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Info 101: Musicbits 71: Led Zeppelin 3, hangin' from the gallows pole

Led Zeppelin III has been reissued in deluxe edition format complete with original cover.
Led Zeppelin III has been reissued in deluxe edition format complete with original cover.
1970; 2014; Atlantic Records: non-free use of cover to promote product with no intent to compete with or hinder copyright owner in any way.


(See Musicbits 68 for complete track list).

To say that Led Zeppelin III was a far cry from the first two LPs is more than a keen grasp of the obvious. It's an accurate evaluation of the situation that hides the blatant truth. Fans were expecting more of the same high-energy blues-rock that comprised the first two albums. When they heard this largely acoustic blending of folk-country-rock-blues, they 'freaked out' and shelved the LP, hoping the next one would be better. Most fans, that is. Those of us who can accept that musicians age and mature--as does their music--welcomed this new dimension to the band.

This newly re-mastered edition brings it all back to life quite beautifully--again, especially the companion disc of unreleased material. "Immigrant Song" was the short and sweet single everyone knew from all the airplay on AM and FM radio. Many major radio markets devoted lots of time to "Out on the Tiles" and "Tangerine". Some did the same for "Gallows Pole" and "Celebration Day". It was "Since I've Been Loving You" that caught everyone's attention. This is one of the best blues songs ever written and it took the place of "I Can't Quit You Baby" in the bands' live playlist. Page's solos in this track exceeded any he'd done to date--searing, emotional and heartfelt. It was a masterpiece.

The version of "Since I've Been Loving You" on the second disc is even better than the album version. It's more raw and gutsy, like much of the material on Led Zeppelin II. Likewise for "Gallows Pole". This acoustic number moves right along in that new, more mature way and is the other highlight of "III". It was a new dimension for the band and a variation to Plant's vocals he would revisit on his solo albums and his recent work with Alison Krauss.

Many fans who were so dismissive a first would later pick up the album again years later and judge it less harshly. They lost all that time to enjoy what should've been so obvious. Even the hardest rocking hard rockers like pretty music, too, and they have every right to explore all sides of themselves. A failure to accept that fact weakens the level of devotion and cheats one of a chance to grow themselves. Collectors should not miss out again on this fine album. It lays the groundwork for what was to come.

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