With the band touring like mad and the world wanting a follow up album Led Zeppelin ended up recording Led Zeppelin 2 in different studios throughout England and the United States with a little Canada thrown in for good measure. The band would take riffs from their extended live jams and quickly form new songs from them. Then they would step into the nearest studio and lay it down cold. This unrehearsed way of going about business gives the album a spontaneous live feel.
With seasoned pro Eddie Kramer signing on as the album’s engineer Page finally found someone who could technically help him. Page was the producer of this album as well as the first.
The album opens with the classic “Whole Lotta Love”. It’s hard not to have a whole lotta love for this song. It was a song that received airplay even though it was over five minutes long. many radio stations created there own versions to get it down to a more “radio friendly” running time. The sound effects in the middle of the song are another Zeppelin touch that differentiates there music from others. Years later when Willie Dixon heard the song he sued the band for infringement and on later releases is given a writing credit. Arguably the greatest of all Led Zeppelin songs.
Next up was “What Is And What Should Never Be”. Robert Plant’s vocals show a sophistication that was not as evident on other early Zeppelin tracks. The phase effect on his voice give the song a mellow feel. Page’s guitar riffs fit perfectly and as they like to do Zeppelin followed blinding hard rock “Whole Lotta Love” with a mellower sound.
“The Lemon Song” has a juvenile quality to it’s lyrics. With the lemon being a metaphor, oh never mind, listen to the song yourself. The song has some of John Paul Jones most interesting bass with him speeding up and at times playing a funky line. This was another song that Zeppelin borrowed parts from and they ended up being sued by Willie Dixon and having to pay a considerable sum in the settlement.
The first side of the album closed with “Thank You”. This is a song with a distinctly 60’s feel. Robert Plant’s lyrics were a tribute to his wife at the time. Jimmy Page plays some lovely twelve string guitar and the organ parts owe a little bit to Procol Harum’s keyboardist Matthew Fisher. Just a great little song.
Flip the album over and Jimmy Page is on the attack with the ultra heavy riff that starts “Heartbreaker”. The song shifts back and forth between blues and just straight ahead hard rock. This is another Zeppelin song that is a classic. The bass is almost bouncy at times.
Quite frequently played on the radio with “Heartbreaker” is the albums next song “Living Loving Maid (She’s Just A Woman)”, The two songs are almost seamless and the song has a hard driving beat.
“Ramble On” follows. Once again the band borrows a bunch of lyrics this time from “Lord Of The Rings” by Tolkien. Some find it clever but I find the tapping sound throughout the song, drummer Bonham tapping on a waste basket, annoying. Jimmy Page’s guitar playing on this is clean and the double tracking of Plant’s voice give it a neat echo effect at the end of the song.
“Moby Dick” had many incarnations with the band but it primarily served as a venue for John Bonham’s drum solo. The album’s instrumental track also includes a hot Jimmy Page hook. I’ve always thought the song would have been better served if Page and Jones had cut in and out a few times during the solo. Still one of those timeless classics that’s always fun to hear.
The album closes aptly enough with “Bring It On Home” a solid blues song. This was another song that provoked legal troubles with parts of it lifted from Willie Dixon. The opening is basically Plant’s vocals and harmonica. The band then breaks into a hard rock/blues bit. The song closes with 20 seconds of slow Plant blues.
Led Zeppelin 2 was a monster followup to the first album. It sold better and hit number one in most countries including the United States and Great Britain. The only song on this album that doesn’t get play on classic rock stations is “What Is And What Should Never Be”. That’s remarkable on the face of it. Forty years later and eight of the nine songs still get some airplay.