Led Zeppelin II is the second album released by English rock band Led Zeppelin in 1969. Here they further developed ideas established on their debut album, creating a work which became even more widely acclaimed and arguably more influential.
It was crazy really. We were writing the numbers in hotel rooms and then we'd do a rhythm track in London, add the vocal in New York, overdub the harmonica in Vancouver and then come back to finish mixing at New York.
The album was not entirely recorded on the road, however. As the album's guitarist and producer Jimmy Page explained:
"Thank You", "The Lemon Song" and "Moby Dick" were overdubbed on tour and the mixing of "Whole Lotta Love" and "Heartbreaker" was done on tour. In other words, some of the material came out of rehearsing for the next tour and getting new material together.
Led Zeppelin II was Led Zeppelin's first album to utilise the skills of recording engineer Eddie Kramer, whose prior work with Jimi Hendrix had impressed the band's members, especially Page. According to Led Zeppelin expert Dave Lewis:
That the album turned out to be such a triumph, in particular for a production quality that still sounds fresh today, was in no small way due to the successful alliance with Page and Kramer in the control room.
Kramer and Page formed a strong partnership, as exhibited in the central section of the track "Whole Lotta Love". Kramer later said, "The famous Whole Lotta Love mix, where everything is going bananas, is a combination of Jimmy and myself just flying around on a small console twiddling every knob known to man."
Led Zeppelin II also experimented with other musical styles and approaches, as on the alternately soft-and-loud "What Is and What Should Never Be" and "Ramble On" (which featured Page's acoustic guitar), or the pop-influenced ballad "Thank You". With its mysterious atmospherics, "Ramble On" helped develop hard rock's association with fantasy themes, which had partly derived from the psychedelic rock of two to three years before, but also from lyricist Robert Plant's personal interest in the writings of J. R. R. Tolkien. This direction would later culminate on Led Zeppelin's untitled fourth album (and countless subsequent groups would later carry the influence to further extremes). Conversely, the instrumental "Moby Dick" features an extended drum solo by John Bonham, which would later be extended to a half-hour or more in live Led Zeppelin concert performances.
Jimmy Page's contribution to this album was significant, as his electric guitar solo on the song "Heartbreaker" was emulated by many younger rock guitarists, and exemplifies the group's intense musical attack. Page's innovative recording and drum miking effects on tracks such as "Ramble On" and "Whole Lotta Love" also demonstrated his considerable skill, resourcefulness and originality as a producer. This was the first Led Zeppelin album to feature Page playing a 1959 Gibson Les Paul, the guitar he helped make famous.
The album also marked a certain honing of singer Robert Plant vocal approach, and also signaled his emergence as a serious songwriter. His name had been absent from the songwriting credits of the first album because of previous contractual commitments that resulted from his earlier association with CBS Records as a solo artist. His influence on tracks such as "What Is and What Should Never Be" and "Ramble On" were pointers to the musical future of Led Zeppelin.
Plant has commented that it was only during the sessions for this album that he started to feel at home as a vocalist in the studio with Led Zeppelin:
[D]uring Led Zep I (1969) as far as I was concerned, I thought that I was going to [leave the band] anyway. I didn't feel that comfortable because there were a lot of demands on me vocally - which there were all the way though the Zeppelin thing. And I was quite nervous and didn't really get into enjoying it until II.
The album also yielded Led Zeppelin's biggest hit, with the track "Whole Lotta Love". This song reached #4 on the Billboard Top 100 in January 1970, after Atlantic Records went against the group's wishes by releasing a shorter version on 45. The single's B-side, "Living Loving Maid (She's Just a Woman)", also hit the Billboard chart, peaking at #65 in April 1970.
In 2000 Q magazine placed Led Zeppelin II at number 37 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever.
On the cassette of Led Zeppelin II, Heartbreaker is on the 4th track of side A after the Lemon Song, while Thank You is on the 1st track on side B.
Note: Some cassette versions of the album altered the song order so that side one ended with "Heartbreaker" and side two began with "Thank You". Other cassette versions also present "Heartbreaker" as the second track on side one and "What Is and What Should Never Be" as track one on side two. These variations were presumably to make the length of each side approximately the same. On vinyl versions, side one ended with "Thank You" and side two began with "Heartbreaker". This order is reflected above and is preserved on all CD releases.
"Heartbreaker" and "Living Loving Maid" flow so naturally from one to the next that DJs (on independent or classic rock stations that still play such music) often play the two together. When listeners hear the first song end, they expect to hear the second begin, and not hearing it is often jarring.
On the original British copies of Led Zeppelin II, the label on the record lists "Killing Floor" as the third track and is credited to Chester Burnett (Howlin' Wolf's real name), while the liner lists "The Lemon Song" and credits Led Zeppelin.
CD Mastering engineers
|1969||Billboard Pop Albums (Billboard 200)||1|
|1970||Australian Kent Music Report Albums Chart|
|1969||"Whole Lotta Love"||Billboard Pop Singles (Billboard Hot 100)||4|
|1969||"Living Loving Maid (She's Just a Woman)"||Billboard Pop Singles (Billboard Hot 100)||65|
|RIAA (U.S)||12x Platinum||12,000,000|