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Led Zeppelin - "Mothership" (2-CD Set)

Led Zeppelin - "Mothership" 2-CD Set cover image

"Mothership" track listing:

1. Good Times Bad Times (2:47)
2. Communication Breakdown (2:28)
3. Dazed and Confused (6:28)
4. Babe I'm Gonna Leave You (6:41)
5. Whole Lotta Love (5:32)
6. Ramble On (4:22)
7. Heartbreaker (4:15)
8. Immigrant Song (2:26)
9. Since I've Been Loving You (7:23)
10. Rock and Roll (3:41)
11. Black Dog (4:54)
12. When The Levee Breaks (7:10)
13. Stairway To Heaven (8:02)
14. The Song Remains The Same (5:32)
15. Over The Hills and Far Away (4:49)
16. D'Yer Mak'er (4:23)
17. No Quarter (7:00)
18. Trampled Under Foot (5:36)
19. Houses of the Holy (4:04)
20. Kashmir (8:29)
21. Nobody's Fault But Mine (6:16)
22. Achilles Last Stand (10:23)
23. In The Evening (6:51)
24. All My Love (5:53)

Reviewed by on January 19, 2009

"For those who are uninitiated, they may find themselves overwhelmed if they pick up a Led Zeppelin sampler like “Mothership,” because they have yet to realize just how much this band influenced later music."

Led Zeppelin disbanded nearly thirty years ago, and despite rumors spanning nearly a decade of a reunion, the group has not produced a new studio album since the death of drummer John Bonham. Yet they have released numerous boxed sets and greatest hits albums, all of which have attained at least platinum. So what is it about Led Zeppelin that makes them timeless, and why should the masses, both diehard fans and otherwise, flock to another re-release like “Mothership?”

“Mothership” is a massive collection of Led Zeppelin’s most popular music, hand-picked by the three remaining members, and organized in chronological order by release date. It is, to put it simply, the best of the best. What makes the two-disc set different, though, is that all the original tracks have been upgraded. Though nothing was remixed, the conversion of Led Zeppelin’s music to digital format virtually erased the graininess and distortion found on older albums. This alone makes the album worth purchasing even for those who may have a complete collection of Led Zeppelin.

Tracks familiar to everyone, such as “Immigrant Song” and “Stairway to Heaven” are now crisp and clean, the opening acoustic guitar in “Stairway” possessing a better sound quality than any modern cover. Likewise, the acoustic guitar in “Over the Hills and Far Away” as well as the vocals in “All My Love” and “D’Yer Mak’er” really pop thanks to the conversion.

For those who are uninitiated, they may find themselves overwhelmed if they pick up a Led Zeppelin sampler like “Mothership,” because they have yet to realize just how much this band influenced later music, from metal, to rock, to blues, to goth, even to country. All of these elements are present in Led Zeppelin’s music, and for many aspiring musicians, Led Zeppelin has become the ideal to which they aspire.

Take, for example, “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” which opens with a Spanish guitar that sounds very much like Santana, and vocals nearly identical to what would become the trademark sound of Axl Rose. Poison fans will recognize the rhythm and bass riffs present in “Rock and Roll,” while followers of Eddie Van Halen will find the guitar riff in “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” familiar. Then there’s “Achilles Last Stand,” which the popular 80’s hit “Barracuda” nearly mirrors, with the exception of the guitar solo that sounds straight out of a Metallica album. Even country fans will recognize snatches of “When the Levee Breaks” in the theme song for the vampire series True Blood, and there is a distinctively country twist in “Houses of the Holy,” “Trampled Under Foot,” and “The Song Remains The Same.”

Metal core fans are rewarded with tracks like the ever popular “Kashmir,” with its unique blend of metal guitar and Arabian Nights inspired synthesizers, and the funky, bluesy hard rock sound of “Black Dog.” Ballad fans can look forward to “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” and “No Quarter,” with its tender piano, and even “In the Evening,” which opens with a dark melody similar to the works of Marilyn Manson or Evanescence before evolving into a classic rock ballad.

Of course there is some dating to tracks like “Communication Breakdown” and “Ramble On,” but Led Zeppelin’s ability to blend blues with funk and southern rock keeps oldies like “Dazed and Confused” and “Whole Lotta Love” from sounding tired. The awe-inspiring guitar riffs in “Good Times Bad Times” make the track timeless, while many budding guitarists merely dream of pulling off the grueling guitar solo in “Heartbreaker.” “Whole Lotta Love” is an inspiration for drummers, with its blend of congos and cymbals added to the mix.

What truly makes “Mothership” amazing for non-Zeppelin fans is how timely the music still is. “When The Levee Breaks,” which was originally recorded in 1927 and modified by Led Zeppelin in the 70’s, speaks of the great Mississippi River flood. But with its New Orleans type jazz harmonica and blues guitar, it brings to mind the much more recent tragedy of Hurricane Katrina.

With groups like The Cure, Metallica, Poison, Guns n Roses, Priestess, Whitesnake and countless others taking a page from the musical style of Led Zeppelin, it’s easy to see why this vintage band has maintained such a huge fan base. “Mothership” is simply the digital compilation that showcases all the masterpieces that helped define a generation and the future of music.

Highs: digitalization cleans up formerly muddy lyrics and distorted instrumentals.

Lows: Dated 70’s and psychedelic sounds in “Communication Breakdown” and “Dazed.”

Bottom line: A cheap way for fans to get digital versions, and a good choice for aspiring musicians and those interested in the roots of hard rock and metal.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)