Jeff Lybarger's Song OF The Day

Subj: Song of the day XI
Date: 96-12-09 07:19:51 EST
From: OUTRIDERJL@AOL.COM (Jeff Lybarger)

I'm so used to saying "good evening" that to say good morning sounds a little strange, but what the heck, I like change. So good morning. Today we travel back to the magical 4th album. Untitled, Zoso, Runes, Four Symbols or whatever you want to call it one thing remains constant, this is the album they will always be remembered for. Over 16 million units sold, if memory serves me correctly, and in the top 10 of all-time. Today we go to track eight, clocking in at 7:08, "When The Levee Breaks".

Those incredible drums get us going and Robert plays some very spirited and bluesy harmonica. This track has an "aura" about it. After a lengthy intro we come to a brief pause, and then Robert warns us, "If it keeps on raining, levee's going to break". We immediately get drawn into this song. It's very hypnotic and the effect is mezmerising.

It still blows me away that this was recorded in 1971. This is a wonderful example of the genius that Jimmy Page is in the studio. It, like almost all of Zeppelin's material sounds as if they could have recorded it yesterday. The drums in this song were recorded in the hallway of Headley Grange, with two microphones suspended above the kit. Jimmy has said the kit Bonham played on for "Levee" was brand new, just delivered from the factory. What a way to break in your new drums.

Jimmy plays some very bluesy bottleneck electric guitar, one of those songs where he is supporting more than right out front. As that groove rolls along Robert tells us that "crying won't help ya, praying won't do you no good". Sounds a bit depressing, but a key lyric in creating the atmosphere that is so prominent here.

The solo, courtesy of Jimmy, is at once gut-wrenching and smoothe. Robert shows his harmonica ability to be in fine form, (something I wish he would have done more of), and we get to the "goin' down, goin' down now" section. Isn't it funny how Zeppelin is known not only for their songs, as a whole, but little sections of songs. Those two words, "goin' down", and the way he says them are as popular a phrase as any he's ever sung.

"When The Levee Breaks" was originally recorded in 1929 by Memphis Minne and Kansas Joe McCoy. On the Zeppelin Box Set, they give credit to Memphis Minnie as one-fifth of the songwriting team. On the "Unleded" album Jimmy and Robert play this entirely in a new arrangement, and on acoustic guitar. "Levee", in it's new format, was also one of the songs played at their Rock n Roll Hall-of-Fame induction ceremony. Played quite a bit on the 95/96 tour as well. What is unfortunate is that in Zeppelin they only played this briefly at the beginning of the ' 75 tour. Another great song that would have been quite incredible in a live setting. Do you get the feeling that they just had too much great material?

This is one of those songs everybody loves. Great playing, great emotion, and incredible "atmosphere" that only happens every so often. Crank this up loud and enjoy the fruits of Led Zeppelin playing a timeless classic. Till tomorrow...

Rock on,


back to the SotD Home Page