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Led Zeppelin III

Atlantic (1970)
Rating: 7.5/10

Led Zeppelin’s third opus is a ten-track affair that opens with the cutting groove of ‘Immigrant Song’, a searing hot number that signified the British band’s entrance into a new decade, waving goodbye to the summers of swingin’ love.

This time around the quartet opt for a mesmerising album cover, the artwork suggesting a more complex approach from the band who’d spent the last couple of years bewildering us with their blues-based rock ’n’ roll swagger.

At the time Led Zeppelin III bemused a few, with too many fans and critics alike thirsty for more of the same ‘Whole Lotta Love’ and ‘Heartbreaker’ styled grooves, only to be treated by a host of mellower passages, and folky dynamics that are bereft of Jimmy Page’s driving riffs.

Even so, it’s still hard to fault this third platter, Zeppelin always comfortable wallowing in more wistful, meditative moments such as ‘Friends’ as they were rockin’ hard.

On Led Zeppelin III, the band were bordering on greatness, but not once buckled to trend, carving out a record of many layers, but still boasting a brace of riff-heavy numbers including the mighty ‘Celebration Day’ and the cool shuffling groove of ‘Out On The Tiles’.

But for the most part, Led Zeppelin III is a quieter, more reflective opus. ‘Gallows Pole’, ‘Tangerine’, ‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’ and the summery ‘That’s The Way’ are all smoother cuts, tinged with a mix of emotions, ranging from the melancholic to the optimistic – Jimmy Page seemingly more comfortable behind that acoustic guitar instead of posing as an electric guitar god.

For me, Led Zeppelin’s third outing is a band experimenting with moods simply because they can. In fact, a majority of the tracks on offer, especially the brisk ‘Bron-Y-Aur Stomp’ (named after a cottage, Bron-Yr-Aur, in Wales) could be deemed as nothing more than campfire jigs and ballads, made all the more glorious by Robert Plant’s honey-coated rasps.

Some would argue however that on Led Zeppelin III the powers of Jimmy Page and drummer John Bonham have been restricted by the more summery ramblings. Either way, the subtle tweaks and balmy jaunts are simply a band expressing their souls, visiting their roots and influences rather than catering for the hard rock crowd, Led Zeppelin III still boasting the sort of folk-influenced ideas that were popular in music at the time, with the foursome once again nodding to their bluesy peers.

This album – except ‘Celebration Day’ – clearly lacks the metallic punch that made the first two albums so orgasmic and swaggering, but it seems that Plant and company were keen to express their softer side, as any innovative artist has the right to do.

However, I don’t think that the ten tracks on offer here match up to the band’s earlier classics. Led Zeppelin III has the appeal of a dreamscape rather than a raunchy rock ’n’ roll record, preferring to bathe in a sea of bluegrass balladry. Mind you, who am I to criticise a band that with such ease can drift from funky blues to folky narrative in the blink of an eye.

On Led Zeppelin III, the mighty Zep simply moved with the times, taking rock into the fields and woods for a merry ramble. I for one enjoyed the hazy trip but I have to say that I expected more oomph over ooze, and clearly felt hard done by with the lack of Bonham heavy-handedness and Page swagger.

Neil Arnold

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