Led Zeppelin Albums Ranked
9. 'In Through the Out Door' (1979)
With Page and Bonham spiralling into substance abuse and booze, the other half of Led Zeppelin was left to piece together the group's latest iteration. The results, outside of the odd greasy groover like 'In The Evening' or 'South Bound Saurez,' often couldn't be any further away from the monstrous blues rock that Zeppelin had unleashed 10 years before. But they might have pointed to more chart success. Put another way, Plant's pop-leaning solo career began right here.
"Fool in the Rain" was an attempt to combine a samba rhythm with a basic rock tune, resulting in a polyrhythm part way through the song. The idea was inspired by Plant explaining that the group must explore new musical territory in order to remain current.
8. 'Coda' (1982)
It's become almost mandatory to dismiss this odds-and-ends package issued after Bonham's death. Critics will tell you that its uneven, that it lacks focus. Go back, though, and 'Coda' uncovers the ferocious beating heart of Led Zeppelin after the sadly diffused period surrounding 'In Through the Out Door.' Rather than the sad goodbye that album might have been, 'Coda' reminded us of their now-lost greatness.
"Bonzo's Montreux" was recorded at Mountain Studios, Montreaux, Switzerland in September 1976. It was designed as a Bonham drum showcase, which Page treated with various electronic effects, including a harmonizer.
7. 'Physical Graffiti' (1975)
This bloated set's best moments struggle to overcome the throwaway double-album debris that engulfs it. For every funk-filled joy like 'Trampled Underfoot,' there's 'Boogie With Stu.' The towering Eastern mysteries of 'Kashmir' grind to a halt for speed bumps like 'Black Country Woman.' Unfortunately, 'Physical Graffiti' can come off (as with so many multi-disc sets of that era) like a kitchen-sink project in desperate need of a good plumber. There's a fantastic single-disc release in here somewhere and if they'd done that, it would have ranked higher. Much higher.
"Kashmir" was an idea from Page and Bonham, and was first attempted as an instrumental demo in late 1973. Plant wrote the lyrics while on holiday in Morocco. The song was one of the most critically acclaimed on the album, and was played at every gig from 1975 onwards.
6. 'Presence' (1976)
If 'In Through the Out Door' belonged to Plant and Jones, then 'Presence' was a showcase for the others, meaning a return to their bawdy early sound. Page unleashes a torrent of layered grooves, while Bonham brings his sticks down with teeth-splintering force on gems like the galloping 'Achilles Last Stand' and the coiled 'Nobody's Fault But Mine.' After a period of furious invention, and no small amount of rock star decadence, the grimy grooves of their initial period have a renewed sense of force and danger.
Page and Plant began writing the song during the summer of 1975, influenced by Eastern music, mythology, and exposure to diverse cultures and musical traditions during their travels. At ten-and-a-half minutes, it is one of the group's longest studio recordings and one of their most complex, with interwoven sections and multiple, overdubbed guitar parts.
5. 'Led Zeppelin' (1969)
There's no denying this set's heavy-blues immediacy, its sense of throwback menace, or even that it's one of the all-time great debuts in rock. But too much of the songwriting felt (and, in some cases, actually was) borrowed from the rootsy greats that inspired Led Zeppelin, and the album -- for all of its raw power -- only hints at their flinty ambition. For anyone else, this would have ranked higher, maybe even at No. 1. Not Zeppelin.
The album showed the group's fusion of blues and rock, and their take on the emerging hard rock sound was immediately commercially successful in both the UK and US, reaching the top-10 on album charts in both countries, as well as several others. Many of the songs were longer and not well suited to be released as singles for radio airplay, and Page was reluctant to release "singles", so only one single was released, "Good Times Bad Times". However, due to exposure on album-oriented rock radio stations, and growth in popularity of the band, many of the album's songs have become classic rock radio staples.
4. 'Houses of the Holy' (1973)
Fresh off 'IV,' Led Zeppelin was clearly in the mood to stretch its legs. The result is a project as ambitious as any the group ever attempted. Of course, that remains its blessing and curse. Dotted with songs both unusual (the anthemic expanse of 'The Rain Song,' the strange sensuousness of 'No Quarter') and approachably fun, 'Houses' tended to anger those who wanted them to remain in a heavy-rocking box. Expectations aside, though, it showed there was nothing Led Zeppelin couldn't do. Unfortunately, its proximity to 'IV' likely doomed it from the start, and it's simply not as cohesive.
The album's opening track, "The Song Remains The Same" was originally a Page-composed instrumental called "The Overture". Plant added lyrics that referred to the group's experiences on tour, and it was given a working title of "The Campaign". His lead vocal was sped up slightly in the final mix, while Page played a Rickenbacker twelve string guitar and a Fender Telecaster. For live performances, he used the Gibson EDS-1275 double-neck guitar that had already been established for playing "Stairway to Heaven" in concert.
3. 'Led Zeppelin III' (1970)
Largely overlooked in its day, principally because it was said to have moved too far and too quickly into Zeppelin's growing experimental curiosity. Still, this set of warm, more acoustically focused tracks -- while not the building-levelling delight of Led Zeppelin's first two albums -- works as a road map toward their growing facility with complex arrangements and inspired melodic twists. That, of course, is what eventually made 'IV' into a career-shifting triumph. This album, transitional though it may be, had to happen first.
"Immigrant Song" was written about the Viking invasions of England and inspired by a short tour of Iceland in June 1970. It was released as a single in the US and became a top 20 hit. It was the opening song for the band's appearance at the Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music and subsequent gigs for the next two years.
2. 'Led Zeppelin II' (1969)
Led Zeppelin begins to emerge from its own influences, setting a template for heavy-rock sounds that would stand for generations. A punishing touring schedule had hammered them into fighting shape and, with 'II,' they came out swinging. It remains a staggering wonder. That said, while there's still plenty of grinding blooze, Led Zeppelin begins to rapidly expand its sonic palette -- and it's in those moments that we sense the greatness to come.
Led Zeppelin performed "Whole Lotta Love" at every gig from June 1969 onwards. It was the closing number of their live shows between 1970 and 1973, often extended to form a rock'n'roll medley towards the end of the set. It was the last song the group ever performed live with Bonham, on 7 July 1980. "Whole Lotta Love" has since been critically praised as one of the definitive heavy metal tracks, though the group have never considered themselves to fit that specific style.
1. 'Led Zeppelin IV' (1971)
A singular achievement -- in rock, or anywhere else -- 'IV' ties together all of the exotic strands that transformed Led Zeppelin from brilliant musicians playing blues rock to brilliant musicians, period. A bold new vision framed by rock, folk, blues and classically tinged orchestral settings would creatively combine the best of everything they'd done through three albums -- reshaping the band's sound and its legacy forever. There's a reason this is Led Zeppelin's best known, most recognized project. Everything comes together right here.
"Stairway to Heaven" was mostly written by Page, and the bulk of the chord sequence was already worked out when recording started at Basing Street Studios. The lyrics were written by Plant at Headley Grange, about a woman who "took everything without giving anything back". The whole group contributed to the arrangement, such as Jones playing recorders on the introduction, and Bonham's distinctive drum entry halfway through the piece. Page played the guitar solo using a Fender Telecaster he had received from Jeff Beck and been his main guitar on the group's first album and early live shows. He put down three different takes of the solo and picked the best to put on the album.