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14. “In My Time Of Dying”

At just over 11 minutes, this is the longest Zeppelin song on record, and it feels even longer. But that’s not a complaint. “In My Time Of Dying” really does build like a deathbed confession, starting off slow and painful and then speeding up as the ghosts descend to take our protagonist … well, it’s probably not to heaven, right? “In My Time Of Dying” demonstrates that Zeppelin could groove even when they were moving at a snail’s pace, which is nearly impossible for most bands to do without falling apart. This song verges on collapse several times, but it suits the thematic concerns (mortality, Jesus, moaning, etc.) addressed in the text. Zeppelin lurches on purpose, and then (at the 3:46 point) suddenly they’re doing the opposite of lurching. The showmanship is impeccable — it’s a total “put the cape on James Brown’s back” flourish.

13. “Ramble On”

A highlight of the Lord Of The Rings subgenre of Zeppelin songs, as well as an excellent, early example of Zeppelin’s ability to mix acoustic and electric guitars beautifully. In every Jimmy Page interview, he is inevitably asked to give the secret of the Zeppelin sound, and he always goes into his pet riff about his interest in veering between “light and shade,” mixing up heaviness with jangly melody. “Ramble On” was the first time he really nailed it, before refining it to perfection on the next four Zeppelin records. While Radiohead isn’t often mentioned in the same sentence as Led Zeppelin, they emulated that “light and shade” electric-acoustic mix on The Bends and OK Computer, and pulled it off with nearly as much flair.

12. “The Rain Song”

Coming after “Stairway To Heaven,” it’s possible that listeners perceived this as an attempt to top (or just copy) their most iconic power ballad. But while “Stairway” can’t be denied — contrary to what happens in Wayne’s World — “The Rain Song” is the epic “quiet to loud” Zeppelin ballad that I play the most. This band’s willingness to sit back and be extremely twee for several minutes — and on the second track of Houses Of The Holy, no less — is perhaps their most underrated attribute. I’m sure to some ears this just sounds like bad Moody Blues, but I don’t care. When I put on Zeppelin, sometimes I want to hear a million guitar overdubs, a drippy string section, and Robert Plant cooing about how it’s the springtime of his loving. And then after five minutes I want to be snapped out of my coma by John Bonham kicking me in the face.

 

 

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