"Best of" Countdowns

[VIDEOS] 20 Classic Led Zeppelin Songs

We recently came across a pretty massive countdown of the greatest Led Zeppelin songs of all time and thought that it would be the perfect kind of piece for our great fans at Guitar Loves to see and talk about. To many Led Zeppelin is considered the greatest rock n’ roll band of all time so we expect a very robust and healthy debate over this list. While we certainly agree with some of the songs, we also would have made a few substitutions here and there. Please comment below and let us know what you think! Ok, enough talk, let the countdown begin! 20) “The Battle of Evermore” (Led Zeppelin IV) For this mystical-sounding folk-rock gem, Page and Jones traded the instruments they play on “Going to California,” with Page taking up the mandolin and Jones strumming acoustic guitar. According to Page, “ ‘The Battle of Evermore’ was made up on the spot by Robert and myself. I just picked up John Paul Jones’ mandolin, never having played one before, and just wrote up the chords and the whole thing in one sitting.” Page’s mandolin sound on this song is epic, which is partially the result of his taking advantage of the cavernous, majestic natural reverb of the location where he recorded his tracks, which was in the foyer of a large, old stone house in rural Wales called Headley Grange. (This location, by the way, is where several other tracks on Led Zeppelin IV and Physical Graffiti were recorded, most notably Bonham’s drums on “When the Levee Breaks.”) Page additionally doubled/layered his mandolin tracks on this arrangement and employed a tape echo effect, with a single repeat, timed to echo in an eighth-note rhythm relative to the song’s tempo, resulting in a continuous stream of percolating eighth notes. 19) “Immigrant Song” (Led Zeppelin III) With its fiercely galloping rhythms, jagged backbeat accents and ominous-sounding flat-five intervals, this ode to Viking pillage no doubt helped fuel the lustful creative fire behind hordes of heavy metal bands like Iron Maiden, Celtic Frost and Mastodon that came of age in the years following the song’s 1970 release. Particularly sinister-sounding is the way Page plays, during the song’s outro, an atypical second-position G minor chord shape over Jones’ C-note accents, in the process creating a highly unusual voicing of C9(no3). 18) “Good Times Bad Times” (Led Zeppelin) This punchy opening track from the band’s debut album set the stage for Zeppelin’s juggernaut conquest of the world of hard rock. Page octave-doubles Jones’ nimble, angular bass line on his slinky-strung Fender Telecaster, adding shimmering finger vibrato at just about every opportunity. The guitarist’s scorching, Leslie-effected lead licks, with their gut-wrenching bends and tumbling triplets, convey a man on fire and poised to win the West. Check out a performance of this classic Zep tune from the Reunion Show in London. 17) “Nobody’s Fault but Mine” (Presence) Led Zeppelin’s turbo-charged reinvention of this traditional American gospel blues, or Negro spiritual, song was inspired primarily by singer and acoustic slide guitarist Blind Willie Johnson’s 1927 recording of it. Zeppelin’s version is built around a mesmerizing, laser beam-like guitar melody, which Page played with distortion and a flanger effect and doubled, both in unison and an octave higher, with Robert Plant additionally scat singing the line, adding to its mesmerizing, bigger-than-life quality. Page’s aggressive exploitation of string bending and vibrato techniques, in both the main riff and his solo, adds to the soulfulness of the band’s arrangement. Also noteworthy are Jones and Bonham’s lock-step bass-and-drum syncopations, which further add to the power and drama of the band’s arrangement. 16) “Black Dog” (Led Zeppelin IV) “Black Dog” was built around a snakey blues riff, initially written on bass by John Paul Jones and doubled an octave higher on guitar by Page. The rhythmic orientation of the song’s main riff to the beat has been the subject of heated debate among working musicians over the years, the point of contention being specifically where “one” is. When pressed for an explanation, Page was vague. But Jones, in his Lo and Behold column in Guitar World December 1996, states that this deceptive riff should be counted with the first A note — the root note of the song’s key and the fourth note of the riff—falling squarely on beat one. (Drummer John Bonham’s big cymbal crash on beat two is one of the things about this riff that throws a lot of people off.) Page enhanced the riff later in the song, at 3:18, by overdubbing a parallel-thirds harmony line. In the 1993 GW interview, the guitarist noted, “Most people never catch that part. It’s just toward the end, to help build the song. You have to listen closely for the high guitar parts.” Page and recording engineer Andy Johns tried a novel and ultimately successful experiment by triple-tracking the song’s rhythm guitar parts. As Page explained, “Andy used the mic preamp on the mixing board to get distortion. Then we put two 1176 Universal compressors in series on that sound and distorted the guitars as much as we could and then compressed them. Each riff was triple-tracked: one left, one right, and one right up the middle.” 15) “Ramble On” (Led Zeppelin II) This song is all about contrasts, or as Page likes to say, “light and shade.” It begins with a mellow, folky acoustic strum riff pitted against a highly melodic Fender bass line for the verse sections, which lead up to a hard-hitting and highly inventive electric guitar–driven chorus riff. Page broadened the definition of the term “power chord” here by using the seemingly odd two-note combination of root and flatted seventh (Fs and E, respectively, played right after Plant sings “Ramble on!”), a pairing made even more unlikely by the fact that he plays it over John Paul Jones’ E bass note. The theoretical discord notwithstanding, it sounds great. 14) “Black Mountain Side” (Led Zeppelin) Page spices up this traditional Celtic folk melody with East Indian musical flavors, hiring a bona fide tabla drummer to accompany him on the track and injecting his own fiery Indian-style acoustic lead break into the arrangement. Check out the January 2013 issue of Guitar World to learn the secrets to this iconic song. 13) “In My Time of Dying” (Physical Graffiti) This 11-minute track was inspired chiefly by Blind Willie Johnson’s reading of the traditional blues-gospel song “Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed” as well as a similarly titled rendition from the same era by Delta bluesman Charlie Patton. Zeppelin’s inspired interpretation of the song features some of Page’s best slide guitar work (performed in open A tuning: low to high, E A E A Cs E), as well as one of the fattest-sounding drum tracks in this or any other band’s catalog, the result of Bonham’s unique touch and feel and Page’s miking and mixing techniques. 12) “Kashmir” (Physical Graffiti) Played in DADGAD tuning, which Page had previously used to great effect on both the Yardbirds’ “White Summer” and Led Zeppelin’s “Black Mountain Side,” “Kashmir” is built around four mesmerizing riffs, three of which involve the use of open-string unison- and octave-doubled notes, which create a natural chorusing effect and a huge wall of sound. Particularly noteworthy is the way Jimmy overlaid, at 0:53, the song’s menacing, ascending riff—the James Bond–theme-flavored part—on top of the recurring descending sus4 chord sequence. Page explained in the previously mentioned GW interview, “The descending chord sequence was the first thing I had—I got it from tapes of myself messing around at home. After I came up with the da-da-da, da-da-da part, I wondered whether the two parts could go on top of each other, and it worked! You do get some dissonance in there, but there’s nothing wrong with that. At the time, I was very proud of that, I must say.” 11) “Over the Hills and Far Away” (Houses of the Holy) This song is another study in contrasts, specifically between English/Celtic-flavored acoustic folk and Les Paul–driven hard rock. It begins with a playful, folk-dance–like acoustic riff, which Page initially plays on a six-string and then doubles on a 12-string, that gives way, at 1:27, to crushing electric power chords and a clever single-note riff, for which Jimmy incorporates pulled bends on the bass strings (first heard at 1:37). Particularly cool is the way the guitarist reconciles this electric riff with the strummed acoustic chords previously introduced at 1:17. Also noteworthy is the grooving James Brown–style funk riff behind the guitar solo and the rhythmically peculiar, harmonized ascending single-note ensemble melody that follows at 3:00. To top it all off, Page, the producer, concludes the song with a “false ending.” As the band fades out, at 4:10, a lone guitar emerges with a final variation of the folk riff from the intro, but all you hear is the 100 percent “wet” reverb “return” signal, which creates a mystical, otherworldly, “faraway” effect.
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