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.
Within eighteen months three members of this band had gone from total obscurity to part of the best known rock band in the world. By the end of 1971 world domination was such that they could release their fourth album without any sleeve notes, no band image or song titles on the sleeve either. Therefore it has since been called by fans a variety of names from the obvious ‘Led Zeppelin IV’ to the less obvious ‘Runes’ after its many Lord of the Rings references to ‘Four Symbols’. Or ‘Zosa’ after its inside cover motif, or plain old ‘No Title’. Still, on pre-sales it went to #1 all over the world, being released on November 8th and staying at #1 into the New Year. Over the years it has probably generated enough sales to run a fairly large country.
In the last thirty-two years it has won just about every accolade there is to get. Voted the best rock record ever in such illustrious magazines as ‘Classic Rock Revisited’, `Rolling Stone’, ‘Q’, ‘Mojo’, and even the Pattaya Mail. (We just had a vote Toto, Ella Crew, Andy, and Led Zeppelin experts Lars Fieste, John Osborne, Graham Rudd, Dai Coe, and the Dog – it was unanimous.)
If you had wanted to put together a super group in 1971 all you would of had to do was put together Led Zeppelin, and there you are you had it. Out of the ashes of the `Yardbirds’ founding member Jimmy Page created Led Zeppelin (well, he had to, all the others had left). The new band did one tour of Scandinavia as ‘The New Yardbirds’.
Jimmy Page originally joined the `Yardbirds’ as bassist, but switched to lead guitar to give the band a duel pronged guitar attack with a certain Jeff Beck on the other axe. Jimmy Page had long been a top session player, playing most famously on the Kinks’ `You Really Got Me’ famous guitar riff that almost invented heavy metal music. In Jimmy Page Led Zeppelin had a man with a vision as well as a guitarist that could shred the wallpaper off your walls one second and be as gentle as a snowflake the next.
Robert Plant had quickly become the template of what a singer in a rock band looked and sounded like. His unique style of whoops, whines, and yells became his trademark. With his clear vocals he could always put across the stories he wanted to tell in his song writing partnership with Jimmy Page.
Bass player John Paul Jones also had a previous successful career as a session player, but was completely unknown outside the inner music circles. His quiet nature, his bass playing skills, keyboard work, and help with the song writing were integral parts in the band and essential to its well being.
Then behind the drums was the man to set standards of rock ‘n’ roll to the present day, even after his tragic death more than twenty years ago, Mr. John Bonham. (I mean even his name sounds like a drummer.) This God of Thunder only got the job because he went down with Robert Plant to keep him company on his journey from Birmingham, England, to audition for the band. The rest – as they say – is history.
Is Led Zeppelin’s fourth album as good as its reputation? Has it stood the test of time?
Stupid questions, of course it does. You get eight tracks all of which are classic. The opening one-two of the first couple of tracks allay any fears of fans that thought they might delve back further into their folksy roots after the rather laid back ‘Led Zeppelin III’ of the previous year. But the year of constant touring had honed their natural rocking instincts.
As soon as Robert Plant leads the band off with those immortal lines,
`Hey, Hey Mama, said the way you move,
Gonna make You sweat Gonna make You groove,
My, My Child when You shake that thing,
Gonna make you burn, Gonna make You sting.`…
…you know you are off into totally politically incorrect rock ‘n’ roll heaven. The band then comes in with `Black Dog’s thunderous riff and off they all fly roaring straight the way through until you go without a second to catch your breath into the ‘Rock and Roll’ opening drum intro. What do you expect to get with a title like this? Page just peels off one riff after another, building them up to a shattering crescendo. John Paul Jones backs this up with some of the busiest fret work ever laid down in a studio by a mere mortal of his chosen profession. As for John (Bonzo) Bonham, he is a man at the height of his powers having the time of his life.
Other tracks include the wonderful ‘Four Sticks’, so called because John Bonham gets the sound he wanted for the song drummed with four sticks simultaneously. (Obvious, isn’t it, when you think about it.) An acoustic ballad in ‘Going to California’. A keyboard orientated rocker in ‘Misty Mountain Top’, which on any other album, by any other band, would be the center piece of any collection. However, on this album it sometimes gets overlooked by its surroundings, but comes across as a real delight in the context of the album. There is also a raging folksy tale told with Robert Plant giving full reign to his Tolkien whims in the wonderful ‘The Battle of Evermore’, with some dexterous mandolin played by Jimmy Page. Robert Plant is able to display his vocal chops in his duet with Sandy Denny (ex-Fairport Convention), who in her illustrious but tragic career had probably never sung so sweet.
The album closes with one of the darkest songs Led zeppelin ever recorded ‘When the Levee Breaks’, a blues as only Led Zeppelin can play, with Robert Plant’s vocals and harmonica play and Jimmy Page’s guitar to the fore as the others lay down a rock solid spine to the song.
This was Led Zeppelin’s finest hour, and therefore rightly holds the claim to #1 album of all time.
Oh by the way it also includes ‘Stairway to Heaven’. Does any body remember laughter?
Up until the time I was about 17 years old, I hated Led Zeppelin. Don’t ask me why; I just couldn’t stand them. The truth was that I had never really heard their music, but being young, narrow-minded in my tastes of music and fairly stupid, I wasn’t willing to give them a try.
Then, the revelation occurred. Every year in the Chicagoland area, a special used record sale is held to help benefit research for a cure to ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. In the tent of the Mammoth Music Mart, they had a few battered Led Zeppelin albums for a dollar each. Figuring I wouldn’t be out too much if I hated them, I bought the albums, and took them home. It just so happened that the first album I gave a shot on the turntable was their untitled fourth album. (Side note: Many people mistakenly assume that this album is titled Led Zeppelin IV, or that the runes that represent each band member are the title — even though Billboard used them to identify the album on their charts. In fact, there is no title for this album.)
Pow — the realization of who this band was and their ultimate power hit me like a cab racing to pick up a fare. What the hell had I been thinking all these years? It took me far too long to learn what people who first heard this album in 1971 knew: it’s a timeless classic.
Led Zeppelin were coming off the critical drubbing they received for Led Zeppelin III, a more acoustic, experimental album for the band. What guitarist Jimmy Page, vocalist Robert Plant, bassist John Paul Jones and drummer John Bonham could not have realized was that they were about to re-write rock history with their fourth album. Still staying in a slightly acoustic vein for a few numbers, it also marked a return to the blues for Led Zeppelin, albeit in their own unique style.bim_ad_daily_vault_print_250
The opening number, “Black Dog,” exemplifies their own style of the blues, with a vocal from Plant that almost sounds free-form, followed by the rest of the band punctuating what Plant said with their riffs. Wisely, Page saves his guitar pyrotechnics for the end of the song, allowing the whole band to shape the voice of this number. The blues continues with an in-your-face 12-bar number, “Rock And Roll,” and it completes the album with the plodding “When The Levee Breaks,” a number that is driven by Bonham’s snare and bass drums.
Acoustically, Led Zeppelin build on the styles they began to develop on Led Zeppelin III (although they abandon any country motifs they had, as on “Tangerine”), and turn it into more of a folk vein. Their collaboration with Sandy Denny (to my knowledge, one of the few times that the band brought in an additional musician) on “The Battle Of Evermore” was sure to shock the long-time fans of the band — no guitars, just mandolin? Thing is, Denny’s vocals seemed to be the perfect yin to Plant’s yang, and the instrumental arrangement also works to everyone’s benefit. Likewise, “Going To California” is a pretty arrangement, featuring guitar and mandolin. It is one of Plant’s most moving vocal performances in his career with Led Zeppelin.
The two tracks that return Zeppelin to a rock vein all their own, “Misty Mountain Hop” and “Four Sticks,” are unique animals in and of themselves, each one featuring a member of the band that normally didn’t get the spotlight. Jones’s organ work is a driving force on “Misty Mountain Hop,” which might seem a little too hippy-drippy these days. Bonham’s incredible work on the drums is evidenced on “Four Sticks,” pounding out a rhythm pattern that I’ve never been able to figure out. If you want proof that Bonham was one of the greatest rock drummers ever, this song is exhibit “A.”
And then, there is “Stairway To Heaven,” possibly the most played song in FM radio history — and also a song that has never been commercially released as a single. (It was released as a promo in 1971, and as a special 20th anniversary promo in 1991 — I had that 1991 promo, and gave it to my father earlier this year.) What can be said about this song that hundreds of thousands of voices haven’t already said? I think what seals this song’s eternal staying power is its slow build from minimal instrumental arrangement into a grand piece with Page’s trademark guitar solo at the end. Overlooked in this, I feel, is Page’s acoustic work; his gentle chords in the first half of the song are just as powerful as the intense electric work he throws in.
The drawback to releasing an album this good is that it’s bound to get overplayed on the radio — and this particular album, to some, has overstayed its welcome. True, oversaturating the airwaves with these eight songs does tend to take away their power when you listen to them in the guise of the album. That being said, there still is something magical about hearing this album in its entirety that radio will never take away from it.
There are few albums that I declare are works that everyone must own — and this is easily the first one I’d tell people to pick up.
Led Zeppelin‘s fourth studio album, which has no proper title but is commonly referred to as Led Zeppelin IV, may well be the pinnacle of the band’s early sound. Over time it has become their most popular album by far but, ironically, it is the only album in a string of six consecutive (from Led Zeppelin II in 1969 to In Through the Out Door in 1979) that did not reach #1 on the charts, as it peaked at #2.
This new, fourth album is where it would all came together for the band, with the confluence of the different themes and styles that Zeppelin had explored through their first three years and first three albums as well as with many, many happy accidents. The result is an album which contains moments that will forever be etched in rock history.
Their previous album, Led Zeppelin III released on October 5, 1970, was a critical and commercial disappointment at the time (although it would gain much appreciation and esteem years later). This was due mainly to its high content of acoustic and folk songs, which deviated from the bands heavier, blues based approach of their first two albums, but was the band’s attempt to branch out to other styles and genres from those that established their original success.
In time, Zeppelin would become one of the most diverse rock bands ever, incorporating elements from blues, jazz, folk, country, funk, reggae, as well as developing their own distinct styles that would be echoed in heavy metal, arena rock, and jam bands for decades to come. But in late 1970, Jimmy Page, the band’s lead guitarist and sole producer, was especially stung by the harsh critique and weak sales of their latest album and wanted to get a new album out as soon as possible, as he was brimming with ideas. He got together with Robert Plant, Zeppelin’s dynamic vocalist and chief lyricist, to work on some these new concepts, the first of which was an extended piece that was intended to be a replacement for the band’s live showcase “Dazed and Confused”, which dates back to the band’s first album.
Put together from a couple of instrumental pieces, written on several 6 and 12 string guitars, the song “Stairway to Heaven” would go on to not only be the band’s most famous song, but the most requested song ever on FM radio. The song draws lyrical influence from Welsh folklore, and musical influence from multiple areas, depending on the part of the song, of which there are three distinct, set back to back in sequence. It starts with Page’s finger-picked, folk acoustic accompanied by recorders played by bassist and keyboardist John Paul Jones. After a few poetic verses, the song enters the pivital second part, a madrigal played on an electric 12-string, with ever intensive verses and refrains. One of the absolute best moments in rock history is when drummer John Bonham makes his entrance at about 4 ½ minutes into the song’s duration, adding the rhythmic element that finally breaks the tension and reminds us that, although massively overplayed through the years, this IS the definitive Led Zeppelin signature. The song’s finale is a heavy, electric jam with overdubbed guitars and high-majestic vocals, bringing the song to the heights before concluding with a calm refrain with an a capella vocal.
Recording for the fourth album started at Island Studios in London in December, 1970. Jethro Tull was in the studio at the same time recording Aqualung, and Led Zeppelin wanted a little more space to be creative. So they found an old estate in the English countryside called Headley Grange and moved there for better atmosphere. Here they could hunt in the forest by day, drink tea at the proper hour, and gather around the campfire at night, with moments of inspiration for recording in between. This was possible due to the latest technical innovation, the Rolling Stones mobile studio, a portable, professional recording unit, that was used for some of the classic albums of the early seventies. It was brought to Headley Grange by that band’s road manager, Ian Stewart, who was also a piano virtuoso and would ultimately contribute to the songs “Rock and Roll” and “Boogie With Stu” during these sessions.
Aside from “Stairway to Heaven”, the band did not have any fully developed songs coming into these recording sessions, which left open the opportunity for the many “creative accidents” that would make up this fouth album, several of which involved Bonham. The drummer was having trouble with the odd timings involved with the song that would become “Four Sticks” (in fact, the song got its title when Bonham, in frustration, actually did a take with four sticks in his hands), and took a break from trying by kicking into the straight-forward, 4/4 beat of “Good Golly, Miss Molly”. Page joined in with an improvised riff, and the song “Rock and Roll” was born. That signature, opening beat that Bonham played would become one of the most recognizable intros in rock history.
Another unplanned composition is “The Battle of Evermore”, which was the result of Page picking up a mandolin brought in by Jones and composing a distinct piece, that was originally intended to be a short instrumental, but built into a Medieval folk song when Jones added an acoustic and Plant added vocals and lyrics and even wrote a separate vocal part for a “town crier”, which was later performed by folk singer Sandy Denny, the only guest singer to ever appear in a Led Zeppelin song.
While at Headley Grange, the band wrote and recorded the bulk of the rest of the album, including the heavier songs like “Misty Mountain Hop”, “When the Levee Breaks”, and “Black Dog”, which was actually named for a stray black lab that kept coming around the place. Also, the band recorded many songs that would left off the album, like “Down By the Seaside”, “Night Flight”, “Black Country Woman” and the afore mentioned “Boogie With Stu”. Page toyed with the idea of releasing a double album, but didn’t want the necessary delay in release that would be required for such an undertaking. Unfortunately, the album would be delayed anyway for several months because of mixing problems and the abrupt departure of an audio engineer. Even though all recording was wrapped up by late February, 1971, Led Zeppelin’s fourth album would not be released until November 8th of that year.
Beyond, the production issues, Page also got some heavy static from Atlantic Records on several fronts. The executives not only had concerns with the album’s cover art, but had a very big problem with Page’s plan to not include the band’s name on the exterior jacket nor give the album a proper title. The executives and marketing “specialists” at the record company called this strategy an act of “career suicide”, but Page was adamant in his quest to “let the music do the talking”. This strategy also included avoiding any of the normal publicity associated with releasing a new album, especially press releases and access.
The only definitive markings with this album were the personal symbols that each member constructed of their own design. The exact meaning of these “four symbols” has never been revealed much by the band members, especially Page, who came up with the concept and whose own symbol, an odd script that appears to spell out the word “Zoso”, is the most mysterious of all. After reluctantly agreeing to this peculiar concept, Atlantic distributed graphics of the four symbols to the trade magazines.
The final fight with the record company, involved the song “Stairway to Heaven”, which Atlantic desperately wanted to release as a single, but Page refused because doing so what mean that it would have to be edited from its running time of 7:50, and this was completely unacceptable. As it turns out, this refusal along with the album’s unplanned, delayed release built up so much anticipation among fans that it contributed to thousands upon thousands of sales over an extended period of time.
The real genius of Led Zeppelin IV is just how unique, unconventional, and unaware this album’s creation was. There is virtually nothing fabricated, it is pure rock n roll. John Bonham displays amazing efficiency, playing on only about 5 1/2 of the album’s 8 tracks, but making an indelible impression while he is there, with some of the most memorable drum beats in history. John Paul Jones, a virtuoso bass player, contributes piano, synths, recorders, acoustic guitar, and even some vocals. Robert Plant, a vocalist at the height of his fame due to his signature, high-pitched wails, tones it back where appropriate, especially on the lighter, folk-influenced songs like “Going to California”. Jimmy Page, perhaps the greatest producer since George Martin, is still ambitious enough to make something truly unique, while still unafraid to “borrow” from some of the great genres of the past.
It’s so refreshing that a band at this stage, going into their fourth album with a lot success already in the bag, would make an album that reaches the fringes of rock without a self-aware agenda to do so.
This album, with its title-less cover, (it is called, and obviously now accepted, as “Led Zeppelin IV, even though it offically has no title) is, in all honesty, legendary. It is, in my opinion, and most Zeppelin fan’s opinion, their best. It has sold the most copies by far. 22,000,000 copies to date. (a stat from 1999) That places Led Zeppelin IV at number 7 on the all-time, best selling albums list. Every single track on this album is well known, and most people have heard of them before. It includes the famous song “Stairway to Heaven.” Quite possibly the most famous rock song ever. And the best part about it, Zeppelin didn’t even put out a single. And also, they were well known for being camera shy, giving very few interviews.
Led Zeppelin is an all-star band. Robert Plant is an great singer with the ability to hit all of those high notes, and isn’t afraid to do it. Although he might take some time to get used to. Jimmy Page is one of the best guitarists of all-time, enough said. John Paul Jones is a great musician, with many talents, and he is great with any instrument. John Bonham is an amazing drummer. He tragically passed away in 1980 from “drowning in his own vomit” after consuming an in-human ammount of vodka.
1. Black Dog – My favorite on the album after “Stairway To Heaven”, “Black Dog” starts this album of with a bang. You get a good taste of every member in this song, as they all contribute equally. Plant sings a line, and the band responds with a catchy riff. Jimmy Page’s solo is one of the best on the album, which is played over the main riff, and Plant singing in the background. This song is quite well known, and is a good example of why Zeppelin is one of the greatest bands all-time.
2. Rock and Roll – Another well known, pretty generic song by the band. This song has been everywhere, movies, radio, and covered by many bands. A fast, exciting song. The main riff, played by Page and Jones, is catchy and memorable. And of course, you can’t forget about Bonham’s expert talent on the drums.
3. The Battle of Evermore – Just one of the two songs on the album that I am not too fond of. It is an eerie folk ballad, written by Plant. At the time, Plant was obessed over researching religions and mythology. This definiteley shines through with this song.
4. Stairway to Heaven – I am sure you all know of this song. Many think it is over-rated, but not me. Maybe the most famous rock and roll song of all time. I was reading a little bit of a Guitar One magazine last night (February 2004 I believe) and it had a little section were Page talked about writting “Stairway to Heaven”. He said that the guitar riffs came from fooling around with the acoustic guitar in the studio. The band heard it and loved it. They put together the riff together with Jones on the keyboard (an ecential part of this song) and Plant wrote lyrics to it. Jimmy Page’s solo for this song is remarkable. He also talked about the solo in the magazine. How did he write it? He didn’t. He sat down and improvised three solo’s, and picked the one which was best suited for the song. That just shows how great of a musician Page is/was. Ironically, they have found subliminal messages about Satan in this song as well. Many people here on MX have already seen this but if you haven’t, you must check it out.
5. Misty Mountain Top – Yet another classic song. Another one of my favorite rock and roll songs. Page writes the best, most catchy riffs, than any other guitarist I have ever heard. This song is no exception. It has been described perfectly as “a pounding hippie satire.” That is exactly what it is like. Of course, being in their prime in the 70’s, Led Zeppelin was a favorite amongst the “hippie” groups.
6. Four Sticks – An alright song. It has lots of funky riffs, but I just can’t get into it. Plant doesn’t even sound like himself in this song. If I had never heard of it before, I probably wouldn’t have guessed it was a Led Zeppelin song the first time. I have never been able to get into it, but it is my friends favorite song, so I guess it is all a matter of opinion.
7. Going to California – The slowest song on the album is another folk ballad dedicated to Joni Mitchell, the girl out there with love in her eyes and flowers in her hair.” I really enjoy this song, and put it on when I am in a calm mood. Jones plays the mandolin, Page plays fingerpicking an acoustic guitar. Great song.
8. When The Levee Breaks – A twangy (that even a word?), but great blues epic. Great way to end a great album. I love the guitar, and the main riff is played by Plant on the harmonica. He is actually pretty good with that thing. Only complaint I have about it is that, at just over seven minutes, it is kind of long for such a repetitive song. Almost sounds like a country song to me maybe, but don’t disregard this song because of that.
Well, there you go. I have said that it is great album probably a million times, but it really is. If there are any mistakes just let me know. Feel free to do your own review if you wish, I would love to read what you have to say. Thanks.
It might seem a bit incongruous to say that Led Zeppelin — a band never particularly known for its tendency to understate matters — has produced an album which is remarkable for its low-keyed and tasteful subtlety, but that’s just the case here. The march of the dinosaurs that broke the ground for their first epic release has apparently vanished, taking along with it the splattering electronics of their second effort and the leaden acoustic moves that seemed to weigh down their third.
What’s been saved is the pumping adrenaline drive that held the key to such classics as “Communication Breakdown” and “Whole Lotta Love,” the incredibly sharp and precise vocal dynamism of Robert Plant, and some of the tightest arranging and producing Jimmy Page has yet seen his way toward doing. If this thing with the semi-metaphysical title isn’t quite their best to date, since the very chances that the others took meant they would visit some outrageous highs as well as some overbearing lows, it certainly comes off as their most consistently good.
One of the ways in which this is demonstrated is the sheer variety of the album: out of eight cuts, there isn’t one that steps on another’s toes, that tries to do too much all at once. There are Olde Englishe ballads (“The Battle of Evermore” with a lovely performance by Sandy Denny), a kind of pseudo-blues just to keep in touch (“Four Sticks”), a pair of authentic Zeppelinania (“Black Dog” and “Misty Mountain Hop”), some stuff that I might actually call shy and poetic if it didn’t carry itself off so well (“Stairway to Heaven” and “Going To California”) …
… and a couple of songs that when all is said and done, will probably be right up there in the gold-starred hierarchy of put ’em on and play ’em again. The first, coyly titled “Rock And Roll,” is the Zeppelin’s slightly-late attempt at tribute to the mother of us all, but here it’s definitely a case of better late than never. This sonuvabitch moves, with Plant musing vocally on how “It’s been a long, lonely lonely time” since last he rock & rolled, the rhythm section soaring underneath. Page strides up to take a nice lead during the break, one of the all-too-few times he flashes his guitar prowess during the record, and its note-for-note simplicity says a lot for the ways in which he’s come of age over the past couple of years.
The end of the album is saved for “When The Levee Breaks,” strangely credited to all the members of the band plus Memphis Minnie, and it’s a dazzler. Basing themselves around one honey of a chord progression, the group constructs an air of tunnel-long depth, full of stunning resolves and a majesty that sets up as a perfect climax. Led Zep have had a lot of imitators over the past few years, but it takes cuts like this to show that most of them have only picked up the style, lacking any real knowledge of the meat underneath.
Uh huh, they got it down all right. And since the latest issue of Cashbox noted that this ‘un was a gold disc on its first day of release, I guess they’re about to nicely keep it up. Not bad for a pack of Limey lemon squeezers.
Recorded at Headley Grange in Hampshire, Island Studios in London and Sunset Sound in Los Angeles, Led Zeppelin IV is the album that put Led Zeppelin into homes around the world, acting as a successful marriage of the hard rock from their second album with the folkier meanderings of their third. It is an album that demonstrates their subtlety and restraint as much as their stadium-filling grandstanding and it confirmed their superstar rock status.
The actually untitled album (it was also known as Four Symbols or The Runes Album), a chart-topper on both sides of the Atlantic, captures the group’s schizophrenia perfectly. On the one hand, they wallop away through genre-defining rock standards such as “Rock And Roll”, “Black Dog” and “Misty Mountain Hop”; yet on the other, they are gentle and restrained on the folk mysticism of “Going To California” and the Sandy Denny co-sung “The Battle Of Evermore.”
It is on their anthem, “Stairway To Heaven”, however, that both strands come together in perfect accord. Starting as a recorder-driven acoustic folk ballad, it culminates in its closing minutes as a full-on, much emulated rock classic, with Robert Plant’s vocals and Jimmy Page’s guitar both approaching career-bests. Led Zeppelin IV also demonstrates the singular talent that was drummer John Bonham – the blues driven “When The Levee Breaks” is one of the most heavily sampled drum tracks of all time.
With immaculate playing (multi-instrumentalist John Paul Jones’ contributions are not to be underestimated, either), a mystically obscure sleeve, and a remarkable range of tunes, Led Zeppelin IV, is still, for many, the best example of the group’s craft. Robert Plant thinks so himself. He has been quoted saying, simply: “the Fourth Album, that’s it.”