Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Led Zeppelin IV (1971)


What can I possibly say about the record that hasn’t been said before, as it’s one of the most famous albums in rock history? Of course, it doesn’t deserve its reputation which is for the most part due to ‘Stairway To Heaven’: the immense popularity of the song dragged the album along with it.

It isn’t a bad album, of course, and if there is any such thing as a ‘great’ Led Zeppelin album, this is probably their last one. Of course, it isn’t even a Led Zeppelin album: see, there’s just nothing on the cover to guarantee you it’s Led Zeppelin. Ha! Ha! What proof do we have that these songs are actually played by the band itself? They forgot to put their names on it! I call the record IV since I like sequels, but in reality it can’t be called at all. You have to say, ‘oh, that one with no name, with the runes on the cover’. Actually, that’s what most people do…

‘Black Dog’ opens the album on a high note: the tradition of breaking through with an uncompromised dirty rocker isn’t broken. Of course, the intoxicating riff doesn’t have anything to do with Jimmy Page, and the song construction reminds me of both Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Oh Well’ and the Who’s version of ‘Young Man Blues’, but, hell, maybe I’m asking for too much? Not everybody can be original. And the atmosphere of the song certainly doesn’t have anything to do with the Who, not to mention Fleetwood Mac. It’s just your average dark, offensive cock rock, with the band in top form.

‘Rock And Roll’ follows it with a Little Richard’s ‘Keep-A-Knockin” drum intro rip-off and a sound that sure gets me going: if it weren’t for ‘Stairway’, this would certainly be my pick for best song on here. Because nobody had ever done fast heavy boogie-woogie before, certainly not The Who or Jeff Beck. Believe it or not, but the more heavy classic rock and roll gets, the more exciting it is. The song’s nostalgic lyrics aren’t very appropriate, of course, but would you like to hear more of Plant’s cockrocking? Guess not… Breathtaking! Whoopee!

Next comes one of the two songs I absolutely can’t stand on the album. ‘Battle Of Evermore’ is probably the most pretentious they ever got, at least in this glorious early age. And you know I don’t mind pretentiousness if it’s deserved pretentiousness. But nothing saves the song: neither Page’s mandolin strumming (was it a mandolin? I’m not too sure), nor Fairport Convention member Sandy Denny’s backing vocals manage to score when it comes round to Plant’s total and absolute ruining of what could have been a passable medieval-style ditty. ‘The Queen of Light took her bow’? Robbie, I’m a big Tolkien fan as well, but I never humiliated myself to writing talentless, ridiculous rip-offs of his meticulously elaborated poetry. Gosh! And of course, the song is ’embellished’ by multiple howlings, wailings and laments until you get the feeling of standing in the midst of a funeral ceremony. Sheez, people, if you’re intelligent enough to distinguish genius from parody, stay away from this song. It’s almost as bad as Uriah Heep-patented second-hand mysticism, and even worse.

Don’t stay away from ‘Stairway To Heaven’, though. I mean, maybe it would’ve been better if it were an instrumental (just like Spirit’s ‘Taurus’ which it was obviously ripped off from – well, maybe that’s why they actually did add on the lyrics), ’cause Plant’s biblical allusions tend to evade me, but at least he isn’t obnoxious. Don’t get me wrong: the song is gruesomely, terribly, incredibly overrated. I could easily name tons of songs that aren’t any worse or are even better. The Who, for one thing, seem to hit the same mark with ‘Pure And Easy’, and do it in a much more effective way (although I’m not a great fan of its overbloated lyrics, either).

The general fuss and craze are certainly hyped up, carried along with that long-haired, pot-smokin’ Seventies spirit. But despite all this, the song is absolutely amazing, if only for the fact that it features Page’s first (if not the last) successful creative fiddling around with the acoustic guitar: the melody is certainly his finest hour with the band. I still don’t know whether the ‘heavy’ part of the song fits in right, though, although the solo is really really good. Unfortunately, this was the start of all generic heavy metal ballads; talkin’ about bad influences again!

The next two songs I could easily live without. ‘Misty Mountain Hop’ too often ends up sounding like an Eastern mantra set to a heavy rhythm track (‘wal-king in-the-park-jus’-the-o-ther-day-ba-by…’, yech!). It’s horrible, and the fact that it immediately follows ‘Stairway’ kinda brings us down on earth from heaven: yes, it’s the same shitty band that did ‘Immigrant Song’ a year ago! Nah, just kidding. ‘Immigrant Song’ is quite tolerable. ‘Hop’, on the other hand, is their first totally disastrous heavy metal song. Bringing experimentation into hard rock? Stay away! ‘Four Sticks’ is listenable, but hardly much better, the best thing about it being Bonham’s drumming (who uses four sticks, actually). Just a very bland and unmemorable song.

Luckily for us and for critics (I mean, it saves their reputations), the album finishes with a decent ballad (‘Going To California’, which starts as a charming folk song and becomes yet another Tolkien-raving at the end; fortunately, since the beginning is good, I’m not as troubled about the end) and a wall-rattling ‘When The Levee Breaks’ which has no original melody at all (c’mon, it’s a blues), but has their most outstanding arrangement ever: the surprising, almost poisonously bashing drums, vicious slide guitars and electronically affected harmonicas make the picture bloody as hell. Hey! It’s a concept album! The first side ends with a ‘heavenly’ ballad (‘Stairway’), and the second side ends with an ‘apocalyptic’ blues. Hmm, never thought of it before.

Oh, well, anyway, it’s the band’s songwriting peak. Nowhere near as impressive as the debut album, mainly because that one was genuine and youthfully enthusiastic, while this one is fake and commercially pretentious, but the songs themselves cannot be beat. If you’re not a diehard, stop right here and go no further.

December 21, 2013 - Posted by | Led Zeppelin IV |


  1. I see…you are clearly due an opinion, but how can you deny the best media writers of two generations and the minion of musician followers that hail Zep IV as one of the top 10 albums in rock history (that’s not including the 37,000,000 units sold )? From songwriting to studio production techniques to brand marketing (the mysterious album design), it is and will always be considered groundbreaking.
    .The fact that you use the term “hype” in the same review of a Led Zeppelin album in the year 2013 says it all…I will reiterate, everyone has an opinion but not necessarily any innate understanding of a music genre. .

    Comment by Phil | December 22, 2013 | Reply

    • Wasn’t my review, it was a repost from another page (first line in body of text says ‘From’.

      Comment by Jerry | December 23, 2013 | Reply

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