Friday, May 15, 2020

Albums That Defined My Musical Tastes – Led Zeppelin Boxed Set

In 1990 a four CD boxed set of remastered Led Zeppelin tracks was released and it was a carefully curated collection of songs that chronologically tracked the band’s development and experimentation. I am sure my folks must have played Led Zeppelin albums at home, but the first time the band came to my attention was when I heard "Heartbreaker" on the radio. I asked my dad what band that was because I loved the song and wanted to buy the album, thinking it was a new release. Of course, he laughed and told me they had been around for a long time, but encouraged me to buy the album and said, “If you buy one, you will end up buying them all.” And I did. So by the time the boxed set came out I already owned every Led Zeppelin cassette (thanks Columbia House!) and listened to them all the time. But the boxed set was special because their best tunes were consolidated into just 4 cds, and you could pick a cd to match your mood. If you were in a party mood, you put on the first one and were hit with “Whole Lotta Love”, “I Can’t Quit You Baby”, “Dazed and Confused”, and “Ramble On”. If you wanted to learn some new and interesting guitar chords and practice your harmonies, you put on the second one and could get absorbed in “Tangerine”, “Over the Hills and Far Away”, and “Gallows Pole”. Feeling melancholy, suicidal, or just want to be alone for a while with your headphones on? Then it was the third one with “Kashmir”, “In My Time of Dying”, “When the Levee Breaks”, and “Achilles Last Stand”. And if you are feeling happy and chipper, then the fourth one was perfect with “The Ocean”, “Nobody’s Fault but Mine”, “Poor Tom”, and “In the Evening”.

Led Zeppelin was my first classic rock discovery, but that just drew me deeper into the genre and I dug into so many of their contemporaries such as Black Sabbath, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Rush, Fleetwood Mac and later on Van Halen, Queen, Aerosmith, AC/DC and the list really goes on and on. Saying that, I do not love classic rock as a genre carte blanche. In fact, some of the most popular bands during this time such as The Who, the Rolling Stones, The Beatles, and Bob Dylan do not excite me in the least and I’m flipping to the next FM station whenever these tracks come up.

Zeppelin’s sound laid the groundwork for the many branches of rock genres and heavier sounds that would follow, in particular the world of metal – a world I love indeed. And a world that wouldn’t exist in quite the same way if Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, Robert Plant, and John Bonham hadn’t come together to create some of the greatest music ever recorded.

Several times during the university days I’d get together with a group of friends and we’d have a “Led Zeppelin Fest”. Everybody brought a bottle of rye whiskey to somebody’s house and we’d play the board game Risk while listening to the entire 4 cd boxed set from start to finish. We’d rarely get through the whole thing as somebody would pass out or an argument would erupt (should have stuck to beer) or we’d abandon the whole project and take off for the bar, pie-eyed and looking for action. Fond memories indeed – enjoying great music with great friends.

If I could only listen to the catalogue of one band for the rest of my life, it would be Led Zeppelin.

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