Friday, May 25, 2012

Song #201 of 9999 - The Ocean by Led Zeppelin

Song #201 of 9999

Title: The Ocean
Artist: Led Zeppelin
Year: 1973
Album: Houses of the Holy

I really like the album Houses of the Holy. It doesn't get the attention of the masterpiece that preceded it or even the proceeding double LP Physical Graffiti. Is it because it's short? Uneven? What? I don't know but I like it because it's got a bit of a playful side, perhaps best exemplified in the closing track "The Ocean" (and also "D'Yer Mak'er").

"The Ocean" is apparently about the "the ocean" of fans frequenting Led Zeppelin concerts at this very successful time of their careers and is dedicated to them (thank you Wikipedia!). It begins with a slightly bluesy, slightly funky unison riff in the guitar and bass that alternates between 4/4 and 7/8 time. Like so many great Zeppelin drum beats, the riff is virtually ignored by John Bonham who plays straight time, expending the least amount of effort to accommodate the missing eighth note of the second measure. This is my favorite aspect of Bonham's playing; he almost never overplays. Such a smart drummer.

The songs unfolds with Robert Plant slipping and sliding into notes of his middle range for two lines, then exploring his upper range for the remaining couplet. After two verses, Page plays one of his creative short solos, which is very good, but check out the stuff that follows! I love the rich dissonances that emanate from these chunky chords that precede the final verse. (In fact, this kind of drone-note dissonance is present in the rhythm guitar parts all over this album and I just admire the style and direction so much.) After the final verse, the tune breaks out into some old time doo-wop and it's just fun to hear them paying homage to this style. One of my favorite Zeppelin songs from what is most often my favorite Zeppelin album.

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