Led Zeppelin II is the second studio album by the English rock band Led Zeppelin, released in October 1969 on Atlantic Records. Recording sessions for the album took place at several locations in the United Kingdom and North America from January to August 1969. Production was entirely credited to lead guitarist and songwriter Jimmy Page, while it also served as Led Zeppelin's first album to utilise the recording techniques of engineer Eddie Kramer.
Led Zeppelin II furthered the lyrical themes established on their debut album, creating a work that became more widely acclaimed and influential than its predecessor. With elements of blues and folk music, it also exhibits the band's evolving musical style of blues-derived material and their guitar and riff-based sound. It is the considered the band's heaviest album.
Upon release, Led Zeppelin II earned a considerable amount of sales and was Led Zeppelin's first album to reach #1 in the UK and the US. In 1970, art director David Juniper was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Recording Package for the album. On 15 November 1999, it was certified 12x Platinum by the RIAA for sales in excess of 12 million copies. Following its initial reception, it has been recognised by writers and music critics as one of the greatest and most influential rock albums ever recorded.
Led Zeppelin II also features experimentation with other musical styles and approaches, as on the alternately soft-and-loud "What Is and What Should Never Be" and "Ramble On" (which featured Page's acoustic guitar), or the pop-influenced ballad "Thank You". With its mysterious atmospherics, "Ramble On" helped develop hard rock's association with fantasythemes, which had been partly derived from the psychedelic rock genre of two to three years before, but also from Plant's personal interest in the writings of J. R. R. Tolkien. This musical direction would later culminate on Led Zeppelin IV (and countless subsequent groups would later carry the influence to further extremes). Conversely, the instrumental "Moby Dick" features an extended drum solo by John Bonham, which would be extended further during Led Zeppelin concert performances sometimes for as long as half an hour.
Page's contribution to this album was significant, as his electric guitar solo on the song "Heartbreaker" was emulated by many younger rock guitarists, and exemplifies the group's intense musical attack. Led Zeppelin II is the band's first album to feature Page playing a 1959 Gibson Les Paul, the electric guitar he helped popularise. His innovative recording and drum miking effects on tracks such as "Ramble On" and "Whole Lotta Love" also demonstrated his considerable skill, resourcefulness and originality as a producer. Rolling Stonemagazine later called Page's guitar riff for the latter song "one of the most exhilarating guitar riffs in rock & roll." John Paul Jones later discussed Page's contributions:
Jimmy started coming into his own as a producer around "Whole Lotta Love". The backwards echo stuff. A lot of the microphone techniques were just inspired. Everybody thinks he goes into the studio with huge walls of amps, but he doesn't. He uses a really small amp and he just mic's it up really well, so it fits into a sonic picture.
The album's material also marked a certain honing of Plant's vocal approach, and signalled his emergence as a serious songwriter. Plant's name had previously been absent from the songwriting credits of the band's first album due to the previous contractual commitments that resulted from his earlier association with CBS Records as a solo artist. His influence on tracks such as "What Is and What Should Never Be" and "Ramble On" were pointers to the band's musical future. Plant has commented that it was only during the sessions forLed Zeppelin II that he started to feel at home as a vocalist in the studio with Led Zeppelin. In a 2008 interview for Uncut, he stated "[During Led Zep I (1969) as far as I was concerned, I thought that I was going to [leave the band] anyway. I didn't feel that comfortable because there were a lot of demands on me vocally—which there were all the way through the Zeppelin thing. And I was quite nervous and didn't really get into enjoying it until II."