Led Zeppelin II

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Led Zeppelin II
LZIIalbum1969.jpg
Type Studio album
Artist Led Zeppelin
Release Date 22 October 1969 (US), 31 October 1969 (UK)
Recorded May - August 1969 at
Sunset Sound, Los Angeles;
Olympic Studios, London.;
Groove Studios, New York;
Mirror Sound, Los Angeles;
Mystic Studios, Los Angeles;
Morgan Studios, London;
A&R Studios, New York;
Juggy Sound Studio, New York;
Mayfair Studios, New York.
Mixed at A&R Studios, New York.
Genre Hard rock, blues rock, folk rock
Language English
Length 41 minutes 24 seconds
Label Atlantic Records
Catalogue Atlantic SD 8236 (US), Atlantic 588 198 (UK)
Producer Jimmy Page
Engineer George Chkiantz, Chris Huston, Andy Johns, and Eddie Kramer

Led Zeppelin II is the second studio album by English rock band Led Zeppelin, released 22 October 1969 on Atlantic Records. Recording sessions for the album took place at several locations in the United Kingdom and North America from January to August 1969.

Upon release, Led Zeppelin II earned a considerable amount of sales and was Led Zeppelin's first album to reach number one on the Billboard 200 chart. It also sold over 500,000 copies in its first year of release. In 1970, the album was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Recording Package. On 15 November 1999, it was certified duodecuple platinum in sales by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), following sales in excess of twelve million copies. Following its initial reception, it has been recognized by writers and music critics as one of the greatest and most influential rock albums recorded. Led Zeppelin II has also been cited by critics as a blueprint for 1970s hard rock.

Conception

Background

Following a successful debut album and a breakthrough first American tour, Atlantic Records was eager to capitalise on the success and was pressuring the band to finish a follow-up album. Led Zeppelin II was conceived during a hectic and much-travelled period of the Led Zeppelin's career from January through August 1969, when they completed four European and three American concert tours. The album furthered the lyrical themes established on their debut album, Led Zeppelin (1969). This progress helped create a work that became more widely acclaimed and influential than its predecessor. With elements of blues and folk music, it also exhibits the band's evolving musical style of blues-derived material and their guitar and riff-based sound.

Each song was separately recorded, mixed and produced at various studios in the United Kingdom and the United States. The album was literally written on the road and, during periods of a couple of hours in between concerts, a studio was booked and the recording process begun, resulting in a sound with spontaneity and urgency through necessity.[1] Page and Plant scribbled lyrics down in hotel rooms such as 'Ramble On' and 'Whole Lotta Love'. Whenever the band had a day off during the tour, Page would find an nearby studio, and the band would go work there from early evening to late at night. On several occasions, Page and Richard Cole (Led Zeppelin's road manager) would catch a plane into New York, grab a taxi to A&R studios, spend half a day there working on the unfinished tapes, and then fly out to the next concert.

Some of the recording studios used by the band were not the most advanced. One studio in Vancouver, credited as 'a hut', had an eight-track set up that did not even have proper headphone facilities.[2][3] The group's lead singer Robert Plant later discussed the writing and recording process, stating 'It was crazy really. We were writing the numbers in hotel rooms and then we'd do a rhythm track in London, add the vocal in New York, overdub the harmonica in Vancouver and then come back to finish mixing at New York.'[4] 'Thank You', 'The Lemon Song' and 'Moby Dick' were overdubbed during the tour, while the mixing of 'Whole Lotta Love' and 'Heartbreaker' was also done on tour. Page later stated 'In other words, some of the material came out of rehearsing for the next tour and getting new material together.'[5]

Recording

Recording sessions for the album took place at Olympic and Morgan Studios in London, England, A&M, Quantum, Sunset, Mirror Sound and Mystic Studios in Los Angeles, California, Ardent Studios in Memphis, Tennessee, A&R, Juggy Sound, Groove and Mayfair Studios in New York City, and a 'hut' in Vancouver, British Columbia.[6] Production was entirely credited to lead guitarist, songwriter, and producer Jimmy Page, while it also served as Led Zeppelin's first album to utilise the skills and recording techniques of engineer Eddie Kramer. Led Zeppelin expert Dave Lewis wrote of the album's production, stating 'That the album turned out to be such a triumph, in particular for a production quality that still sounds fresh today, was in no small way due to the successful alliance with Page and Kramer in the control room.'[7] This partnership was particularly exhibited in the central section of the track 'Whole Lotta Love'. Kramer later said, 'The famous Whole Lotta Love mix, where everything is going bananas, is a combination of Jimmy and myself just flying around on a small console twiddling every knob known to man.'[8]

In another interview, Kramer later gave great credit to Page for the sound that was achieved, despite the inconsistent conditions in which it was recorded, stating 'We did that album piece-meal. We cut some of the tracks in some of the most bizarre studios you can imagine, little holes in the wall. Cheap studios. But in the end it sounded bloody marvellous. There was a unification of sound on [Led] Zeppelin II because there was one guy in charge and that was Mr. Page.'[9] Page and Kramer spent two days mixing the album at A&R Studios.

Composition

The finished tracks reflect the raw, evolving sound of the band and their ability as live performers. The album has been noted for featuring a further development of the lyrical themes established by singer Robert Plant on Led Zeppelin's debut album, creating a work which would become more widely acclaimed and arguably more influential. Led Zeppelin II also features experimentation with other musical styles and approaches, as on the alternately soft-and-loud 'What Is and What Should Never Be' and 'Ramble On' (which featured Page's acoustic guitar), or the ballad 'Thank You'. With its mysterious atmospherics, 'Ramble On' helped develop hard rock's association with fantasy themes.[10] This musical direction would later culminate on the band's untitled fourth album. Conversely, the instrumental 'Moby Dick' features an extended drum solo by John Bonham, which would be extended further during Led Zeppelin concert performances.[11]

Jimmy Page's contribution to this album was significant, as his electric guitar solo on the song 'Heartbreaker' was emulated by many younger rock guitarists, and exemplifies the group's intense musical attack.[12] Led Zeppelin II is the band's first album to feature Page playing a 1959 Gibson Les Paul, the electric guitar he helped make famous. Page's innovative recording and drum miking effects on tracks such as 'Ramble On' and 'Whole Lotta Love' also demonstrated his considerable skill, resourcefulness and originality as a producer. Band member and multi-instrumentalist John Paul Jones later discussed Page's contributions, stating:

Jimmy started coming into his own as a producer around 'Whole Lotta Love'. The backwards echo stuff. A lot of the microphone techniques were just inspired. Everybody thinks he goes into the studio with huge walls of amps, but he doesn't. He uses a really small amp and he just mic's it up really well, so it fits into a sonic picture.[13]

The album's material also marked a certain honing of singer Robert Plant's vocal approach,[14] and signalled his emergence as a serious songwriter. Plant's name had previously been absent from the songwriting credits of the band's first album due to the previous contractual commitments that resulted from his earlier association with CBS Records as a solo artist. His influence on tracks such as 'What Is and What Should Never Be' and 'Ramble On' were pointers to the musical future of Led Zeppelin.[15]

Album sleeve design

The album sleeve design was from a poster by David Juniper, who was simply told by the band to come up with an idea that was 'interesting'. His design was based on an old photograph of the Jasta 11 Division of the German Air Force during First World War, the famed Flying Circus led by Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron.[16] After the picture was tinted, the faces of the four members of the band were airbrushed on from a 1969 publicity photograph, as well as the faces of band manager Peter Grant and tour manager Richard Cole. The woman in the picture is Glynis Johns, the mother from Mary Poppins. Her presence in the photo is an obvious play on the name of recording engineer Glyn Johns. The other face added was that of bluesman Blind Willie Johnson. The cover also pictured the outline of a Zeppelin on a brown background, which gave the album its nickname 'Brown Bomber'.[17]

Release and reception

The album was released on 22 October 1969 on Atlantic Records, with advance orders of 400,000 copies.[18] The advertising campaign was built around the slogan 'Led Zeppelin II Now Flying'. Commercially, Led Zeppelin II was the band's first album to hit number one in the United States, where it remained for seven weeks. By April 1970 it had registered three million American sales, whilst in Britain it enjoyed a 138 week residence on the album chart, climbing to the top spot in February 1970.[19]

The album also yielded Led Zeppelin's biggest hit, with the track 'Whole Lotta Love'. This song reached number four on the Billboard Top 100 in January 1970, after Atlantic Records went against the group's wishes by releasing a shorter version on 45. The single's B-side, 'Living Loving Maid (She's Just a Woman)', also hit the Billboard chart, peaking at number 65 in April 1970. The album helped establish Led Zeppelin as an international concert attraction, as for the next year, the group continued to tour relentlessly, initially performing in clubs and ballrooms, then in larger auditoriums and eventually stadiums as their popularity grew.

In 1970 the album was nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of best album package.[20] On 10 November 1969, the album was certified gold in sales by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), and, in 1990, it earned platinum status after selling over one million copies. By 14 November 1999, Led Zeppelin II had sold over twelve million copies and was certified duodecuple platinum by the RIAA.[21]

Influence

Led Zeppelin II has been cited by music writers as a blueprint for 1970s hard rock. Blues-derived songs like 'Whole Lotta Love', 'Heartbreaker', 'The Lemon Song' and 'Bring It On Home' have been seen as representing standards of the genre, where the guitar-based riff (rather than vocal chorus or verses) defines the song and provides the key hook.[22] Such arrangements and emphasis were at the time atypical in popular music. Page's guitar solo in 'Heartbreaker' featuring rapid-fire runs of notes tapped only by the left hand, was a major inspiration to the later work of metal soloists and 'shredders' such as Eddie Van Halen and Steve Vai.[23] As such, the album is generally considered to be very influential on the development of rock music, being an early forerunner of heavy metal, and inspiring a host of other rock bands including Aerosmith, Van Halen and Guns N' Roses.

Since its initial critical reception, Led Zeppelin II has been acknowledged by many critics and music writers as one of the most influential albums of rock music, and has earned several accolades from music publications, frequently placed at or near the top of 'best album' lists.[24] In 1989, Spin magazine ranked the album number 5 on its list of the 25 Greatest Albums of All Time. In 2000, Q magazine placed Led Zeppelin II at number 37 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever.[25] In 2003, the album was ranked number 75 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

Reviews

Reviewer Country Review Year Score
Scott Floman (Goldmine) United States Rock and Soul Album Reviews 2002 A

Accolades

Publication Country Accolade Year Rank
Grammy Award United States Grammy Award for Best Recording Package[26] 1970 Nominee
Guitarist United Kingdom Top 50 Most Influential Guitar Albums of All Time Ever[27] 1994 3
Mojo United Kingdom The 100 Greatest Albums Ever Made[28] 1996 41
The Guitar United States Album of the Millennium[29] 1999 6
Q United Kingdom 100 Greatest Albums Ever[30] 2003 37
Robert Dimery United States 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die[31] 2006 *
Classic Rock United Kingdom '100 Greatest British Rock Album Ever'[32] 2006 8
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame United States The Definitive 200: Top 200 Albums of All-Time[33] 2007 47
Q United Kingdom 50 Years of Great British Music (1960s)[34] 2008 *

(*) designates unordered lists.

Track list

Album information

Track listing:

  • Side 1:
  1. 'Whole Lotta Love' (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, John Bonham, Willie Dixon) – 5:34
  2. 'What Is and What Should Never Be' (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant) – 4:44
  3. 'The Lemon Song' (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, John Bonham) – 6:20
  4. 'Thank You' (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant) – 3:50
  • Side 2:
  1. 'Heartbreaker' (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, John Bonham) – 4:15
  2. 'Living Loving Maid (She's Just a Woman)' (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant) – 2:40
  3. 'Ramble On' (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant) – 4:35
  4. 'Moby Dick' (John Bonham, John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page) – 4:25
  5. 'Bring It On Home' (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant) – 4:19

Chart history

Album

Chart (1969) Peak position
Japanese Albums Chart[35] 8
US Billboard The 200 Albums Chart[36] 1
US Billboard Black Albums 32
French Albums Chart[37] 3
Canadian RPM Top 100 Albums Chart[38] 1
UK Albums Chart[39] 1
Chart (1970) Peak position
US Record World Top Pop Albums Chart[40] 1
US Cash Box Top 100 Albums Chart[41] 1
Norwegian Albums Chart[42] 2
Australian Kent Music Report Top 100 Albums Chart[43] 1
Spanish Albums Chart[44] 1
German Albums Chart[45] 1
Chart (2014) Peak Position
UK Albums Chart[46] 7
US Billboard The 200 Albums Chart 9

Singles

Year Single Chart Position
1970 'Whole Lotta Love' US Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart (Pop Singles)[47] 4
1997 'Whole Lotta Love' UK Singles Chart[48] 21
1970 'Living Loving Maid (She's Just a Woman)' US Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart (Pop Singles)[49] 65

Certifications

Country Sales Certification
Austria (IFPI) 10,000+ Gold[50]
Argentina (CAPIF) 30,000+ Gold[51]
United States (RIAA) 12,000,000+ 12× Multi-Platinum[52]
Canada (CRIA) 900,000+ 9× Platinum[53]
France (SNEP) 200,000+ 2× Gold[54]
Spain (PROMUSICAE) 40,000+ Gold[55]
Germany (IFPI) 200,000+ Platinum[56]
Australia (ARIA) 280,000+ 4× Platinum[57]
United Kingdom (BPI) 1,200,000+ 4× Platinum[58]

Certification history

Organization Level Date
RIAA – USA Gold 10 November 1969
RIAA – USA Platinum 11 December 1990
RIAA – USA 5× Platinum 11 December 1990
RIAA – USA 6× Platinum 11 August 1992
RIAA – USA 8× Platinum 25 November 1997
RIAA – USA 11× Platinum 29 March 1999
RIAA – USA 12× Platinum 15 November 1999

Credits

Personnel
  • Musicians:
    • Jimmy Page – acoustic guitar, electric guitar, pedal steel guitar, backing vocals, producer, remastering, digital remastering
    • Robert Plant – vocals, harmonica
    • John Paul Jones – bass guitar, Hammond organ, backing vocals
    • John Bonham - drums, percussion, backing vocals
  • Production:
    • Peter Grant – executive producer
    • Eddie Kramer – engineer, mixing
    • George Chkiantz - engineer
    • Chris Huston - engineer
    • Andy Johns - engineer
    • Bob Ludwig - mastering
    • David Juniper - sleeve design and artwork
    • Barry Diament - original CD mastering engineer (mid-1980s)
    • George Marino - remastered CD engineer (1990)

References

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  13. 'I first met Jimmy on Tolworth Broadway, holding a bag of exotic fish...', Uncut, January 2009, p. 40.
  14. Liner notes by Cameron Crowe for The Complete Studio Recordings, p. 9.
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