Led Zeppelin
By Michael Ventre

1. "Untitled" (aka Led Zeppelin IV or Zoso) (1971)
By this time, the steeped-in-blues neo-metal band consisting of Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Bonham and John Paul Jones had released three albums, all of which possessed a raw and unrelenting power, but only hints of sophistication. But this was the collection of songs that fully displayed the myriad shades of their songwriting talents and exhibited musical influences from the folksy to the medieval. "Stairway to Heaven" by now has been played into the ground by FM jocks, but its lilting poetry and that of "The Battle of Evermore" signaled a new and exciting direction for the quartet. "Black Dog" and "Rock and Roll" represent Zep's core constituency well. And "Going to California" and "When the Levee Breaks" are two of the most underrated songs in their entire catalog.

2. "Houses of the Holy" (1973)
This was another giant leap forward in the band's development as well as their most consistently excellent effort yet. There isn't one cut on this album that could be considered filler. And the variation in styles is not experimental tripe, but a resounding success. There's the James Brown parody of "The Crunge," the reggae-influenced "D'yer Mak'er," the prancing-through-a-meadow joyfulness of "Over The Hills And Far Away" and the moody "No Quarter." But the two best songs on the album are "The Ocean," a lively rocker with some catchy Page riffs and Plant cries, and "The Rain Song," a simple and beautiful ballad that is anything but all wet.

3. "Led Zeppelin I" (1969)
Those in rock's intelligentsia and maybe some fans on the fringe knew of the innovative guitar work of Page from his days with the Yardbirds. Even fewer knew of Plant's piercing vocals in obscure English bands. All that changed with the release of this debut album, which ushered in a new era of British rock heavily influenced by American blues. As you might expect, this isn't a totally consistent work of art. "Your Time Is Gonna Come" and "Black Mountain Side" should have been left in the studio. But this also produced some of Led Zeppelin's most iconic material, such as "Dazed and Confused," "Good Times Bad Times" and "Communication Breakdown." Jones and Bonham would have their moments later; this brought more focus on Page's fuzz-box guitar sound and Plant's screams.

4. "Physical Graffiti" (1975)
This was their first two-record album, so it gets kudos for twice as much great music. It's an absolute tour de force. "Physical" is probably best known for producing "Kashmir," an FM staple that, because of its sheer repetitive nature, became more monotonous with overplay than the usual worn-out platter. And if anything else, "Kashmir" put a spotlight on Bonham's masterful drum work for people who hadn't been paying attention since '69. But there are many terrific cuts here that explore the limits of Page's sonic imagination. Of particular note are "Houses of the Holy," "Bron-Yr-Aur," "In My Time of Dying" and "The Rover." Plus, of all their album covers, the bleak apartment building facade might be the coolest.

5. "In Through the Out Door" (1979)
This was their first studio release in three years, since "Presence," and a lot had happened in the world musically in between. New wave, punk and disco were moving onto the charts in force. Rather than adapt to the trend of the moment, Zeppelin took their own sound and extended it, maintaining their love of delving into various styles with a country romp like "Hot Dog," a catchy pop-rocker like "In The Evening," a calypso number like "Fool in the Rain," a standard blues venture like "I'm Gonna Crawl" and a dreamy synthesizer excursion like "Carouselambra." The band broke up the following year after the untimely death of John Bonham.

First of all, it's hard to assign "dud" status to any of Zep's albums. Their worst could still top the charts if released fresh today. But if pressed, there are a couple of candidates.

"Coda" was released in 1982, after the band split, and it is basically a collection of songs that didn't make the cut on previous releases. Since this was an attempt to clean out the garage and squeeze a few more bucks out of the Zeppelin catalog, it's not really accurate to list it as a dud since it was never designed to be received as their proudest achievement.

Personally, my least favorite album is Led Zeppelin II. I know it's popular. I know it has received tons of airplay over the years. But to me, after their smashing debut disk, this seemed like an overt attempt to create a more commercially acceptable collection. I would only rate a pair of songs on II as being among their best ? "Whole Lotta Love" and "Bring It On Home."

The rest are weak. If I hear "Heartbreaker/Living Loving Maid" one more time, I think I'll scream like Plant. It belongs on "Coda."


Yeah. Funny. Not. You lure me in with "Funny joke!"(fool that I am) and I find a breakdown of the top 5 Led Zep albums.

For the love of God, I HAVE all of their albums. I can judge for myself.

And he's not kidding about Led Zeppelin II. He doesn't like it. Quite frankly, I don't listen to II or Coda either.