It’s been about a month now since the whirlwind of college graduation, and between the visiting relatives, the new job training, and that random thing where I was on the jumbotron (which people still keep pointing me out in the street for), it’s all felt very nonstop. So I was all the more surprised when just yesterday, the FedEx guy dropped off Led Zeppelin’s three newly reissued LPs on my doorstep.
I had almost forgotten, but somewhere in the frenzy of graduation, I had ordered Led Zeppelins I, II, and III on vinyl as a present for myself. Yes, it’s true that I probably could’ve used the money to save up for my impending future, and yes, it’s true that part of me still has the priorities of an eighth grader, but fuck it dude, Zeppelin is exactly the type of band that seems to stake their whole being on these kind of juvenile impulses.
Now, full disclosure: there are about seven different formats with which one can purchase these reissues, including deluxe CDs, box sets, special edition vinyl and just the plain remastered LPs. I just went with the original vinyl, and thusly I can’t really make any commentary on the bonus material included in the more extravagant formats, which includes early live recordings as well as demos and other such delights. But even without all those collectors’ commodities, Jimmy Page and Rhino have done a magnificent job breathing new life into these recordings, which is saying something when you’re talking about the behemoth that is Zeppelin.
Their debut album sounds as crisp as it’s ever sounded, having an almost tastefully muted feel on cuts like “Dazed & Confused”, where John Paul Jones’ bass plucks feel military in their precision. Elsewhere, Page’s guitar is placed front and center to great effect, such as on the “Your Time Is Gonna Come”/”Black Mountain Side” suite, highlighting what an inspiring player Page continues to be.
Appropriately, II is the loudest and fuzziest of the whole bunch. “Heartbreaker” and “Bring It On Home” have never sounded more furious, and above all the emphasis seems to be how heavy Zeppelin’s bluesiest album remains today. III meanwhile is still as bizarre as its album cover suggests, but Page’s production brings a newfound depth of field to some of the songs, drawing attention to the beauty the band was capable of achieving with more acoustic tracks like “That’s The Way” and “Tangerine.”
Moreso than almost any other group of their era, Zeppelin wore their youthful excess with pride, and weren’t afraid to tackle the kind of wistfulness usually reserved for introverted, Brian Wilson types. These records dare you to think like a teenager, with their impossibly heavy riffing and songs that immediately segue into one another without a moment of silence for reflection. It’s the most mystical bits of hard rock, psychedelia and folk music all rolled into one, and even after all these years, it’s refreshing to see how much power Zeppelin’s childlike sense of romanticism still holds.
Sam Goldner is the music director at CU-Boulder’s Radio 1190. Email him at email@example.com.