Forty years ago today, Led Zeppelin released Led Zeppelin II just nine months after unleashing their historic debut. Produced by guitarist Jimmy Page, II laid the groundwork for heavy metal with its classic “Whole Lotta Love” and firmly established Zeppelin as one of the loudest and greatest bands in rock at the time. II also boasts Robert Plant’s unparalleled vocal prowess on hits like “Ramble On” and “What Is and What Should Never Be” and John Bonham’s still-unmatched drum solo on “Moby Dick.”
When the album came out 40 years ago, Rolling Stone critic John Mendelsohn wasn’t exactly glowing in his 1969 review of the album, writing tongue-in-cheekily, “I’ll concede that until you’ve listened to the album eight hundred times, as I have, it seems as if it’s just one especially heavy song extended over the space of two whole sides. But, hey! You’ve got to admit that the Zeppelin has their distinctive and enchanting formula down stone-cold, man.” Of course, Mendelsohn’s opinion turned out to be the small, small minority, and Rolling Stone went on to place Led Zeppelin II on our 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
The New Rolling Stone Album Guide awarded Led Zeppelin II the five-star review it rightly deserves, adding that “Whole Lotta Love” “became a starting point for Aerosmith, Guns n’ Roses and Van Halen, among others. It’s an amazing song not just for its seismic riff and bingeing-on-lust vocal performance, but for its mind-bending midsection, in which Page orchestrates the aural equivalent of an orgasm (Theremin included.)”
So bust out your old II vinyl or eight-track or CD, crank up your stereo volume high and celebrate the album’s fortieth birthday.