So why is Led Zeppelin’s How the West Was Won on this best 1,000 albums ever thing?
What would it to have been like to have attended a Led Zeppelin concert back in the day? What would it be like to really be there?
To feel like you were in that crowd, hearing a live performance from one of the best rock and roll bands that has ever been (or will ever be, to mangle a Led Zepp lyric).
At two and a half hours in length (and yet at a relatively modest number of total songs at 18!), How the West Was Won provides us with a deeply immersive experience with Led Zeppelin. And what is thrilling and even slightly jarring at times is how different the versions of the songs they perform are – at least by way of a set of concerts recorded at the LA Forum in 1972 – versus the original studio recording versions.
And indeed, 1970s rock n’ roll excess drapes all over this massive triple album. Big time performances in every sense of the word come at us from Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Bonham, and John Paul Jones. And that includes a 25 minute-plus version of “Dazed and Confused,” 21-plus of “Whole Lotta Love,” and nearly 20 of the drum solo masterpiece known as “Moby Dick.”
Of the super long set pieces, I must direct you first and foremost to “Whole Lotta Love,” which proves that Led Zeppelin is the definitive heavy metal band both because of how hard they rock, and because of the exquisite skill they show off in doing just that. It also has a wildly experimental and epic quality in this live version, with sections that could easily become their own (kick ass) standalone songs.
Some of my favorite moments are the relatively quiet ones. “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” a song I’d consider a good but not great cut from Led Zeppelin III, becomes an emotional tour de force.
And “Going to California” is delightful and deeply gorgeous.
“Stairway to Heaven,” one of the most played/overplayed songs of all time as recorded on Led Zeppelin IV, extraordinarily becomes new and wildly exciting on How the West Was Won. It’s astonishing.
“The Ocean,” a song my high school band and I played into the… depths of the sea, is loose, free, and fundamentally rocks out hard.
Pop culture stuff that has something to do with Led Zeppelin’s How the West Was Won
In no particular order (because, uh… you might be seeing some of these pop up as the best 1,000 albums ever project rolls on), here are some more of my favorite live concert albums of all time:
- The Velvet Underground – 1969: Velvet Underground Live with Lou Reed Vol. 1 – a relatively recent discovery of mine, this one melts my brain (more) every time I throw it on.
- Nirvana – MTV Unplugged in New York – If you know, you know with this one. An instant classic, beautiful and haunting and wonderful.
- The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – Live From the Middle East – consistently brilliant, joyous, and raucous, it captures TMMBT at their very best.
- R.E.M. – Live At the Olympia – “This is not a show,” the band announces on this one. But man oh man, it sure is.
- The Doors – Absolutely Live – Dead cats, dead rats, did you see where they were at?
- Johnny Cash – At Folsom Prison – An incredible combination of artist and time and place.
Side note that Frampton Comes Alive! by Peter Frampton, one of the most popular albums of the 1970s, is an album that I considered adding to the best 1,000 albums ever list/project, and it was tentatively going to make the cut at one point. But then I realized that it’s one of those albums that I felt should make a “top 1,000 albums list” versus an album that I would place in my personal Super Nerd Shrine of “best 1,000 albums ever,” and thus it was cut for time as we say in the biz.
Some stats & info about Led Zeppelin’s How the West Was Won
- What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? Rock Music, British Bands, Heavy Metal, Hard Rock, Album Rock, Arena Rock
- Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking – not ranked!
- All Music’s rating – 4.5 out of 5 stars
- When was How the West Was Won released? 2003
- My ranking, the one you’re reading right now – #442 out of 1,000
Led Zeppelin’s How the West Was Won on Spotify
A lyrical snippet from Led Zeppelin’s How the West Was Won that’s evocative of the album in some way, maybe
Made up my mind to make a new start, going to California with an aching in my heart.
What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?
Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.
But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective review of what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.