Top 10 Led Zeppelin Songs – Beyond the Hits
It’s important to listen to a collection of Led Zeppelin songs beyond the hits that are repeatedly played on classic rock radio if you want to know more about why they’re one of the greatest rock and roll bands of all time. In fact, some of their lesser known songs actually provide a deeper understanding of what makes the band so special, such as the songs included on our list of the 10 Best Led Zeppelin Songs Beyond the Hits:
Normally the hidden member of Zeppelin, John Paul Jones’ keyboard work takes the spotlight away from his better known bandmates throughout this mysterious, slow-paced treatise on the perils of war. Already long on 1973’s ‘Houses of the Holy,’ the song frequently reached epic lengths in concert, with Jones often throwing in bits of his favorite classical compositions.
‘I Can’t Quit You Baby’
Blues music was obviously a huge part of Led Zeppelin’s sound, and you don’t have to go far beyond the hits to hear them tearing up songs like this fiery, traditionally arranged Willie Dixon-written standard. A studio version is featured on their 1969 self-titled debut, while a live version with crowd noise removed appears on 1982’s loose ends compilation ‘Coda.’
‘The Rain Song’
The second half of a highly impressive opening one-two punch from 1973’s ‘Houses of the Holy.’ Guitarist Jimmy Page shows impressive range, moving away from the blues-based riffs of the band’s first four albums and into more layered production and arrangements. This intricate ballad blends acoustic guitars with mellotron for perhaps their most beautiful song ever.
‘That’s the Way’
Led Zeppelin traded the amped-up blues rock of their first two albums for a set of diverse folk and country influenced acoustic music on 1971’s ‘Led Zeppelin III.’ It seems to be one of singer Robert Plant’s favorite albums, as he still performs many of its songs, including this touchingly bittersweet tale of forbidden childhood friendships, at his concerts today.
As soon as you’re ready to move beyond the hit Led Zeppelin songs that are (deservedly) played non-stop on the radio, the first record you’re going to need is 1975’s double-vinyl masterpiece “Physical Graffiti.’ It’d be worth it just for the fade out solo on this steadily rocking, cliche-free account of life on the road. But don’t worry, it’s worth it for many other reasons, too.
On Led Zeppelin III’s increasingly frantic performance of a traditional folk song about a man’s family bargaining to save him from the hangman’s pole, Jimmy Page plays just about everything he can get his hands on – guitar, banjo, mandolin – as the executioner accepts silver, gold, and the, uh, company of Plant’s sister and then still pulls the lever.
‘In the Light’
John Paul Jones’ lengthy, exotic keyboard introduction for this, the first song on ‘Physical Graffitti”s second record, brings an sense of higher authority to Robert Plant’s conviction that whatever bad times you’re going through will pass, if you believe in yourself. Meanwhile, Page is more than content to let his regal, symphonic-sounding guitar steadily push the song forward.
‘Friends,’ the second song from ‘Led Zeppelin III,’ offers the first hint that this will be a radically different sonic experience from previous albums. Jangling acoustic guitars and swirling strings bounce around as Plant extols the importance of true friendship, declaring “the greatest thing you ever can do now is trade a smile with someone who’s blue.”
‘How Many More Times’
A lumbering beast of a bass line dominates much of the opening proceedings on this, the eight minute long closing song from 1969’s ‘Led Zeppelin I.’ But as is so often their way, Zeppelin roams far and wide as the track progresses. Tempos rise and fall as Robert Plant seems to improvise his blues and Jimmy Page plays the guitar with a violin bow.
‘Ten Years Gone’
By the time they recorded 1975’s ‘Physical Graffiti,’ Led Zeppelin had pretty much fully absorbed all their diverse blues, folk and country influences and fused them together into something truly unique. This song, which features Plant looking back without regrets on what he sacrificed for his art, and an absolutely towering ending guitar riff, is one of the best examples of the deeper level of magic that awaits anyone exploring beyond the hits of Led Zeppelin.