Ramble On

"Living Loving Maid (She’s Just A Woman)" was my favorite track on "Led Zeppelin II".  Maybe it was just teenage hormones, but the way the song took off like a shot appealed to me.  Like you could OUTRACE society.  And I’ve always been about playing outside society.

But now although when I hear "Living Loving" I STILL love the way Robert sings "umbrella", and the break with "merry-go-round" and the SHIMMY in Plant’s voice when he sings "Tellin’ tall tales of how it used to be", the track just doesn’t resonate in quite the same way.

I was never a huge fan of "Whole Lotta Love".  There just wasn’t enough there, beyond the riff.  Or maybe it’s just that the track was SO big in my high school back in October ’69, I got burned out and abandoned it.  Led Zeppelin had been my secret.  And within a week of "II"’s release, EVERYBODY knew about the record, and Jimmy and the boys were their favorite new band.  Hell, maybe that’s why I glommed on to "Living Loving".

"What Is And What Should Never Be" hearkens back to the first album.  A long slow-burning blues number that erupts with passion.  And until "Physical Graffiti", I always loved that first album best, and maybe do again, so all of these years later "What Is And What Should Never Be" sounds SPECTACULAR!  It resonates.  This is the sound that the Black Crowes are so often reaching for but failing to achieve.  Because they just don’t have the soul.

But people never talked about "What Is And What Should Never Be", they reserved their comments for "The Lemon Song", with the juice running down Robert’s leg.  I personally thought it was a bit too obvious.  But, except for the lyrics, the main riff would sit perfectly in the aforementioned "Physical Graffiti", when Jimmy Page stretched out and was less worried what the audience would find palatable (even more so than with "III").

"Heartbreaker" has that bungee jump of a riff, bouncing all over the place.  Can’t say anything negative about this track, which I loved back then and still do.  Hey, fellas, have you heard the news???

"Moby Dick" ranks with the Nazz’s "She’s Goin’ Down" as the best song to contain a drum solo.  Sure, the Nazz break was oh-so-brief, but still, in this era after "Toad", Bonham didn’t make you feel like your limits were being tested.  Especially since you were stoned out of your mind most of the time you were listening anyway, and there was that great intro and outro riff.

"Bring It On Home" did what today’s groups are oblivious to.  It showed Zeppelin wasn’t a one note band.  Shit, the first half of "Bring It On Home" sounds almost like folk music, cut in a hamlet far from the mainstream in Mother England.  Or maybe it’s closer to John Hammond, Jr.  That fretwork is so sexy, it ENRAPTURES YOU!

Still, none of the above tracks are the best on "Led Zeppelin II".  That’s a toss-up between "Thank You" and "Ramble On".

Sure, girls liked "Thank You", these same girls who told you to turn the rest of the album down.  But that doesn’t mean it’s substandard and wimpy.  Robert sings sincerely without lapsing into pathos.  It’s this honest emotion that made girls all over the globe spread their legs and surrender to him.  The whole song is so MAJESTIC!  Like it lives in a place before electricity, in a castle on a hill, far from the rest of the populace.

Still, there’s a magic in "Ramble On" that is infectious, the song builds and DAZZLES YOU!

Oh, Jimmy’s playing the acoustic.  It’s his sound, no one else can replicate it.

But the record is nothing without John Paul Jones’ bass, dancing all over the bottom of the track, like a court jester.  Adding levity to such a serious song.  And Bonzo is working his hands over the skins like a three hundred pound man tap dancing in slippers.

But about a minute into it, when they reach the chorus, the track EXPLODES!  Jimmy and Robert start to rage and John Paul Jones tightens up his lines, they exist in a smaller range and they have an emphasis that goes to your gut.

And after the explosion, there’s that SOUND!  What is that SOUND!  I’m not a forensic listener.  Is that something Jimmy’s doing on the guitar or one of John Paul Jones’ synth workouts?  Sounds like the latter.

And then there’s the frosting on the cake.  Jimmy’s trebly guitars.  Not edgy, but existing richly up in the upper register.  It’s as if Catherine Zeta-Jones suddenly started to twirl.  Put the track on, at about 2:25.  And listen closely.  There’s the main guitar, and then another one back in the distance.  You fall in love with the second the same way you do for the less good-looking, less outgoing younger sister.

And then we’re back to two acoustics.  With John Paul Jones and Bonzo still doing their dirty work.  And when that electric comes back to solo at 3:14, it’s so subtle, as if it’s being played over the hills and far away.  And then the rage comes back.  Jimmy’s playing starts to sting.  Robert’s vocal is phasing in and out of the speakers.  It’s an adventure as rich and exotic as the "Lord Of The Rings" trilogy that inspired the lyrics.

I had to retire "Led Zeppelin II" for a bunch of years.  It was just that burned out.

That’s not the band’s fault.  Stuff this good can’t be held back.  But all these years later, when playing is no longer revered.  When it’s about stardom first.  When there’s no MYSTERY!  "Led Zeppelin II" shines like the masterpiece it is.  When I heard "Ramble On" on XM today I was transported back to high school, and stunningly, I still felt I was the same guy.  And that felt good.

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