in Top Ten

From as long as I’ve been rockin’ I’ve always loved Led Zeppelin, but for some reason I’ve never thought of them as one of my all-time favorite musical artists.  I guess the thing that always kept me from truly embracing them was that they always had this God-like status, and you never really got a sense that their music was very personal.  But then again, when you look at their incredible body of work, thinking of them as gods doesn’t really seem like the most ridiculous thing in the world.  Anyways, lets get started.

10. Bring It On Home
If you want to get to the heart of Led Zeppelin’s sound, you’ve got to start with the blues.  This song starts as a nice little cover of Willie Dixon’s “Bring It On Home” until Jimmy Page’s subdued strumming gives way to a piercing guitar riff and then it just turns in to all out rock warfare.  And that’s pretty much the Zeppelin manifesto in a nut shell: taking the blues and making it huge.

9. Out Of The Tiles
There aren’t too many rockin’ songs on Led Zeppelin III, and that’s kind of what makes it great.  But on “Out Of The Tiles” they really just go for broke, sounding like a chugging locomotive of rock that’s just on the brink of careening off the tracks.  Sorry, I promise not to make any more bad “rock” analogies.

8. Going To California
I felt like I needed to throw in one of Zeppelin’s folkier numbers, just because it’s kind of hard not to love it when these guys would sit down with their acoustic instruments and lay down some softer jams. It’s just a really nice little song about meditating on the roads less traveled, and it’s a nice break from all the heavy hitters featured on Led Zeppelin IV.

7. What Is And What Should Never Be
Robert Plant has never been a great lyricist, and he definitely shows it on this song with lyrics like “You will be mine by taking our time” and “Baby baby baby baby”.  But it doesn’t even matter when you’ve got such a great jazzy groove supported by John Paul Jones’ lingering bass lines.  And then when Bonham comes in, laying his delicious toms all over Page’s power chords, it’s welcome to Rock City: Population You.  Wait, dammit.

6. You’re Time Is Gonna Come
When you think of Led Zeppelin, they’re not the kind of band that you expect to just burst in to three part harmonies.  Then again, I guess the swelling chorus of “You’re Time Is Gonna Come” is more like a sing-a-long as Sean pointed out, and a pretty mean-spirited one at that.  Most of all though, the really remarkable thing about this song is it showed that even on their first album, Zeppelin could find ways of sounding huge and anthemic without the aid of an electric guitar.

5. Immigrant Song
The first memory I have of this song was that it was featured in some skate video I bought as a youngster.  One time I was watching it and my mom walked by and she was like, “Hey, that’s Led Zeppelin.  Good song.”  This was a little conflicting, since all I could ask myself was “How could my mom be into something that sounds so ridiculously badass?”.  But that’s the reality of Zeppelin, our parents grew up with them just as much as we did, and somehow that makes sense.

4. Ten Years Gone
When I first started thinking of the songs for this list, “Ten Years Gone” was not one that I thought had much hope of making the top ten.  But I’ve just been listening to it over and over again the last few days and I can’t seem to get my mind off of it.  It’s just got this great world-weary quality, as if it was written on the road at the end of a long tour from which there seemed to be no end.  There’s a whole host of different guitar sounds that Page uses on the track, and it’s a great example of the way he could use the instrument to convey a whole range of different colors and emotions.

3. Over The Hills And Far Away
So yeah, I really like this song, as do Sean and John.  Maybe we should have vetoed “Over The Hills And Far Away” instead of “Stairway”, since it might very well be the most irresistible song in Zeppelin’s discography.  It contains the loud and the quiet, the soft and the heavy, the introspective and the all-encompassing qualities that made up Zeppelin’s sound, and I’m glad I was able to take part in a half-way decent cover of it.

2. Ramble On
As you can probably tell, I really like it when Zeppelin songs start out all quiet and mysterious and then just bowls you over with some mindblowing guitar riff.  Well for me, “Ramble On”‘s pretty much the king of those kinds of Zeppelin songs, and they do it all while combining the classic bluesman mentality with Lord Of The Rings references.  Go figure.

1. Good Times Bad Times
I hate to reduce Led Zeppelin to one of those bands that peaked on the first song of their first album, but I can’t help it when the band sounded so damn explosive in this early state.  Really all of the band’s trademarks are there: Plant’s unmistakeable howls, Page’s monster riffs and blues-inflected licks, Jones’s wandering basslines, and John Bonham giving what is probably my favorite drum part in any song ever.  You put all these elements together and you’ve got one hell of a stone cold groove, as well as an impressive start to a ridiculously influential career.

Well, that was a lot of fun while it lasted.  Anyways, I’m just throwing this out there, but how would everybody feel about Whovember?  Just an idea.

  1. “Out of the Tiles” is a song I maybe have heard twice in my life. “Ten Years Gone,” however, is a song I’ve heard more than twice since reading this post.

  2. “Out on the Tiles” was also covered by that VH1 supergroup with Ted Nugent and Jason Bonham because Zeppelin never actually played it live, but because it was on that show it’s hard for me to look at it in the same way.

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