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The definitive heavy blues-rock. "Whole Lotta Love" has been played to death on TV themes and such, but only because it's a great song with a timeless riff. Shamelessly willy-waving, its smutty single-entendres were mercilessly parodied by Spinal Tap. Some of the smut on this album is just silly, like the wibbling about juice running down his leg on "The Lemon Song".
There's more than enough musical variety around the blues-riff style to ensure its classic status. The "break it down" psychedelic section on "Whole Lotta Love" is particularly cool. But this kind of random indulgence doesn't work on "Moby Dick" - I mean, uncross your legs and put the tablas away! There's a great tension in the strumming on "What Is..." - you can tell Jeff Buckley was a fan. "Ramble On" has a beautiful lilting pipe tune in the middle which they could have made more of.
Despite the riffing and over-the-top singing being the basic formula for heavy rock for the next 35 years, this still feels sixties. It's the hippy sound that dates it - like the flowery "little drops of rain" chorus of "Thank You". And not forgetting the gratuitous Tolkien mention on "Ramble On", where Gollum steals his girl in Mordor (huh? did she smell of fish?)
February 11, 2004