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Led Zeppelin are one of the world’s greatest bands. They wrote some of the best songs you’ll ever hear. They influenced thousands of musicians from heavy metal bands to hip-hop artists. They reconfigured the music industry, playing to giant stadiums and huge crowds. Their place in the history of rock and roll is forever guaranteed. But in 2018 should we stop listening to them?

2018 is #MeToo year. It’s the year when women are no longer afraid to speak out. The year when women are providing much of the political energy in the US. The year of the Irish abortion referendum. 2018 is the year of the woman.

Led Zeppelin are one of the world’s greatest bands, but many of their songs are also from a very different lyrical era. ‘The Lemon Song’, ‘Black Dog’, ‘Whole Lotta Love’. They’re hardly the songs of the year when woman are no longer afraid to speak out. So, in 2018 should we stop listening to them?

At what point do we decide to change our minds about a band? Matt Mondanile left Real Estate after allegations of sexual misconduct against him. Attitudes to Mark Kozelek changed after his comments about Laura Snapes. Kanye West has been ridiculed for his absurd claim that slavery was a choice.

To be absolutely clear, none of the members of Led Zeppelin has been accused of any such crimes, or even similar verbal transgressions! It’s wrong to compare some of their lyrics with anything that has happened in 2018. More than that. Those lyrics weren’t even out place in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Why should we judge them by the standards of our times? Sure, even Robert Plant seems to have distanced himself from his previous incarnation as a rock god.

But if Robert Plant has perhaps changed his mind, then maybe we have too. Much of this year’s musical energy has come from all-women bands like Dream Wife and female artists like Snail Mail. And someone like Kacey Musgraves has shown that it’s possible for a woman to challenge the masculinity of a whole music machine. Things seem different now.

In this context, maybe Led Zeppelin will simply become less relevant. Less referenced. Less sampled. Less listened to. Without passing judgment, maybe we will just move on.

So, should we stop listening to Led Zeppelin? No. But will we end up by not listening to them as much as before? Maybe.

Oh, and their songs about elves and fairies are a pretty tough ask now as well.

 

 

Led Zeppelin I, II, and III (Deluxe Editions)

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At 2:53 on ‘It’s Up To You’ from their great new album, Turn Blue, The Black Keys lift one of the main riffs from ‘How Many More Times’ on Led Zeppelin I. More than that, they lift it blatantly, unashamedly, lovingly, almost reverently. The new Deluxe Editions of their first three albums are a reminder, if one was ever needed, of why Led Zeppelin are still such an influence on bands like The Black Keys. The power of the songs still amazes, but they’re also chock full of thrilling melodies. On these Deluxe Editions the original tracks remain as stunning as ever and the packaging is something to behold. The extras, though, are a little disappointing. Led Zep II and III are mainly filled out with rough mixes and backing tracks. There are some new sounds, but they’re largely unremarkable. ‘La La’ from II sounds like a Yardbirds outtake. There are a couple of blues standards on III. Only ‘Jennings Farm Blues’ from III has some potential, not least because it sounds like a louder, angrier version of ‘Bron-Y-Aur Stomp’. By now it seems the cupboard is well and truly bare. There is some interest in the extras from I, where the second disc contains a full concert from Paris in October 1969. However, compared with the BBC sessions CD and the 2003 Live DVD, even this material is a little underwhelming. There’s a nice early version of ‘Heartbreaker’, a typically ferocious take of ‘Communication Breakdown’, and ‘Dazed And Confused’ comes alive, but the sound quality is only just above bootleg standard and there’s yet another interminable rendition of ‘Moby Dick’. In the end, though, we don’t need the extras on these Deluxe Editions to remind us how magnificent Led Zeppelin were. Just put on ‘How Many More Times’, lie back, and think of ‘It’s Up To You’.

Consequence of Sound review