Sunday, March 4, 2012

Dig On Led Zeppelin's "III"

P&B brings you the "Dig On" Classic Album Series.  We'll delve into our vaults to discuss the records that have profoundly impacted our musical tastes.  The albums we present are considered essential to anyone's record collection. In the end, you can't understand the present (or future) until you "Dig On" the past.


"I've been working from seven, seven, seven, to eleven every night, 
It kinda makes my life a drag...
Baby, Since I've Been Loving You, I'm about to lose, 
I'm about lose to my worried mind."
- Lyrics from Led Zeppelin's "Since I've Been Loving You"

Led Zeppelin could be the "Dig On" artist for the next 9 post (ok 8...still can't get into "In Through The Out Door"..."Hot Dog"...really??), but I'll focus on "III" for this edition of our continuing series. I can't speak for Turnbull, but Zeppelin deeply influenced my musical tastes and set a standard for all rock music that I listened to following my dive into the band's catalogue. My introduction to "III" came via my uncle, who had an amazing vinyl collection.


As a child, the album sleeve really grabbed my attention. Not only did it have that artistic draw, but it had replay value! It featured a spinning wheel (known as a volvelle) which had images that changed when you moved it around, seen through the holes cut in the cover.

(Photo via suzannemcowan.com)
I didn't get my first taste of the music on "III" until Page and Plant released their "No Quarter" album in '94. I heard "Gallow's Pole" on the radio and instantly fell in love with it. It was during my first visit to Toronto on a high school trip to see the Barnes Collection that I bought the "UnLedded" disc. I was fortunate enough to visit Sam the Record Man's flagship store (RIP) on Yonge street on this day trip, with its huge flashing neon sign shaped like records. It was a music lovers dream come true. I felt that I could spend days in Sam! I finally settled on "No Quarter" and "Splender Solis" by the Tea Party. As I spent time with the Page and Plant reunion album, certain songs stuck out and I later realised that they were on Zeppelin's 3rd studio album released in 1970.

"III" came out after arguably Zeppelin's most popular and impactful release, "II" (also know as the Brown Bomber), and was met with mixed reviews. Everybody expected "Whole Lotta Love" part 2 but were treated to a change of pace as the album had a more folksy feel to it. "III" opened the door for Zeppelin musically and let their fans know that they are not a one trick pony. After an exhausting world tour, Page and Plant retreated to a cottage in Wales called Bron-Y-Aur to write the follow up to their highly successful 2nd album. Seems like the countryside had an effect on the songwriting duo, as they kept it acoustic for the creation of the songs that would appear on the new record.

Page and Plant taking a hike near the Bron-Y-Aur Cottage (Photo via fuckyeahzeppelin.tumblr.com)
For those of you that experienced "III" on vinyl, the contrast between both album sides is noticeable. Side one is carried by heavy guitars as evident on tracks like "Celebration Day" and "Out On The Tiles". "III" kicks off with the high octane "Immigrant Song" which contains all of the elements of a Zep classic: a simple but strong guitar riff, wailing vocals, a driving bassline and a monster beat. Surprisingly, this is my least favourite track of the set. The crown jewel on this side is the essential "Since I've Been Loving You", which is in my top 3 Zep tracks of all time. This song has a palpable energy with a down and dirty bluesy feel to it. Unlike the other songs from "III", "Loving You" was recorded live off the floor with no overdubs or touch ups. This is Zeppelin live and uncut. Page has stated that he wanted Zeppelin's sound to be "light and shade" and he masterfully delivered it with this cut. It's a beautiful snapshot into a band that was at top of the rock game with no contenders in sight.

Side two unfolds into haunting songs that would help to further define their sound and is a welcome departure from the previous releases. From "Gallow's Pole", a re-imagining of an old folk song, to "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp, a rollicking ode to their home away from home, Page shows his diversity as he wrote and produced these incredible and often imitated pieces. The odd man out on this side is "Hats Off To (Roy) Harper", a fuzzed out tribute to the artist of the same name, who was well respected on the folk circuit in the 60s and 70s. For those of you that don't know Roy Harper, there is a good chance that you've heard him and didn't know it. Harper sings vocals on "Have A Cigar" by Pink Floyd from "Wish You Were Here".

(Photo via led-zeppelin.org) 
Often lost amongst their impressive catalogue, "III" is an important turning point in Zeppelin's musical journey. There were acoustic elements in their self-titled d├ębut and "II", but no where near as present as the subject of this "Dig On". They proved that they could rock out any stage, but needed to bring their sound to a new level to show their diversity. As I listened to this album during my preparation for this post, I remembered how unique all of these tracks are on their own. Led Zeppelin found a way to bring them all together as a cohesive, comprehensive album. Heavy and soft. Urgent and easy-going. This is the most dynamic Zeppelin album of the bunch and should be the go to reference for any music composer, rookie or veteran.

Dig On These Tracks:
- Since I've Been Loving You
- Out On The Tiles
- Bron-Y-Aur Stomp
- That's The Way

BONUS CONTENT

Click here to read Jimmy Page's track by track walk through of "III".

-Paqman

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