LED ZEPPELIN — Led Zeppelin III (review)

LED ZEPPELIN — Led Zeppelin III album cover Album · 1970 · Hard Rock Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
Nightfly
After the bombast of their previous album Led Zeppelin III came as a bit of a surprise to the critics at the time due to the fact that it was largely acoustic based, particularly on side 2. This came about not only for the reason that Zeppelin were always striving to move forward and not repeat themselves, but also because much of it was written on a holiday taken by Robert Plant and Jimmy Page at a cottage in Wales called Bron-Y-Aur. Taking acoustic guitars along they would write material around the campfire on the summer evenings.

It wasn't all acoustic though. In fact opening track Immigrant Song is one of the bands most celebrated rockers with its unison Jimmy Page/John Paul Jones riff and John Bonham following every note on the drums. Plant Viking influenced lyrics are brought to life with his war cry screams on this, one of their greatest album openers. The heavy rock quotient also consists of Celebration Day, another classic Zeppelin rocker that due to the beginning of the master tape being damaged very nearly didn't make it. They got round this by fading it in from the end of preceding track Friends. Good job they did too as it's another brilliantly executed moment with its incessant driving multi-layered riffing from Page and another great Plant vocal. The third of the heavier tracks, Out On The Tiles ended side 1. It's an often overlooked gem with its stop/start Page riff and Bonhams solid, dextrous and weaving bass drum work.

Since I've Been Loving You is the bands greatest blues moment full stop. It's a slow blues starting quietly with a masterly build to a powerful climax. Page plays one of his greatest solos ever and the same can be said of Plants vocal performance, beautifully phrased and on top of his game; absolutely brilliant. Jones adds some well placed organ and Bonham keeps it simple but effective on the drums.

The use of acoustic guitars was nothing new to Zeppelin; used to great effect on I on Babe, I'm Gonna leave You and Page's acoustic showcase Black Mountain Side and II had Ramble On. Friends is the first and is actually the only acoustic track on side 1. It's not one of the better ones however and alongside Page's guitar Jones wrote a string arrangement and uses his Moog near the end.

Side 2 is where all the great acoustic moments lie. Gallows Pole is a traditional folk tune and is brilliantly executed. Starting with just a single acoustic guitar and Plants voice it builds to a climax being in turn joined by mandolin, bass, drums and banjo turning into a galloping acoustic rocker. Tangerine is a lovely laid back piece. Page also plays some pedal steel as well as acoustic and Jones and Bonham are in and out where required keeping the rhythm solid and simple and Plant gives a fine yet restrained vocal performance. That's The Way follows suit with a lovely reflective vocal from Plant and no drums present at all. Page adds a bit of electric guitar for colour but apart from that it's just acoustic and mandolin.

Bron-Y-Aur Stomp is a song written about Plant's dog. It's a fun track and the title gives you a good idea of the type of tune it is, driven along by Bonham's repetitive single note bass drum and high hat. Page plays some fine guitar and Plant turns in another good vocal performance. Hats Off To (Roy) Harper is a disappointing way to close an excellent album. Just Page on a single acoustic guitar and Plant with a heavily treated vocal, no doubt trying for an authentic 30's sound but it ultimately goes nowhere and is one of the bands less satisfactory moments on any album.

Although acoustic instruments would go on to feature on future Zeppelin albums they wouldn't be there in the quantity they were on III so as a result this is quite unlike any other. It turned out to be a very worthwhile venture though being one of the most diverse albums of their career, as well as one of the best.
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