End of year lists are jerky and predictable, and so I generally make fun of them while joining in. I almost always turn away from the year in question and just make a general ranking. I also like to make a list of material that’s been endlessly parsed already. Click on the linked songs to listen.
Today, I’ll be putting my own order on the nine studio albums of the great Led Zeppelin, a band I grew up hearing (one of my earliest memories is listening to records while standing against the Panasonic Thruster speakers my dad had). I’ll throw in a bit of commentary as I go. Happy New Year, folks!
Rank | Album Title | Order of Release | Release Date
9) Led Zeppelin I: 1st release – January 12, 1969
- Your Time Is Gonna Come
8) Led Zeppelin II: 2nd release – October 22, 1969
- Whole Lotta Love
- What Is and What Should Never Be
- Bring It On Home
7) Houses Of The Holy: 5th release – March 28, 1973
HotH has a great opening quartet of songs; for me it is essentially tied with Zeppelin IV. Its drawback is a weaker second half, particularly (to me) Dancing Days and The Ocean.
- The Song Remains The Same
- The Rain Song
- Over The Hills and Far Away
- The Crunge
6) Led Zeppelin IV: 4th release – November 8, 1971
This record is Zeppelin’s most well known. It’s classic and iconic, and always worth returning to listen to again. Four Sticks is, however, the real standout for me over time.
5) Led Zeppelin III: 3rd release – October 5, 1970
Obviously Immigrant Song is the most popular song here. But Track 5, Out On The Tiles, is my favorite. It’s all strut and bombast, much like Zeppelin was during this period of time. The stylistic development from 1968 to 1970 is mirrored across the songs of Zeppelin III. I especially love the weirdness of the final track, Hats Off to (Roy) Harper.
4) Coda: 9th release – November 19, 1982
I love Coda, a posthumous offering from Page and the boys. Basically a complication album made from unreleased tracks recorded during sessions for previous records, Coda shows how even the cast off bits from Zeppelin’s oeuvre were damn fine stuff. I really enjoy the opener (We’re Gonna Groove) and closer (Wearing and Tearing) of this fast-paced charge through the band’s years.
3) In Through The Out Door: 8th release – August 15, 1979
I am a sucker for the ballad/love odes All My Love and I’m Gonna Crawl on this album. But the epic core of In Through The Out Door is Carouselambra. This 10 minute powerhouse is a journey all its own. It retains its energy and over-the-top spectacle, and it sits next to Kashmir and The Song Remains The Same as an example of the real creativity and showmanship of Led Zeppelin.
2) Physical Graffiti: 6th release – February 24, 1975
Physical Graffiti was my main Zeppelin choice during my teens and early 20s. If I could go back and hear Kashmir completely fresh again I’d do it in a second. So many great memories… Also huge for me are In My Time of Dying, In The Light, and The Wanton Song.
1) Presence: 7th release – March 31, 1976
My go-to Zeppelin album over the last decade or so has been Presence. It is huge, sweeping, and doesn’t shy away from a kind of nerdy excess that would eventually be the realm of Prog Rock. In the 1970s they made most of this stuff without irony, and so the Genesis, Yes, Camel, ELO and King Crimson (etc, et al) albums of the 70s were earnest. In Presence there is a seriousness that, perhaps, earlier records didn’t always have. To me, you just can’t get more quintessentially Zeppelin than For Your Life, Royal Orleans, and Nobody’s Fault But Mine. It’s just about perfect.
- Achilles Last Stand
- For Your Life
- Royal Orleans
- Nobody’s Fault But Mine
- Candy Store Rock
- Hots On For Nowhere
- Tea For One
Have you seen the bridge?