff would be voted ‘Best Riff’ by BBC listeners in 2014), its topic would be pushed further again on the lecherous The Lemon Song.

The album’s third bygone rocker Heartbreaker featured a guitar solo that Iron Maiden and Van Halen would make a career out of, though neither of those band’s got the diverse musicality Heartbreaker alone featured. Underneath Page’s metallic riff, John Paul Jones played an amplified bass solo, garage rock to Page’s metal, the sound Jack White would use to great effect on his monster hit Seven Nation Army thirty odd years later.

If Page and Jones provided the songs with the juice to lubricate the music, John Bonham’s drumming provided the backbone. Truly into a league of his own, Bonham’s groove is what set the band apart from everyone else. From the colossal banging echoing in What Is And What Should Never Be to the tenacious swing on Livin’ Lovin’ Maid (She’s Just A Woman), Bonham’s playing proved irreplaceable, as the band themselves found following his untimely death in 1980. Strangely, it’s only during his drum solo Moby Dick that he disappoints, providing an unattractive clatter of noise. Otherwise, the drums sound fantastic, both in the way Bonham played and in the manner Page miked the drums to sound as well as they did (something he considered one of his finest achievements as a producer- and he’s right!).

Two tracks, the Tolkien-inspired Ramble On (which showed Page’s fine folk style playing at its peak) and the sombre ballad Thank You (Plant’s first composition for the band) provide the shade and respite from the playing, a trick used even more effectively on album closer Bring It On Home which starts slowly with Plant’s blues wailing and harmonica playing, before being enclosed by a wall of guitar sounds, a trick Page would perfect on their fourth album on its bookends Black Dog and When The Levee Breaks.

If the album falters in one area, it is the album’s lack of polish, something Jimmy Page would perfect when mixing future albums. But when the singing sounds so honest, the drumming this tight, the bass playing this powerful and the guitar riffs so exciting, it is a qualm easily forgiven!

❉ ‘Led Zeppelin II’ was originally  released on 22 October 1969 in the United States and on 31 October 1969 in the United Kingdom by Atlantic Records

  A regular contributor to We Are Cult, Eoghan Lyng’s writing has also appeared in New Sounds, Record Collector, CultureSonar, Punk Noir Magazine, DMovies, Phacemag and other titles. Follow him on TwitterVisit his homepage. Article Source:

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