Led Zeppelin: Complete Expert Studio Album-By-Album Guide - Rolling Stone
Home Music Music Lists

Led Zeppelin: Complete Album-By-Album Guide

From the First Album to ‘Coda’: An expert rundown of every studio album

Led Zeppelin, Complete, Album, Guide

Led Zeppelin Album Guide: BBC Sessions

Dick Barnatt/Redferns/Getty

Zeppelin set a new standard for studio excess and power: Here’s an album-by-album guide to their incredible career.

‘In Through the Out Door’

"It was four of us, but i don’t think it was as Led Zeppelin as it might've been," Plant said of Zeppelin's eighth and final studio album. Tax problems forced them to decamp to Sweden, where they recorded at Abba's Polar Studios. With Page addicted to heroin, Bonham a deteriorating alcoholic and Plant still mourning the death of his son Karac in 1977, the mighty band seemed like a spent force.

Page was increasingly unengaged, forcing Jones to step up as producer (it's the only Zep album where the guitarist doesn't get a writing credit on every song). The music moved away from the heavy riffs into subtler textures steeped in Jones' love of synthesizers. "I had a new toy," he said.

And, yet, while many fans found it compromised and weak, In Through the Out Door is a fascinating hodgepodge, brim- ming with intriguing, if not always fully realized, possibilities: the Latin-tinged "Fool in the Rain," the electro-rock anthems "In the Evening" and "Carouselambra" and the fun country goof "Hot Dog." Plant explored his grief over the loss of Karac over Jones' gloaming synths on the grand elegy "All My Love" – a soft moment that's, ironically, one of their most cathartic. 

Page optimistically envisioned the next album as raw and stripped-down – a rebirth for a new decade that began instead with Bonham's alcohol-related death in September 1980. "It happened at the beginning of a new lease on life," Jones recalled. "So it hit us all very hard."

– Jon Dolan

‘Coda’

After Bonham died, there was no question that Led Zeppelin was over. "It just couldn't go on because it was the four of them," their manager Peter Grant said. But they still owed Atlantic Records one more album and tax collectors a lot of money, and they were sitting on a handful of finished and semi-finished tracks. In particular, "Wearing and Tearing," "Ozone Baby" and "Darlene," three hard rockers from the In Through the Out Door sessions, had all been held over for a future release. So, two years after they had officially broken up, Zeppelin released their final (and briefest) studio album, and shut down their Swan Song imprint.

As Coda's title suggests, it's not a grand summation of their work, despite containing recordings that span most of the group’s existence. Page assembled Coda at his studio beginning in mid-1981, and as with the 2003 live album, How the West Was Won, he doctored the old tapes rather extensively, bringing in Plant and Jones for overdubs and mixing. Among other changes, Page added electronic effects to "Bonzo's Montreux," a Bonham drum solo from 1976; he also recorded a new guitar track to replace the original one from a III-era recording of Ben E. King's "We’re Gonna Groove." The album's highlight, though, is "Wearing and Tearing," a blistering, hyperspeed homage to the punk generation that suggested where Led Zeppelin might've gone if tragedy hadn't ended their story.

– Douglas Wolk

Arrow Created with Sketch. Calendar Created with Sketch. Path Created with Sketch. Shape Created with Sketch. Plus Created with Sketch. minus Created with Sketch.