The album where Robert Plant learned how to sing: “I stopped shouting”

Not many vocalists are just born with the natural resources to be amazing. A lot of that talent comes from years of experience, and even if you think that you’re God’s gift to singers everywhere, there are only so many places you can go before your voice starts putting you through its paces. Robert Plant could have justifiably been considered a virtuoso from the minute that he began working with Led Zeppelin, but he thought that Led Zeppelin III was the first time that he actually started sounding like a singer.

Granted, it’s not like Plant sounded like Bob Dylan with a sore throat on the first Zeppelin albums. When looking through the back catalogue of songs like ‘Whole Lotta Love’ and ‘Dazed and Confused’, most artists would only dream of singing with that kind of passion on record. Compared to every other rock singer, Plant sounded like a banshee whenever he sang and often slipped in whatever blues shoutouts he could.

After all, the band was initially supposed to be a new iteration of The Yardbirds, so it wasn’t out of the question for Plant to fall back on old blues traditions, especially when tearing through ‘The Lemon Song’. Once fans heard Led Zeppelin III, they could tell something was slightly different.

Dominated by acoustic guitars and having a more homespun feel, the band’s third outing is a bit of an odd duck in their catalogue. There are still great bluesy hard rockers like ‘Immigrant Song’ and ‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’, but they more often than not take a back seat to the more downtempo songs like ‘That’s the Way’ and ‘Tangerine’.

Looking back on his career, Plant thought that his singing on the first few albums paled in comparison to what he did here, telling Cameron Crowe, “I was shouting too much on the first album. I stopped shouting a little bit by the second album. By the third one, I finally learned how to sing.”

Although it would be treason to say that the first Zeppelin albums sounded bad, it’s easy to see where Plant is coming from in terms of singing diversity. The songs were definitely a departure from the hard rock everyone was used to, but only someone who is taking care of their voice properly was going to be able to pull off going from ‘Immigrant Song’ to ‘Friends’ to ‘Celebration Day’ in the first three tracks on an album.

That kind of diversity probably had a hand in pushing Zeppelin forward as well. There were still some downtempo moments Plant indulged in on songs like ‘Thank You,’ but without the diverse array of influences on this album, there’s no telling whether they had the ability to push themselves further when working on Physical Graffiti.

More than anything, Led Zeppelin III shows the moment when Plant went from the wild man out front to one of the most accomplished vocalists of his time. Most artists didn’t worry about proper technique every time they went into the studio, but this is where ‘Percy’ stopped being just a belter and tried to become the kind of singer that comes once every generation.

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