Anniversary Album Review: Led Zeppelin IV

Joe Compton, Writer

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45 years ago yesterday, the legendary rock album “Led Zeppelin IV” was released. It featured some of Led Zeppelin’s best known songs, including Black Dog and Stairway to Heaven. It is the tenth best selling album of all time, as well as taking the 69th spot on Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums Ever.”

The album starts with “Black Dog,” easily the most recognizable Led Zeppelin song of all time. It features a call and response between singer Robert Plant’s vocals and the rest of the band. It then goes to a funkier part with the full band, and then back to the call and response, then to the guitarist, Jimmy Page’s solo. It finishes off with a heavy hitting end.

Up next is “Rock And Roll,” another recognizable song. It is more fast paced than “Black Dog”, and is similar of a Beatles style. It starts of with the full band before a long and fast guitar solo, before returning to the full band, and then closing out with a drum.  I think this is one of drummer John Bonham’s better songs in this album on the drums, as it is most reminiscent of his hard hitting style.

“The Battle of Evermore” has an unusual instrumentation, with Jimmy Page playing mandolin instead of guitar, and bassist John Paul Jones playing an acoustic guitar. It’s also unusual because it is contrary to the electric and close to metal of the regular Led Zeppelin discography. Fairport Convention singer Sandy Denny also came on to accompany Robert Plant. It is somewhat slow paced and kind of folky. The riffs of the guitar and mandolin remain constant, but the volume of the vocals raises and lowers.

“Stairway To Heaven,” Led Zeppelin’s most popular song, starts off slow and quiet, first with an acoustic guitar, then a recorder, then vocals about a minute in. It reminds me of Renaissance music, and this continues for most of the song. The lyrics themselves also make me think of something from a renaissance song, or at least what I think that would be. The transition to the rock part comes about four minutes in, with Bonham finally comes in, and lays down a basic, but groovy beat. Electric guitars also come out during that time, and it becomes progressively faster. At this point, Jimmy Page gets a long solo, with some really nice drum fills from Bonham, and then higher pitched vocals from Plant. The curtains close on the song with a sudden speed and volume drop.

John Paul Jones begins “Misty Mountain Hop” with a funky keyboard riff, which he later continues on bass guitar, with a cool harmony with Page on guitar. the whole song is pretty funky, with a groovy drum track. This song is another one resembling a Beatles like song.

“Four Sticks” is pretty hard hitting and fast. The name comes from John Bonham playing the drums with four sticks instead of the usual two, which turned out really well. John Paul Jones also plays a synthesizer, even though it is hard to hear.

“Going to California” is another folky track, this time with Page on acoustic guitar and Jones on mandolin. Bonham does not play, and Plant sings pretty quietly, with his volume raising for a few bars and then dropping again. There’s an obvious emotion coming from the song, especially Plant’s vocals.

“When The Levee Breaks” starts off with one of my favorite drum intros of all time, and the same rhythm continues with the other instruments. The echoes on Plant’s vocal track adds a new level of weird, but a good kind of weird. Page’s solos are very good, possibly the best in the album. Every member is very good, and I think this is John Bonham’s best song out of any Led Zeppelin song.

Having never listened to a full Led Zeppelin album, I didn’t know what to expect other than the songs I’d listened to, and the hype of it, which it definitely lives up to. My favorite songs are When the “Levee Breaks” and “Black Dog.” Even though I don’t know how it stacks up to the other Zeppelin albums, I would recommend it to anyone first listening to rock music.

Grade: A+

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