Led Zeppelin II Review
Due to a hectic touring schedule, Led Zeppelin II was mainly recorded on the road in the US with a few overdubs and studio tricks added later. The fact that it still sounds clear and fresh is testimony to the skill of Jimmy Page as a producer, and engineer Eddie Kramer.
Led Zeppelin II kicks off with the classic Whole Lotta Love, now rightly co-credited to Wille Dixon. Whatever the origins of the song, Zeppelin’s treatment made it famous and if familiarity of the opening staccato riff has brought a certain amount of contempt, it’s still one of the most instantly recognisable intros ever.
What is and What Should Never Be demonstrates the bands development from Led Zeppelin I. Jimmy Page’s jazzy strumming, some wandering bass lines from John Paul Jones along with a refined delivery from Robert Plant give way to John Bonham’s powerhouse drumming in a crash-bang-wallop chorus.
We find all about Robert Plant’s love of fruit as he strives to get his recommended daily intake of vitamin C next in the Lemon Song. This is Howlin’ Wolf’s Killing Floor reworked for the late 1960s with, ahem, thoughtful lyrics of the time. If you’re anything like me you’ll find the lines about squeezing lemons “‘til the juice runs down my leg” offensive in the extreme. I hate to see food wasted in such a frivolous manner…
A change of pace now as Thank You rounds off the original side one with another refined vocal, some great organ playing and a nice guitar solo.
Another monster riff gets Led Zeppelin II going again as Heartbreaker gives the band a platform to bellow, again in slightly misogynistic tones by today’s standards, and enjoy a somewhat ludicrous, yet marvellous instrumental break. This morphs straight into the poppy Living Loving Maid (She’s Just a Woman) before Ramble On, with its Tolkien imagery takes us on a 4-minute trip through Middle Earth with some delightful guitar.
You’d probably only enjoy Moby Dick if you’re a drummer, even though it boasts another mighty riff. Maybe the band could’ve turned this into something if they’d had more time. Bring it on Home, er, brings it on home while showing the band’s blues obsession.
The musicianship on Led Zeppelin II is superb throughout and shows far the band had come in a short time since their debut. Some of the lyrics sound very dated to the modern ear but there are more musical ideas in Ramble On alone than some bands have in an entire career. The 2014 reissue gave us the clearest mix of this album ever and a bonus disc of rare or unreleased material. Inevitably the extra material is a little hit-and-miss to casual listeners whilst fascinating to Zeppelin obsessives. I would recommend buying the reissue as the music is great and the sound is a definite improvement on previous editions. It’s not quite the best music Led Zeppelin produced but shows a young band on an upward trajectory.
Rated Sound gives Led Zeppelin II a rating of 9/10.
Led Zeppelin II (1969) Track Listing
1. Whole Lotta Love
2. What Is And What Should Never Be
3. The Lemon Song
4. Thank You
6. Living Loving Maid (She’s Just A Woman)
7. Ramble On
8. Moby Dick
9. Bring It On Home
Bonus Disc 2
1. Whole Lotta Love (Rough Mix With Vocal)
2. What Is And What Should Never Be (Rough Mix With Vocal)
3. Thank You (Backing Track)
4. Heartbreaker (Rough Mix With Vocal)
5. Living Loving Maid (She’s Just A Woman) [Backing Track]
6. Ramble On (Rough Mix With Vocal)
7. Moby Dick (Intro/Outro Rough Mix)
8. La La (Backing Track)