Led Zeppelin's debut album came along like a breath of fresh air when it was released in early 1969, capturing the emotion of the blues against a raw and powerful sound it was an album that became the bedrock of hard rock/heavy metal. However like many of those who came after there was nothing generic about this album, it was dynamic and adventurous. The riffs were ominous and the drumming of John Bonham met the listener with brute force. Up to that point I'm not sure there had been a voice quite like Robert Plants, desolate and mournful and incredibly expressive.
Led Zeppelin rose from the ashes of the brilliant British band The Yardbirds of which guitarist Jimmy Page had been a member since 1966. Led Zep owe a great deal to the pioneering work of that band and saw fit to take some of the songs that the Yardbirds had recorded such as Dazed and Confused. What distinguished the two groups was the relentless punishing drumming of Bonham, the piercing voice of Plant and the virtuosity of John Paul Jones on bass/keys. Good Times Bad Times sets the tone with Pages barnstorming riffs and Bonhams pounding fills and double bass kicks, we still don't get a true hint of Plant's voice just yet. On the more rustic Babe I'm Gonna Leave You Plants plaintive cries give way to a more intense wail, Plant also provides an insight into his roaming gypsy style lyrics. I think Chicago may have been listening to this song when they came up with the riff to 25 or 6 to 4. The band tear into the Willie Dixon penned You Shook Me, Page shows off his dexterity and his technical knowledge of the studio, his guitar has a great droning sound. Dazed and Confused separated Led Zep from the likes of the Jeff Beck Group and Cream, sounding threatening and dark Page employes that bolero style rhythm with his use of the bow. Bonham is at his best sounding like a machine gun as he flails across those toms.
You Time Is Gonna Come sounds like a funeral march with Jones on the organ, the chorus has a grand presence. Led Zep even on their first album were a band that were already looking far beyond their blues roots. Plant already sounds like the weary troubadour that he would perfect with each album. Black Mountain Side an acoustic folk style tune is another avenue Page was exploring musically and would suit Plants mystical lyricism. The song then fades into the onslaught of Communication Breakdown, Plant's voice has a fantastic deranged quality with bonham adding to the suffocating nature with his pounding drumming. Page is fluid in his solo work, penetrating and wild before letting Plant take over with his psychotic wails. On the Otis Rush I Can't Quit You Baby Page is brilliant sounding very similar to Jimi Hendrix his solos are crunching bursts of electricity. How Many More Times was another song that emerged from the days of The Yardbirds, Page had fragments of a song that he put together with the band in the studio, the middle section with Page duelling with Bonhams crashing percussion. The album was a commercial success when released but took some time to find an audience, it was met with an unexpected critical mauling that caused the band to withdraw from publicity. If you want to hear where hard blues rock kicked off this album alongside the work of Cream, The Jeff Beck Group and Ten Years After is a good place to start.