Legendary Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant recently revealed that he has instructed his children to offer his vast archive of unreleased music from throughout his career for free once he exits this world. But don’t get a bustle in your hedgerow, fans — to the best of our knowledge, the Golden God is still in fine health, and his legendary voice remains intact.
The iconic singer has universally been considered one of rock’s greatest vocalists for decades. At your next tea party, if chatter dies down, pose the question, “Who is the greatest rock vocalist of all-time?”, and Plant’s name is sure to come up.
While he’s still going strong as a solo artist, Plant’s discography with Led Zeppelin can top (or at the very least match) any other act in hard-rock history. And one of the key elements of Zeppelin’s massive success was their frontman’s powerful pipes, ranging from the golden voice of an angel to the glorious scream of a banshee.
So, with Plant announcing this very generous offering of his unreleased material to his fans in the future (and we hope it’s very far into the future), it’s a fine moment to compile a list of 10 Led Zeppelin songs that display his vocal awesomeness.
10. “In My Time of Dying”
With all this sudden talk of Plant’s mortality, it probably makes the most sense to kick things off with this little ditty (actually, make that long ditty) off of Physical Graffiti. But all kidding aside, Plant’s vocals shift into another gear towards the end of the tune (beginning at the 8:20 mark, to be precise), when he begins offering vocal improv around the repeated phrase, “Oh my Jesus.”
As part of the Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert at London’s O2 Arena on December 10th, 2007, Plant reunited with the surviving members of Led Zeppelin — guitarist Jimmy Page and bassist John Paul Jones — along with John Bonham’s son, Jason, for a full set. And as heard throughout this performance of “Kashmir”, Plant remained in fine vocal form nearly 40 years after Zep’s debut album.
08. “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You”
Although Zeppelin’s self-titled debut was chock full of raw, rockin’ blues, there were a few moments when the then-up-and-comers showed their sensitive side — especially on this cover of a tune that Joan Baez made famous (originally penned by Anne Bredon). But the band couldn’t remain quiet for long, and when the volume gets turned up, Plant most certainly delivers vocally.
07. “Over the Hills and Far Away”
Plant may have been at the peak of his vocal powers around Zep’s heady Houses of the Holy era, and “Over the Hills and Far Away” is a fine vocal showcase — especially when he crisply hits his upper register as he kicks into the song’s series of “Many” lines.
06. “Dazed and Confused”
Want proof that Plant was always an outstanding singer? How about this classic footage of the vocalist as a young lad of 20 years old — complete with the famous Plant/Page call-and-response section in the middle (that would eventually stretch to much longer durations in concert, a la the near 30-minute version on The Song Remains the Same).
05. “Going to California”
Plant is no doubt one of rock’s greatest “screamers,” but “Going to California” displays the singer’s equally impressive softer side. His simply sublime vocal performance on this 1975 live version of the song is a must-hear (and see).
04. “Immigrant Song”
“Ah-aaah, ah!, Ah-aaah, ah!” Certain songs can be pinpointed to as the birth of heavy metal (Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild”, Blue Cheer’s version of “Summertime Blues”, and Black Sabbath’s “Black Sabbath” immediately come to mind). Although Zep’s “Immigrant Song” arrived some time after the aforementioned tunes (1970), it’s still a worthy entry, as it was one of the first-ever rock songs to feature a vocalist singing from the perspective of a bloody Viking!
03. “Black Dog”
Is there a Zeppelin song more sexual than “Black Dog”? Probably only a single other one (which we’ll talk about soon). Plant’s a capella vocals are featured throughout the number, which boasts another famous Zep vocalism – “Ah ah, ah ah, ah ah, ah ah, ah ah, ah ah, ahhhhh.”
02. “Stairway to Heaven”
It can’t come as much of a surprise that “Stairway to Heaven” lands towards the top of the list. As mentioned earlier, Zep had its quieter moments, but few times did they manage to pen a tune that combined both folky acoustic and amps-cranked-to-10 rock (although this live version is all electric). And as expected, Mr. Plant has no problem adapting vocally to both sides of the stylistic coin.
01.”Whole Lotta Love”
Regarding that one song that oozed even more sexuality than “Black Dog”, we offer up the full studio version of “Whole Lotta Love” (particularly Plant’s “orgasmic” section, and the part toward the end in which he declares, “LOOOOOOOOOVE”). This is Robert Plant as Led Zeppelin’s Golden God in all his glory.