1. Good Times Bad Times
2. Babe I'm Gonna Leave You
3. You Shook Me
4. Dazed And Confused
5. Your Time Is Gonna Come
6. Black Mountain Side
7. Communication Breakdown
8. I Can't Quit You Baby
9. How Many More Times
In 1968, visionary Jimmy Page had just left the Yardbirds and had met John Bonham, John Paul Jones, and Robert Plant. Together, those four were known as "the New Yardbirds." However, a joke from The Who's drummer Keith Moon, saying that a new band "would go over like a lead balloon" prompted the name change to "Lead Zeppelin," and manager Peter Grant altered the spelling to "Led" so radio stations wouldn't misread it.
But enough with the history. You came here to read the review. This is a great first album. Every song on it is flawless - an incredible feat given the entire album was recorded, arranged and mixed in 30 hours.
The opening of "Good Times Bad Times" will grab you and pull you in, and before you know it you've reached an almost-manic guitar solo by Jimmy Page.
Then things seemingly slow down with the melodic "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You." Page wanted this to be Led Zeppelin's "light-and-shadows" song, and sure enough, after wandering through the acoustic "shadow" of the song, you are blindsided by the light when the song suddenly changes course; Page's melodic plucking immediately turns into a pounding riff, complemented by Bonzo's drums. Then, as though allowing you to catch your breath, the song will "dim" into shadow again, with Page lightly backing Plant's voice. Then comes another blast of frenzied rock. But in the end we don't know if Plant "left" his girl, or if he stayed with her. A truly enjoyable Zeppelin tune.
"You Shook Me" is a very bluesy song with a nice opening riff. Bonham really whacks the drums on this one too, and Plant changes things up by throwing a harmonica into the mix during the instrumental break, adding more than just vocals into the song. Page shows off some guitar skill by seeming to "follow" what Plant sings and, at the end, doing a sort of "call and response": Plant screams "Babe!" and Page hits a guitar note.
"Dazed and Confused" is left over from the latter days of The Yardbirds, but of course Page wanted to put a Zeppelin-esque spin on it. Opening with John Paul Jones's bass line, the song seemingly trudges along, with Robert Plant lamenting "Been dazed and confused/for so long it's not true/Wanted a woman, never bargained for you." The instrumental break is a time for the musicians to really "cut loose" and demonstrate their abilities, which they do remarkably well.
John Paul Jones's influence is evident on "Your Time Is Gonna Come", a church-organ-infused tune that seems out of place to some. However, to me, it allows us a glimpse into his writing and is a pretty good tune about a cheating lover. (Other songs written by Jones are "Misty Mountain Hop" from Led Zeppelin IV or "ZoSo", "No Quarter" from Houses of the Holy, and almost the entire last album In Through The Out Door.)
"Black Mountain Side" is a purely instrumental track (a rarity for the quartet) written and played by Jimmy Page.
Next comes "Communication Breakdown", an in-your-face jam that lets the listener know that Led Zeppelin is definitely different from other bands of their time. At two minutes, 29 seconds, it's one of Led Zeppelin's shorter tracks, but after listening to it you definitely must catch your breath. "Communication Breakdown" is truly a relentless tune, not letting go until the end. This song makes one feel like they had the wind knocked out of them, complete with another nearly out-of-control, manic solo from Jimmy Page. (Toward the end of this song, Page adds some rare backing vocals.)
"I Can't Quit You Babe" is another blues-rock gem, along the same vein as other blues-rock songs of the era.
"How Many More Times" is the longest song on the album (coming in at over eight minutes), which has a grooving bass intro and demonstrates a musical rarity: Jimmy Page playing his guitar with a violin bow (just before - and during - the verse starting with "I was a young man, I couldn't resist"). Toward the end of the tune is a cover of "The Hunter", coupled with Robert Plant's trademark vocal wailing.
Overall a stellar effort by the young band. Even from the onset, Led Zeppelin set out proving that they were definitely a different act than what listeners were used to. And this remarkable first album helped cement Zeppelin's career, helping them become one of the biggest rock bands of all time. Among the greatest debut albums ever released.