50 Years On: Led Zeppelin’s 1969 Emergence Forever
Changed the Rock Genre and Birthed Four Mega-Stars
by Erik R. Slagle
Last month marked 50 years since the 1969 release of Led Zeppelin I, the self-titled debut album from the planet’s most famous rock and roll band. It was the first of eight studio albums that laid the foundation for heavy metal and inspired generations of wannabe-rock stars.
Analyzing Zep’s catalogue for “high points” can be an exercise in futility; it’s virtually impossible to recommend one album over another. (That includes 1982’s “Coda” which gathered previously unreleased material following the death of drummer John Bonham, and 1979’s “In Through the Out Door,” issued in a brown paper bag.) So, if you’re a rock fan who long ago gathered every Zep release possible, and even snagged the 1994 “Unledded” reunion-minus-John-Paul-Jones album, here are some A.Z. (After Zeppelin) projects worth checking out from the surviving members.
Plant enjoyed his highest-profile success with 1985’s “Honeydrippers” collaboration that featured Page and Page’s former Yardbirds bandmate Jeff Beck. The album was anchored by a sensational “Sea of Love” cover that rocketed up the Billboard charts early that year. More than 20 years later, Plant’s collaboration with Allison Krause —2007’s “Raising Sand,” the Best Album Grammy winner – marked another return to superstardom.
The Strange Sensation, with Plant at the helm, released the excellent “Mighty ReArranger” album in 2005. This and Plant’s 2002 solo release “Dreamland” continue Plant’s explorations into expanded sounds, slower, darker dirges, and global influences. These are both worth a listen, as are 1988’s “Now and Zen” and “Band of Joy” from 2010.
Page’s extensive post Zeppelin body of work includes the recommendable “Coverdale-Page” collaboration from 1993, and the even-better solo “Outrider” effort from 1988. (“Outrider” features Plant guesting on one track and Bonham’s son Jason drumming throughout.) His work with the Black Crowes on 2000’s live “Live at the Greek” breathes new life to Zeppelin standards like “Celebration Day,” “Custard Pie” and “Heartbreaker” – and gives Page the spotlight on blues classics including “Mellow Down Easy,” “Shake Your Moneymaker” and “Sloppy Drunk.”
John Paul Jones
Jones’ career since Zeppelin disbanded may be the most intriguing of all. His body of work not only as a performer, but also as a producer, includes projects with Diamanda Galas, REM, Mutual Admiration Society, and Them Crooked Vultures featuring Dave Grohl and Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme. TCV’s self-titled 2009 release is an impressive slab of straight-ahead hard rock, but you should also venture a little further back in the rack and find the 1995 Heart live album “The Road Home.” Jones produced and performed on this unplugged collection of hits like “These Dreams,” “Straight On,” and of course, “Barracuda.” (In the liner notes Ann and Nancy Wilson cop to pilfering the “Barracuda” riff from Zeppelin’s own “Achilles Last Stand.) The track “Back to Avalon” even showcases Jones on mandolin.