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Led Zeppelin II

Atlantic (1969)
Rating: 9/10

Two albums in one year! That is unthinkable in today’s climate, and yet Brit rockers Led Zeppelin hit the studio to record what has been described as one of rock’s greatest ever albums, backed up by astonishing sales figures and a batch of songs that are unlikely to ever fade from mankind.

Again, Jimmy Page produces, but his magic touch doesn’t end on the knob twiddling, because there’s a handful of tracks on this opus that contain some of the greatest ever riffs.

Immediately, the band are on the offensive, striding with arrogance on ‘Whole Lotta Love’; a track that, in its simplicity, has stood the test of time, swaggering on an absolutely killer riff and Robert Plant’s soaring vocals. It’s one of those immortal tracks – even with its bewildering mid-section – that has embedded itself into musical folklore, and comes with John Paul Jones’ sturdy bass-lines and John Bonham’s pounding beats.

And yet that’s not where the genius ends. ‘Heartbreaker’ cruises into the ears on another boastful riff and Plant’s steamy rasp, and ‘Living Loving Maid (She’s Just A Woman)’ is equally infectious – Zeppelin suddenly bragging like the stadium rock band so many others could only dream of being.

And the riff monsters keep on tumbling from the speakers. ‘Moby Dick’ is a gargantuan track that boasts another leviathan riff and sassy shake. ‘Ramble On’ begins with wistful aplomb, a breezy, sun-drenched folk rock jig which transforms itself into a shuffling groove before resorting back to the blustery.

Led Zeppelin’s second opus is clearly a more rewarding experience than the debut, offering more weight throughout despite its mellower passages. The soulful supernova that is ‘What Is And What Should Never Be’ is a fine example of how the band effortlessly combine more tranquil periods with raging currents stirred by Page’s riffs, which have the ability to shift between bluesy dirges and serpentine roller coasters.

It’s hard to find a duff track on the album. The epic clunk of ‘The Lemon Song’ clatters in with Bonham’s distinctive thump and a grating riff. Robert Plant has suddenly propelled himself to godly heights, the ultimate rock ’n’ roll chief with unmatchable vocals that ooze charisma over those sultry grooves.

Strangely, there appears to be nothing complicated about Led Zeppelin’s structures, the quartet simply melting together blue-eyed soul, folk-laced rock – nothing more and nothing less – and yet the magic lies in the pastures these guys create with a deft flick of their mental paint brush.

‘Thank You’ and ‘Bring It On Home’ are earth-shattering specimens the foursome created. The former is a pensive rambler that has more in common with Pink Floyd and the Small Faces than anything remotely stormy, while the latter brings American-born blues to the streets of Britain, wheezing through a delicate harmonica and Deep South guitar chug. Eventually the track becomes an avalanche of bass, guitar and drums, before bringing Led Zeppelin’s sophomore platter to a close.

Led Zeppelin II is another rock ’n’ roll humdinger that would lead us into the 1970s where the four-piece would become the biggest thing on the planet.

Neil Arnold

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