Sound — 9
Being consistent innovators of the rock genre, 1969's "Led Zeppelin II", the band's sophomore LP, hit hard. With raging blues-induced spitfires mixed with softer and quieter comfortable numbers, the album no doubt became a stepping stone for later 1970's hard rock acts. Heavily blues-driven songs like "Whole Lotta Love", "The Lemon Song", "Heartbreaker", "Living Loving Maid", and "Bring it On Home" give an even older-school feel than was present on the album's predecessor, Led Zeppelin I. Still, as much as that rocks, a few slower and more pleasant numbers are thrown into the mix, such as the alternating soft-hard "What is and What Should Never Be", the easy-going ballad "Thank You", and one of Zeppelin's best tunes, "Ramble On", which contains the famous Lord of the Rings references to Gollum and Mordor. Though the album sure has a lot of thematic variety, it doesn't skimp on the instrumental end of things. It's clear song after song that each member is present. Page shines through with his mesmerizing guitar work on "Whole Lotta Love" and "Heartbreaker" (arguably two of his coolest solos), with incredible rhythm work to go along. Plant has the amazing ability to muster up fascinating blues-style vocals on "The Lemon Song" or "Bring it on Home", but he also has some wonderful softer vocals, that are very evident on the magnificent "Thank You". Jones, the astounding multi-instrumentalist, takes bass guitar on all the tracks here, and even throws in the classic keyboard too. The bass line for "Heartbreaker" is arguably the most pounding bass line in all of rock music, while his keyboard work on "Thank You" shows the man's sheer musical genius. And, how could I forget John Bonham? He gets a full 4 minute drum solo on the album's penultimate number, "Moby Dick"; although the album version barely surpasses satisfactory, some of his live performances of the song are simply mesmerizing. He also gets a sweet drum interlude in the mystic middle section of "Whole Lotta Love". So, it's apparent that every member contributed immensely to this album. Led Zeppelin does its best at utilizing every aspect of their sound, and Led Zeppelin II is a pretty good example of that.
Lyrics — 8
Lyrically, the album's a genuine mix. With the blues songs come bluesier, albeit less thought-out, lyrics. Although this works out quite well! Certain blues-like lines like "Squeeze my lemon 'til the juice runs down my leg" or "I'm gonna give ya every inch of my love", for example, turn out to be some of the most memorable lines of the album. Not to mention they contribute well to the album's massively blues atmosphere. On the contrary, though, other songs take a drastic turn. "Thank You" is a ballad about loving a woman forever and ever, and has some of the most touching lyrics on the album. "Ramble On" contains passages that tell the tale of autumn approaching, and how Plant would like to stay but he simply must continue to, as the title suggests, ramble on. It just seems like Zeppelin have the ability to make the lyrical content match the mood of the songs so perfectly. I don't know, maybe I'm just a hopeless fanboy.
Overall Impression — 10
Overall, though I wouldn't put the album in my top 5 favorites, it still stand high among most other Zep albums (and rock albums in general, for that matter). It's definitely the bands most "rocking" release, and is probably the reason why so many metal fans consider it to be the band's best. Though I personally disagree with this, I can agree with the fact that the album's mega-riffage, pounding drum + bass lines, and rough n' raw vocals, make it a definite must-have for all rock fans.