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Mothership: The Very Best of Led Zeppelin by Led Zeppelin (Atlantic)

Revisionism is not solely confined to the study of Irish history, but encompasses everything which comes to us from the past, which of course everything does, be it filed under social, political or artistic – even if it’s only from five minutes ago, and despite what some starship troopers would have you believe about how they’re just back from the future. For listeners of a certain vintage (i.e. me) Led Zeppelin were anathema – bloated behemoths who personified all that was most odious about the star system in the mid-seventies, and not nearly as exciting as The Sex Pistols. Little did we foresee that Kurt Cobain and his colleagues in Seattle would draw on Led Zeppelin and The Sex Pistols (plus some Beatles, Pixies and Neil Young) to create grunge, and so Time the Re-evaluator would do its work. Subsequently, it’s fair to say, without Led Zeppelin, no White Stripes. Mothership: The Very Best of Led Zeppelin is not an esoteric selection, and you won’t find much of the band’s acoustic side here, but there’s a lot to be said for 24 heavy-rock landmarks, one after the other. Besides, personally I can do without Robert Plant’s Lord of the Rings derived cod-mystical bullshit in favour of down’n’dirty blues riffing courtesy of Jimmy Page. While disc two could have done more to illustrate Zep’s blossoming into multiple styles and textures, most obviously on my own favourite of their albums, Physical Graffiti, maybe you should just go out and buy the full-length albums you like best yourself (if you don’t already have them). The real U.S.P. here is the quality of the remastering, and you don’t have to be an amp-to-speakers synergy ratio audiophile to appreciate the significant increase in sheer Presence (sorry) evident here, most notably with John Bonham’s leading-from-the-bass-drum meat’n’potatoes sticksmanship. It is a reductive commonplace among devotees to opine that ‘Zep would have been nothing without Bonzo’, and indeed they will be without him for their one-off reunion show in the O2 Arena on December 10th, but the man really was a force of nature, and so influential (check out Steven Drodz’s work on The Flaming Lips’ The Soft Bulletin for a point of comparison). So, if you must own a Led Zeppelin compilation (and, let’s face it, you should) this is the state of the art.


First published in Magill, December/January 2007/8

 

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