It all makes such perfect sense now in retrospect. You take two of the premier sessions artists in England rising from the ashes of the Yardbirds and pair them up with a couple of unknown 19 year olds from the Band of Joy and form one of the greatest rock groups of all time. Led Zeppelin's debut album remains a classic and its showpiece "Dazed and Confused" is the song I have listened to most often in my life; my favorite part is Bonzo's cascades on the drum as Jimmy Page loses the violin bow and finishes his guitar solo (I have learned from a reputable source that the song was originally written by Jake Holmes as a folk-rock type song, but uncredited on the album). One of the great things about the new Led Zeppelin double-DVD is that there are another four versions of "Dazed and Confused" on it, although admittedly you have to look for some of them. I finally get to see Bonzo do that bit on what, by contemporary standards, is a kiddie drum kit. "Communication Breakdown" is the one "single" from the album because from the very beginning Led Zeppelin's best tunes were just too long for airplay. "Dazed and Confused" is 6:27, Page's acoustic arrangement of "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" is 6:40 (the second best track on the album) and the final track, the under-rated "How Many More Times" is a heck of a lot longer than the "3:30" that is listed in the liner notes (go figure). The album begins with the introductory hard chords of "Good Times Bad Times" but also features the acoustic guitar and tabla drums on the folksy "Black Mountainside" as the group mixes and matches music styles. At this point Robert Plant is just handling the vocals, with Page, Jones and Bonham responsible for the new songs. For good measure they toss a pair of Willie Dixon's blues tunes, "You Shook Me" and "I Can't Quit You Baby," to reveal the exact nature of the group's musical roots even as they were on their way to being the definitive heavy metal band. Everything that comes afterwards in the musical career of Led Zeppelin all comes back to the ground they claim on this album. Future albums will vary the calculus in terms of how much hard rock, acoustic, or blues appears on a given album, but you will find the template for the group's success laid out on this self-titled debut effort where they establish their album-oriented perspective. This is guitar rock beyond what we had heard in the distorted electric blues of Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, and Eric Clapton. Ultimately, what makes it a great debut album is that Led Zeppelin continues to build on those foundation in eight more classic heavy metal albums over the next dozen years. This is one of the few albums that I still as vinyl (object d'arte), cassette (emergency use if the CD player in the car breaks down), and CD. If I get stuck on a desert island, guess what album I want...
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