Right from the start Led Zeppelin II delivers a heavy and unique sound that captivates listeners. Personally this is my favorite Led Zeppelin album comparable only to 1973’s Houses of the Holy and 1971’s Led Zeppelin IV, in terms of innovative content and style. The first thing I noticed was the interesting album artwork which gives a bit more direction to the band’s image, compared to their debut album which featured the Hindenburg in flames. According to The Complete Guide to Led Zeppelin by Dave Lewis, the cover was designed by David Juniper and is based on a photograph of the Jasta 11 Division of the German Air Force in World War I. The interior gatefold (below) contains a gold blimp atop an Olympian building, with sparkling floodlights and four pedestals with the names of the band members and a track listing.
The music on this album is the epitome of the now ‘classic’ Led Zeppelin sound and contains some of the bands best-known work, with both subtle and obvious sexual references. Side One contains the band’s first single from the album ‘Whole Lotta Love’ as well as ‘What Is And What Should Never Be’, ‘The Lemon Song’, and ‘Thank You’. Side Two contains ‘Heartbreaker’, ‘Living Loving Maid’, ‘Ramble On’, ‘Moby Dick’, and ‘And Bring It Home’.
Although this album is a heavier departure from the band’s first album, it was actually recorded in the same year, amid a rigorous touring schedule, which only further impresses the evolution of style and creativity. I believe Side Two of this album is where Led Zeppelin came together and produced some of their most interesting, and innovative music. ‘Heartbreaker’ is one of the most noteworthy songs, and displays Jimmy Page’s amazing guitar ability as well as sets the stage of more involved and progressive pieces like ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and ‘Achilles Last Stand’. ‘Ramble On’ still holds up compared to contemporary rock songs, and its references to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings displays Robert Plants mystical and lyrical influences. One of my all time favorite songs is ‘Moby Dick’ which is a 4-minute instrumental piece with John Bonham’s drum work laying an intricate and spectacularly skillful foundation. The final song ‘Bring It On Home’ still has blues and folk elements but ties it all together with heavy rock style, now a trademark among Led Zeppelin songs.
Overall I believe this album is fantastic and a fundamental influence on modern rock and heavy metal. The drumming style and energy of John Bonham has clear influences on other acclaimed drummers such as Neil Peart of Rush, Carl Palmer, and Dave Grohl. Jimmy Page’s guitar work on ‘Heartbreaker’ and ‘The Lemon Song’ laid the foundation for modern guitar solos, riffs, and “shedders”, and as modern rock continues to expand and explore, the inspiration and legacy of Led Zeppelin will only grow brighter and further engrained with time.
Led Zeppelin II by Led Zeppelin
Jimmy Page: Electric and Acoustic Guitar
Robert Plant: Lead Vocals, Harmonica
John Bonham: Drums, Percussion
John Paul Jones: Bass Guitar, Organ
Led Zeppelin II Album Artwork: David Juniper
Interior Sleeve Design: David Juniper