Must-own albums: Led Zeppelin and The Who

by DGO Web Administrator

You are judged by your record collection. Not only by the albums it contains, but by the albums it doesn’t. As a fan, collector and someone always wanting to discover music (whether newly made or new to me), my collection welcomes critique; music fans with discerning tastes are often unafraid to spew pearls of musical wisdom, especially toward those whose collection and personal taste could use some improvement. Some might call those people music snobs. I call them people with an interest in something other than crap.

Music lovers often explore must-own albums, things necessary to any collection. This may even result in having to dig into bands lumped into the unimaginative genre of classic rock. An invention of commercial radio, it’s a formulaic business model that constantly rehashes a few hits of a great band, while ignoring the bulk of their catalog, arguably the musicians true “art.”

The Who and Led Zeppelin are two bands that sit high atop the rock canon, and the “classic rock” playlists. They were there when rock ’n’ roll became a stadium commodity, and continue to be highly influential for music lovers and musicians alike. They also have hits on commercial classic-rock radio, and very few came from their must-own albums, that being Led Zeppelin’s “Physical Graffiti” and The Who’s “Quadrophenia.”

1975’s “Physical Graffiti” was Zeppelin’s sixth studio album. Zeppelin was much more than a band that may have been early purveyors of heavy metal. There’s some depth and diversity, all reflected on this double album. There’s dark rock, country blues, progressive rock and even cuts ripe for an alt-country cover, which proved Zeppelin to be more than a one-trick pony. The stand-outs remain “Night Flight,” and “Down by the Seaside,” two songs that distance themselves from what links Zeppelin to armchair music fans. It’s a top-notch album, something that touts Zeppelin’s collective chops as a band that delivers an all-out package, exhibiting a level of influences.

1974’s “Quadrophenia” was also a sixth studio release, and The Who’s second rock opera behind “Tommy.” It’s arguably the better album, a big rock record with recurring sounds and themes. While testament to the always-on songwriting of Pete Townsend, this is an album for drummers, as the power of Keith Moon comes out on every track; the drums are a lead instrument. It also allowed bass player John Entwistle to prove his musical worth, something that Townsend always touted, both with the bass and as an arranger.

It’s a story split into four parts written to reflect personalities of each member of The Who. In addition to its underlying tale, it remains an ambitious and daring rock record that reflects not only Townsend’s songwriting, but full orchestral and rock arrangement. Yet it’s the aggression and power throughout that makes The Who an early purveyor of punk rock. Stand-out tracks include all of them.

Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. [email protected].


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