I watched a video of a well-known musician demonstrating his favorite Led Zeppelin guitar riffs. He is a damn good guitar player. I agree with most, but not all of his selections. Jimmy Page wrote some creative and memorable guitar arrangements. He is sometimes accused of lifting passages of other songs or at least being influenced by other songwriters. Regardless, Page is a talented and influential songwriter, the Zeppelin catalog demonstrates that.
This list won’t include “Stairway to Heaven”, sorry. Fine song, but others are deserving. In reality, this list could be two dozen or three dozen songs, Page was not only skillful player, but also a blender of traditional musical styles with other influences, inserting chords and notes not often found in blues-rock. If you look at the tabs or watch someone play his riffs, you see how intricate they are with such unusual chord variations, use of scales and string bending. These techniques are not unique to players, but Page made creative use of them for memorable rock songs.
This is not a Led Zeppelin greatest hits list, just 10 (okay, 11) really good guitar songs that illustrate how good Jimmy Page was a writer and player.
“Whole Lotta Love“ – A blistering power rocker, packing attitude and fire. The main riff repeats, along with Page’s guitar slide effects. The screaming solo at the end of the bridge is classic, before the song kicks into another gear. Listen through headphones to get the full effect.
“The Rain Song“ – A soulful, electric ballad. Full of atmosphere, Page bends the strings and fingerpicks with a very slow hand. There is beauty in the phrasing of Page’s technique. Often overlooked because this is not a high energy, high volume affair. The performance does not lack energy, but it is measured.
“No Quarter” – Atmospheric and drenched in darkness, the song pulsates with boom. The musical spine is delivered by John Paul Jones, but Page delivers the shivers and menace with his guitars.
“Dazed and Confused” – Bluesy, aching and thunderous. Page demonstrates how he can shred with his solos, but the slow, bending of the strings shouldn’t be overlooked. There are flashier and more riffy sounds on the debut album, but Page’s attitude on this song is soaring.
“Heartbreaker” – A revved-up, blistering tune of blues-rock. The repeating riff, note by note, is played by Page and Jones, then in the middle, Page shifts to a bluesy solo, then a grungy barrage of different guitar riffs and solos before returning to the main riff.
“Ramble On” – A song from the second album that mixes acoustic and electric guitars. The song bounces from slow to fast and so forth. The song is folky, Bluesy and rock. Pages sets the tone for each with the right dose of guitar.
“Achilles Last Stand” – Overlooked because it resides on one of the band’s least appreciated albums. Absence acoustic instruments or keyboards, this is hard as nails, blues-metal album. This particular song has some of Page’s best and hardest playing. By the end of this long tune, you are exhausted, the pace fast and the guitar attack is relentless.
“Ten Years Gone” – A deceptively fine guitar song, Page uses a variety of effects and layers of guitar parts. The intro features a rather clean sounding guitar, but Page moves from guitar effect to effect to deliver numerous sounds.
“The Song Remains the Same” – From Houses of the Holy, the intro is a long instrumental section with spectacular layers of guitars of riffs and solos. Even when the songs slows down briefly, the guitar playing does not, then the pace quickens again. Typically, Page plays a variety of different rhythm patterns with fills and solos.
“Since I’ve Been Loving You” – A killer blues song from the third album. Long and hammering, Page matches Plant’s emotional vocals with slow, aching notes and steely, jabs. Page uses less guitars, but one is enough here.
Bonus: “Tangerine” – A primarily acoustic guitar song. From Led Zeppelin III, the rhythm are acoustic guitars with the solos and fills provided by electric guitars.