John Mendelsohn

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[The] excesses of the [Jeff Beck Group's] Truth album (most notably its self-indulgence and restrictedness), are fully in evidence on Led Zeppelin's debut album [Led Zeppelin].

Jimmy Page, around whom the Zeppelin revolves, is, admittedly, an extraordinarily proficient blues guitarist and explorer of his instrument's electronic capabilities. Unfortunately, he is also a very limited producer and a writer of weak, unimaginative songs, and the Zeppelin album suffers from his having both produced it and written most of it (alone or in combination with his accomplices in the group). (pp. 6-7)

The album's most representative cut is "How Many More Times." Here a jazzy introduction gives way to a driving (albeit monotonous) guitar-dominated background for Plant's strained and unconvincing shouting (he may be as foppish as Rod Stewart, but he's nowhere near so exciting, especially in the higher registers). A fine Page solo then leads the band into what sounds like a backwards version of the Page-composed "Beck's Bolero," hence to a little snatch of Albert King's "The Hunter," and finally to an avalanche of drums and shouting.

In their willingness to waste their considerable talent on unworthy material the Zeppelin has produced an album which is sadly reminiscent of Truth. Like the Beck group they are also perfectly willing to make themselves a two- (or, more accurately, one-and-a-half) man show. It would seem that, if they're to help fill the void created by the demise of Cream, they will have to find a producer (and editor) and some material worthy of their collective attention. (p. 7)

John Mendelsohn, "'Led Zeppelin'" (originally published in Rolling Stone, March 15, 1969), in Rolling Stone Record Review by the editors of Rolling Stone (copyright © 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, by Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc.; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), Pocket Books, 1971, pp. 6-7.

["Led Zeppelin II"] is an extension of "Communications Breakdown" from [the] first album. Loud, All-Out, Big-Fast, Steel-Grinding….

Led Zeppelin seem to be a quartet of rough London kids who never had a guardian and who go running amok across stage and people's minds with no thought of Art, or Togetherness, or anything half-grossly aesthetic. They don't really need to, as their success shows—fans come to get their spines racked with illicitly obtained and consumed sexthrills, and they get it. (And leave feeling mighty inadequate.)

This album was probably made while having a good time around the studio. It certainly must be listened to in that manner, because if you are a purist, you'll eventually sling it out the window in a fit of genuine anger. "The Lemon Song," for instance, mixes in all the blues phrases stolen from other songs, mostly "Killing Floor," (a Howling Wolf song), and then the unforgettable & inimitable "you better squeeze my lemon, babe." line that they are famous for, (but which was actually stolen from Robert Johnson's "Terraplane Blues").

The inside painting pretty much shows the theme to this album: a huge, golden-plated king-phallic blimp mounted on a Grecian temple/pedestal….

There are a total of nine songs here …, and only one, "Living Loving Maid," is a tightly arranged immediate piece, with the rest being between four and six minutes long. "Thank You" is actually a nice slow lovely-organy song but….

THE REST all come on like exploding flashlights and hot twisted metal come erupting and shooting crooked sparks without a heavy rest and more more more bitumous blitzrock.

Some songs, like "Heartbreaker," make you shout in warbled pain, others sound borrowed, such an occasional riff that sounds familiar of Jeff Beck (though who actually did it first is beyond scoffed complaint), and another moment is borrowed from Steve Cropper. Nevertheless, working honest vinyl impressions of hot lust with sweated fervor into soapy orgasmic rock … this album will appeal to those who need it. (p. 10)

Go Magazine (copyright 1969 by GO Publishing Co., Inc.), November 7, 1969.

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John Mendelsohn