Lester Bangs review of Zeppelin III

Discussion in 'The Sound Hound Lounge' started by surfshack, Dec 16, 2009.

  1. surfshack

    surfshack Member

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    i found this online today......thought it to be a funny , interesting read...
    it's cool to look back on a fresh review of the album right when it came out...



    "I keep nursing this love-hate attitude toward Led Zeppelin. Partly from genuine interest and mostly indefensible hopes, in part from the conviction that nobody that crass could be all that bad, I turn to each fresh album expecting — what? Certainly not subtle echoes of the monolithic Yardbirds, or authentic blues experiments, or even much variety. Maybe it's just that they seem like the ultimate Seventies Calf of Gold.
    The Zep, of all bands surviving, are today — their music is as ephemeral as Marvel comix, and as vivid as an old Technicolor cartoon. It doesn't challenge anybody's intelligence or sensibilities, relying instead on a pat visceral impact that will insure absolute stardom for many moons to come. Their albums refine the crude public tools of all dull white blues bands into something awesome in its very insensitive grossness, like a Cecil B. DeMille epic. If I rely so much on visual and filmic metaphors, it's because they apply so exactly. I've never made a Zep show, but friends (most of them the type, admittedly, who will listen- to anything so long's it's loud and they're destroyed) describe a thunderous, near-undifferentiated tidal wave of sound that doesn't engross but envelops to snuff any possible distraction.
    Their third album deviates little from the track laid by the first two, even though they go acoustic on several numbers. Most of the acoustic stuff sounds like standard Zep graded down decibelwise, and the heavy blitzes could've been outtakes from Zeppelin II. In fact, when I first heard the album my main impression was the consistent anonymity of most of the songs — no one could mistake the band, but no gimmicks stand out with any special outrageousness, as did the great, gleefully absurd Orangutang Plant-cum-wheezing guitar freak-out that made "Whole Lotta Love" such a pulp classic. "Immigrant Song" comes closest, with its bulldozer rhythms and Bobby Plant's double-tracked wordless vocal croonings echoing behind the main vocal like some cannibal chorus wailing in the infernal light of a savage fertility rite. What's great about it, though, the Zep's special genius, is that the whole effect is so utterly two-dimensional and unreal. You could play it, as I did, while watching a pagan priestess performing the ritual dance of Ka before the flaming sacrificial altar in Fire Maidens of Outer Space with the TV sound turned off. And believe me, the Zep made my blood throb to those jungle rhythms even more frenziedly.

    Unfortunately, precious little of Z III's remaining hysteria is as useful or as effectively melodramatic. "Friends" has a fine bitter acoustic lead, but gives itself over almost entirely to monotonously shrill Plant breast-beatings. Rob, give a listen to Iggy Stooge.

    "Celebration Day" and "Out On the Tiles" are production-line Zep churners that no fan could fault and no one else could even hear without an effort. "Since I've Been Loving You" represents the obligatory slow and lethally dull seven-minute blues jam, and "Hats Off to (Roy) Harper" dedicates a bottleneck-&-shimmering echo-chamber vocal salad to a British minstrel who, I am told, leans more towards the music-hall tradition.

    Much of the rest, after a couple of listenings to distinguish between songs, is not bad at all, because the disc Zeppelin are at least creative enough to apply an occasional pleasing fillip to their uninspiring material, and professional enough to keep all their recorded work relatively clean and clear — you can hear all the parts, which is more than you can say for many of their peers.

    Finally I must mention a song called "That's the Way," because it's the first song they've ever done that has truly moved me. Son of a gun, it's beautiful. Above a very simple and appropriately everyday acoustic riff, Plant sings a touching picture of two youngsters who can no longer be playmates because one's parents and peers disapprove of the other because of long hair and being generally from "the dark side of town." The vocal is restrained for once — in fact, Plant's intonations are as plaintively gentle as some of the Rascals' best ballad work — and a perfectly modulated electronic drone wails in the background like melancholy harbor scows as the words fall soft as sooty snow: "And yesterday I saw you standing by the river / I read those tears that filled your eyes / And all the fish that lay in dirty water dying / Had they got you hypnotized?" Beautiful, and strangely enough Zep. As sage Berry declared eons ago, it shore goes to show you never can tell."


    LESTER BANGS
    (Posted: Nov 26, 1970)
     
  2. soulohio

    soulohio Member

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    Lester was a classic... he should be in the RnR Hall of Fame more deservedly than most of the entrantes... the man has opiniones and styles!
     
  3. Probos

    Probos Gold Supporting Member

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    Zep III is my 2nd favorite Zep record.

    Lester's quite eloquent with is words and entertaining, but is a bit of a long winded pompous-ass.
     
  4. Darkburst

    Darkburst Member

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    Lester's reviews are entertaining even when I totally disagree with his opinion. I've got a couple of books of his writing. Classic stuff.
     
  5. cram

    cram Member

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    For listening several times prior to this review - I bet he had the same record through it all though.
     
  6. jimfog

    jimfog Senior Member

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    Great review.......love it. He nails Zep, in so many ways.

    They were so great.....and so obvious.....all at once.
     
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2009
  7. Trandy

    Trandy Supporting Member

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    It's hard to believe that he's been dead for 27 years.
     
  8. KeyserZoso

    KeyserZoso Member

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    Great. Thanks for posting.
     
  9. Kappy

    Kappy Member

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    Very perceptive. I listened to it uncritically for years and I still love everything on III, but he had some good points about Zeppelin.
     
  10. lhallam

    lhallam Member

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    I recall reading this review at the time and thought the reviewer was full of ****.

    Calling "Since I've Been Loving You" a blues jam is pretty far off-base. When he compared Iggy to Zep he lost credibility.

    However, I agreed with him on "That's The Way" as at the time, it was my fave cut on the lp.

    Years later, I find Lester more amusing and still think he was full of it.
     
  11. shane88

    shane88 Member

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    great to see this > i rekon it's a good perspective and from what i know zep weren't very well recieved by the press @ the time, well for the reasons he listed

    and plant is the weak link in zep (not that it would be zep without him) both lyricly and vocally
     
  12. big jilm

    big jilm Supporting Member

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    To me, there is no weak link in Led Zeppelin. Funny review - what personality!
     
  13. bdegrande

    bdegrande Member

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    Best critic ever, whether he liked my favorite bands or not. His writing on Lou Reed alone is absolute genius.
     
  14. mullytron

    mullytron Supporting Member

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    Great post. Love his bravery in the face of impending music-biz fanboy-idolatry. The fact that I love ZIII with a passion does not diminish my love of his writing, his taste, nor of his critical posturings. Wish we had more like him around these days...
     
  15. FeloniousBishop

    FeloniousBishop Member

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  16. Serious Poo

    Serious Poo Armchair Rocket Scientist Graffiti Existentialist Gold Supporting Member

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    Very cool stuff. Thanks for posting!
     
  17. tnvol

    tnvol Supporting Member

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    No love for Zep.
     
  18. Mr.Hanky

    Mr.Hanky Supporting Member

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  19. bluesjunior

    bluesjunior Member

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    Lester and his compadre Charles Shaar Murray took themselves more seriously than the vast majority of their readers as I recall. Critics eh, what do they know!!.
     

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