Album no. 187/1001
It’s time to get the Led out for the third time – and with one of their best known songs kicking off this record, we might just be in for a treat.
After a long tour, old mates Jimmy Page and Robert Plant had a rest in a tiny little village in Wales where they wrote a bunch of new material. They moved away from their typical blues-rock stomps and embraced a quieter, acoustic sound (on some of their songs anyway). This may have also been because the cottage where they were staying had no electricity or running water.
The album spent 4 weeks at number 1 in the US – but after some dodgy reviews, album sales fell. Luckily, Led Zeppelin IV would be released less than a year later to save the day.
Have you listened to this album before?
CL: No I haven’t. I only recognise one song from this – ‘Immigrant Song’ – and that’s only because it’s in School of Rock.
NK: You bet.
CL: ‘Immigrant Song is probably the biggest banger here. BUT, I was pleasantly surprised by how many of the other songs I liked! It’s a much more toned down version of Zep – lots of acoustic guitars on songs like ‘Friends’ and ‘Tangerine’ (ALSO BANGER). I thought ‘Gallows Pole’ was good too. It put me in mind of ‘25 Minutes To Go’ by Johnny Cash – bit of gallows humour to get you through the day.
NK: In terms of influence and quality, it’s hard to go past ‘Immigrant Song’. But in terms of songs I like the most: ‘Tangerine’ (measuring a summer’s day), ‘Celebration Day’, (my my my I’m so happy, I’m gonna join a band), and ‘Bron-Y-Aur Stomp’ (when you’re old and your eyes are dim, ain’t no shep gonna happen again).
When would be the best time to listen to this?
CL: There’s a different vibe to this – I certainly didn’t pick up on quite as many medieval/fantastical references – WHICH CAN ONLY BE A GOOD THING. If you’re looking for songs about hobbits, stick to some of the other albums.
NK: This is a lot more relaxed than their previous couple of albums. Just ‘Tangerine’ makes it about a thousand times more relaxed. That said, it still rocks out (hello ‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’) pretty damn hard. Hard to pin it down, but I’d say give it a go on a long drive. I played this multiple times on a drive back from Melbourne (this was before music on phones) and it served me very well.
Why has this album been included on the list?
CL: This album has a lot more variety than Led Zeppelin II, so I can appreciate that. They really just seem to be getting better and better. When’s their ‘second album syndrome’ going to kick in?! Or did this not exist back in the day?
NK: I think it’s all the acoustic stuff. There’s slide guitar (Hats Off To Roy Harper), lightning fingerpicking (Bron-Y-Aur Stomp), drone-y echoing stuff (That’s The Way), power ballads (Tangerine), and even a banjo rocker (Gallows Pole). This is a lot more versatile than their previous stuff, but it’s still recognisably Zeppelin. They were a long way ahead of the competition is what I’m getting from this. It sort of makes sense when you think about how willing they were to steal stuff.
CL: Interestingly, their acoustic sound wasn’t a hit with everyone. Some critics accused them of copying their sound from Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Could there be a worse insult?
Will you be listening again?
CL: I think I’ve maybe preferred this one to the others? I still don’t know whether I’d stick on the whole album…
NK: Yeah, probably. I feel very boring for liking Zeppelin, but they were pretty handy.
Listen to Led Zeppelin III on Spotify or buy it in iTunes.