The 'Fish Out of Water' Blog

written by Tom Edathikunnel

Month: June, 2012

Album Review: Led Zeppelin II by Led Zeppelin

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

Images:
Led Zeppelin II Album Artwork: David Juniper
Interior Sleeve Design: David Juniper

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Album Review: Close To The Edge by Yes

Close To The Edge by Yes is quite possibly one of the greatest progressive rock albums of all time. At first glance the cover art is a simple green gradation, offering only the bands now iconic logo with the albums title. However the LP’s gatefold reveals a rich dreamlike landscape (below) by artist Roger Dean that holds exceptional prowess against the stark contrast of the cover. I have always found this to be a fitting analogy to the album itself, which rewards listeners who chose to explore deeper than what may lie on the surface.

Close To The Edge consists of three tracks. ‘Close To The Edge’ takes up the entire A side of the LP and runs at an impressive 19 minutes. According to Jon Anderson, co-composer and vocalist, the title track is inspired by Hermann Hesse’s book Siddhartha. The song explores the “seasons” of a man who searches for truth and universal understanding, ultimately finding spiritual peace and awakening by the waters of a flowing river.

Side B consists of the 10 minute piece entitled ‘And You and I’ and the now classic ‘Siberian Khatru’. ‘And You and I’ is subdivided into four movements, and is one of the clearest examples of each of the members musical styles and talents. ‘Siberian Khatru’ is a heavier and faster piece. It is now what many fans consider to be the defining “Yes” sound, and has become a staple among the bands various tours.  The song showcases the bands unique individual talents, clearly displayed by keyboardists Rick Wakeman, and his impressive harpsichord solo.

I consider Close To The Edge to be one of the greatest progressive rock albums of all time. In terms of longevity, this album stands the test of time, only growing better and brighter with age. The band embraces the art direction of Roger Dean, which forms imaginative visuals seamlessly fused with the band’s music. One cannot think of Yes without the sweeping cosmic landscapes coming to mind.  In terms of musicianship and style, Yes delivers intricate themes and time signatures with smooth transition and stunning skill.

All the band members stand out when examined individually, but when heard together in harmony I am always astounded and inspired. Close To The Edge establishes the full power of a challenging concept album, and sets the stage for other progressive bands like Pink Floyd, Rush, and Genesis.

Close To the Edge by Yes
Jon Anderson: Vocals and Lyrics
Chris Squire: Bass, Vocals
Steve Howe: Guitar, Vocals
Rick Wakeman: Keyboards
Bill Bruford: Drums, Percussion

Images:
Close To The Edge Interior LP by Roger Dean

Paradise Waits

Image

I wrestled with the idea of creating a blog for some time. To be honest, the idea of having a blog and being a “blogger” sounded pretentious and self-inflating. It was not material itself that troubled me, but the idea that I was not important enough to have a blog worth reading. I imagined that anyone who read this blog would say to themselves, “who cares?”.

That was an error on my part, I was so enamored by the idea of others that I forgot that any blog is foremost the possession of the writer who creates it. This is my own, and is primarily for my own pleasure and discipline. I had forgot that creating and cultivating a blog was not so I could shout its name from the rooftops, or drive multitudes of readers to it, but that I had my own portal into the digital realm, where I could write whatever I wanted, whatever way I deemed fit.

To those who stumble upon this blog, please feel free to read, comment, and engage.

Image: Arches Morning by Roger Dean