Surprisingly enough, this is the only Zeppelin album that cracked the top 30, but fair enough that it's #5. Led Zeppelin III is pure blues and rock fusion. The earlier Zep albums (mainly I-III) all have this electric blues overtone. On this one, however, a lot more acoustic numbers crop up and show a side of Zep that was lacking on the first two albums and were almost non existent on the rest of them (except IV which has "Going to California" and "Battle of Evermore" which are amazingly beautiful songs in this vein.)
Moving on to the album itself, this contains the best of the best Zeppelin songs for my buck. The best of the singles "Immigrant Song" is of course the best kicker for any Zep album. Anything dealing with Vikings is of course going to be something I love, and let's be honest, this song trumps any song about pirates or ninjas anyday. The duo of "Friends" and "Celebration Day" with the mistake amazing crossover (the way the songs blend was a mistake in the ending of "Friends"... so they slowed up the tape and cross faded them... sounds amazing... its a better one-two punch then "Heartbreaker/Living Loving Maid.") Then you move on to the greatest Zeppelin blue song (and my fav Zep song overall) "Since I've Been Loving You." With its beautiful guitar work a la Page, the organ workings of JPJ, it's simple yet frantic drumming of Bonzo and the heartfelt voice of Plant (his finest delivery in all Zep history), you get a beautifully bluesy, heartbreaking tune. Then, just when you think it can't get any better, "Out on the Tiles" rages on in all its beautiful fury and catchy rock feel. This ends the first half of the album where most of the rocking is done.
Zep III takes a brilliant turn on the second half of the album. Starting with "Gallows Pole" the mood is set perfectly for the side that takes a beautifully melancholy turn. Less rock and more beauty in the songs to come. Both "Tangerine" and "That's the Way" show any non-Zeppelin fan the soft side of the band. Both of these songs have the power to draw a man to tears with their sheer beauty in the lyrics, the chord progressions and the overall tone of the songs. I believe both of these songs were used in Almost Famous which goes to show that these are the best acoustic Zeppelin songs this side of "Going to California" (which doesn't mean that song isnt amazing... these ones are just better in certain ways.) "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp" is a fun romp that is one of my personal favorite tracks to pop on when in a sour mood. Finally, the last track shows just how much these boys love the blues. This track filled with drowned out vocals and excrutiatingly brilliant steel guitar work shows the chi that Zeppelin is channeling on this album.
Overall, the album get's overlooked because of the popularity of Zep IV, but in reality, the songs are clearly better. There are more rockers on IV, but III's songs seem to be more heartfelt and better in tonal and structural quality. The album never loses its candor or lust. Did I mention the LP sleeve is definitely one of the coolest ever with its raucous amounts of Zeppelins and a wheel behind it that changes the look of it to your pleasure? Yeah. This is what a great album is meant to be like. Overall perfection with not a single weak moment. Zeppelin at it's best.