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Led Zeppelin III, the third album by English rock band Led Zeppelin, was released October 5, 1970 by Atlantic Records. It was recorded between January and July 1970 at Olympic Studios, London and Headley Grange, East Hampshire, then mixed at Ardent Studios, Memphis in August 1970 during Led Zeppelin's sixth American concert tour. The album was produced by guitarist Jimmy Page and engineered by Andy Johns.
It has been suggested that Led Zeppelin III was something of a watershed release for the band, as it marked a change from Page's domination of the first two albums towards a more democratic affair in which all four group members offered up their own compositions and ideas - a pattern that would continue in future sessions. The album added acoustic and folk rock elements to the band's established rock and blues repertoire, which also helped endear the band to progressive rock fans. However, some detractors attacked the heavier tracks as being mindless noise, whilst the acoustic material was criticised by others for imitating the music of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Although these negative reviews had a slight effect on sales at the time, Led Zeppelin III was still a trans-Atlantic #1 hit. Sales eventually lagged in the wake of Led Zeppelin I and II, but with the passage of time III's reputation has recovered considerably.
The album contains two of Led Zeppelin's most well-known songs[attribution needed]: "Immigrant Song" and "Since I've Been Loving You". The first of these, written by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, is about the Norse invasions of England and was inspired by the band's recent performances in Iceland. "Since I've Been Loving You" is a classic, original blues in the key C minor featuring heartfelt interplay by all four group members. It would become a performance staple of Led Zeppelin concerts, especially from 1971 through 1973, replacing Willie Dixon's "I Can't Quit You Baby" from the first album as the band's slow blues showcase. Other fan favorites from the album were the rock songs "Celebration Day" and "Out on the Tiles", and the acoustic tracks "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp" and "That's the Way", the latter considered by many critics to be a breakthrough for still-developing lyric writer Plant. The song "Gallows Pole" is actually an arrangement of a traditional folk song by that name, also recorded by Lead Belly some thirty years earlier.
Led Zeppelin III's original vinyl edition was packaged in a gatefold sleeve with a novelty cover, designed by Richard Drew, a lecturer in fine arts at Leeds Polytechnic. The cover and interior gatefold art consisted of a surreal collection of seemingly random images on a white background, many of them connected thematically with flight or aviation (as in "Zeppelin"). Behind the front cover was a rotatable paper disc, or volvelle, covered with more images, including photos of the band members, which showed through holes in the cover. Moving an image into place behind one hole would usually bring one or two others into place behind other holes. This could not be replicated on a conventional cassette or CD cover, but there have been Japanese and British CDs packaged in miniature versions of the original sleeve. In France this album was released with a different album cover, simply showing a photo of the four band members.
The concept of a volvelle, based on crop rotation charts, was Jimmy Page's idea. However, in a 1998 interview he gave to Guitar World magazine, Page described the result as a disappointment:
“ I thought it looked very teeny-bopperish. But we were on top of a deadline, so of course there was no way to make any radical changes to it. There were some silly bits - little chunks of corn and nonsense like that. ”
The first pressings of the album included the phrases "Do What Thou Wilt" and "So Mote Be It", inscribed on the record itself. This phrase is from the core tenet of Aleister Crowley's philosophy of Thelema: "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. Love is the law, love under will. There is no law beyond do what thou wilt." Page was a scholar of Crowley's work, owns one of the world's most extensive private collections of Crowley manuscripts, artwork and other ephemera, and in the 1970s even bought one of his residences, Boleskine House on the shores of Loch Ness in Scotland.
Led Zeppelin III was the most eagerly awaited album of 1970, and advance orders in the United States alone were close to a million mark. Its release was trailered by a full page advertisement taken out in Melody Maker magazine at the end of September, which simply said "Thank you for making us the world's number one band." Following a lukewarm, if not confused and sometimes dismissive reception from critics, sales lagged after its initial peak. The album spent four weeks at the top of the Billboard chart, while it entered that British chart at number one and remained there for three weeks (returning to the top for a further week on December 12).
Recorded January–August 1970 at Ardent Studios, Memphis, Headley Grange, Hampshire, with Rolling Stones Mobile Studio, Island Studios, London and Olympic Studios, London. Mixed at Island Studios, London and Electric Lady Studios, New York.
01. "Immigrant Song" (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant) – 2:25
02. "Friends" (Page, Plant) – 3:54
03. "Celebration Day" (Page, Plant, John Paul Jones) – 3:29
04. "Since I've Been Loving You" (Page, Plant, Jones) – 7:23
05. "Out on the Tiles" (Page, Plant, John Bonham) – 4:08
06. "Gallows Pole" (trad. arr. Page, Plant) – 4:58
07. "Tangerine" (Page) – 3:12
08. "That's the Way" (Page, Plant) – 5:39
09. "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp" (Page, Plant, Jones) – 4:18
10. "Hats Off to (Roy) Harper" (traditional) – 3:42
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