OK, so I guess I’ll give this a try. First, some background: music wasn’t a big part of my growing up– perhaps because of the apparent Footloose-like environment my dad grew up in down in south Texas. Anyhow, I didn’t much buy records (!) or tapes, and didn’t much care for what was on MTV (when they showed videos!) or the Top 40, where, during the late 80’s, some of the big albums were, amazingly, George Michael’s “Faith” (1988), Whitney Houston’s “Whitney” (1987), the soundtrack to Dirty Dancing (1987), and Paula Abdul’s “Forever Your Girl (1989). (This isn’t say that there wasn’t good stuff– The Beastie Boys, several albums from U2 (but they’re Irish!), and Guns ‘n Roses, to name a few. I’ll also opt out of mentioning an album of the 90’s I really liked– Pearl Jam’s “Ten”– as I’ll be looked down upon by, apparently, everyone!)
I know, I know. But I can’t help it– I actually like them!
But picking my favorite Zeppelin album is hard, since most of their stuff came out before I was four years old. Thus, I don’t think of their albums per se, but rather just individual songs. The first actual Zeppelin product I bought, actually– and only the second CD product ever for me– was their massive (and expensive, for an 18 year-old kid) box set, which had most of their stuff put together on 4 CDs.
Of those, my favorite is the first one. It contains 15 songs, most of which were taken from their first three albums (that’s Led Zeppelin I-III, to you). They start of with “Whole Lotta Love” (from Led Zeppelin I) and one Jimmy Page’s fantastic guitar riffs. We get several more displays of Page’s talent with “Heartbreaker” (II) and “Communication Breakdown” (I), before getting to the more blues-y “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” (I) and “What Is and What Should Never Be” (II). It’s in this early music where we also get Robert Plant at his most vocally raw. There’s often a blues-y theme of being betrayed by women in Zeppelin’s music, and it’s present in this album with such songs as “Dazed and Confused” (I), among others.
My favorite tracks come at the end of the album, however, with the Tolkein-inspired, loner’s anthem “Ramble On” (II), and the previously unreleased “Hey Hey What Can I Do?”– about a local man pained by his fine-looking woman who just won’t be true. Perhaps my favorite song of any, however, is the also previously unreleased “Travelling Riverside Blues.” Inspired (some might say stolen!) by the blues of Robert Johnson, Page masterfully updates that classic 1930’s guitar sound, and Page’s lyrics feature a menagerie of themes from Johnson’s own music– a man travelling in the South, seducing women, and then running from their angry husbands and fathers. There’s also a hint of that deal-with-the-devil motif (“she’s got a mortgage on my body, a lein on my soul”) that recalls the Johnson <a title="" href="http://www.blogger.com/app/Crossroads legend.
So perhaps it’s cheating just a bit to pick a sort of “best of” album, but I just didn’t feel right to pick something that didn’t include my favorite song on it. In any case, I hope you all get a chance to hear it!