I don’t know what it is exactly, but of all the Zeppelin albums, this one seems to be the most pompous. This is their first one entirely self-composed, which for most bands would mean a move away from recording covers. For Zeppelin it means they stopped stealing old blues songs, hoping nobody would notice.
The pomposity reaches unbearable heights on The Rain Song – all seven and a half minutes of it. I read somewhere that they wrote this song on the advice of George Harrison, who told Jimmy Page that Zeppelin should really write some more melodic material. To that I simply say NO, JIMMY PAGE – STICK TO RIPPING OFF OLD BLUES SONGS LIKE WHEN THE LEVEE BREAKS. IT’S WHAT YOU DO BEST!
Oh well. They may not be as steeped in the blues as on the first four albums, but they can still put together a decent rock album. I could just do without the ‘heavy pastoral’ direction that seems to be creeping in. I’m not too keen on The Crunge (a misplaced James Brown pastiche) or D’yer Mak’er (cod-reggae) either. But apart from these confused attempts at a different sound, the rest of the album is superb.
Dancing Days is a great little bit of Middle-Eastern groove (and nicely covered by Stone Temple Pilots back in the ‘90s); Over The Hills And Far Away means a great deal to me – it’s the song I first wooed my wife with (on the guitar) and it’s the song we walked down the aisle to, seven years later; The Song Remains The Same is just pure madness – a guitarist’s dream; I still get the shivers when I listen to John Paul Jones’ keyboards in No Quarter – especially if I’m in a darkened room; and finally The Ocean has to be one of the most overlooked Zeppelin riffs – all the more remarkable for coming out of John Bonham’s mind, not Jimmy Page’s.
And if I’m having a bad day, that last doo-wop minute of The Ocean always cheers me up.
Hit: No Quarter
Hidden Gem: Over The Hills And Far Away