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Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin IV CD (album) cover


Led Zeppelin


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4.39 | 1060 ratings

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5 stars Led Zeppelin's fourth studio album has held a place in my heart ever since I first heard it. It is at once an amazing exhibit of one of classic rock's finest (if most unrestrained) acts and a very close cousin to progressive rock music.

"Black Dog" Kicking off with a short, psychedelic sound, things get cranked up just as soon as Robert Plant opens his mouth. Page plays that famous riff after each line, only changing things up after each verse. Drummer John Bonham makes sure everyone knows he is there, thrashing away at his drums, and it is John Paul Jones who keeps the rhythm tightly intact. The lead guitar is almost as thrilling as the overall song itself.

"Rock and Roll" A staple of classic rock radio as well as of television advertising, this is a highly accessible and fun blues-rock song. Page treats listeners to some down-to-earth soloing while Bonham pounds away at his drums, particularly his open hi-hat, offering a short solo before the conclusion of the song.

"Battle of Evermore" The straightforward classic rock music ends with the first two songs, as the true genius of Led Zeppelin swoops in with the introduction of an eerie mandolin. The acoustic guitar with the mandolin transports the listener to a faraway Tolkienesque land. Late folk singer Sandy Denny sits in on this one, complimenting Plant's voice perfectly; she is the only guest ever on a Led Zeppelin studio album. While Plant sings as a narrator, Denny's role is that of a town crier in this song of a legendary and mythical war. Together their voices create a haunting impression. It is songs like these that make it impossible to choose a favorite from this album.

"Stairway to Heaven" Decidedly one of the most sought after songs on classic rock radio, this is one of the great points when Led Zeppelin was at their most progressive. There are three distinct sections to the song. The first consists of that iconic acoustic guitar riff that nearly every boy who had ever taken his hand to the guitar desired to play. Melancholic flute and nearly weeping vocals set the tone for this excellent and altogether dreary masterpiece. The second section is just as impressive as the first, with an electric twelve-string, acoustic guitar, and thundering bass. I always anticipate Bonham's drums, as they don't show up until halfway through the piece, but when they arrive, they impart authority and energy to the music. The elusive lyrics were actually the result of spontaneity, and for some reason have made this song a staple of funerals for many years. The third section is by far the heaviest. Despite its simplicity, Page's solo at the end of the song is considered one of the quintessential guitar solos of classic rock. Plant's words, still shrouded in mystery, are shrieked with passion, and as he holds out one chilling syllable, Page releases sounds on his guitar that are almost magical. The song ends with one final line, sung in the silence.

"Misty Mountain Hop" Highly innovative in its structure, Page plays an intriguing but simple three-note riff, with Jones on the electric piano, and Bonham again bashing away on his kit. The song blends a dynamic approach with plain good fun; the vocals- the melody and the lyrics- are at once playful and exciting. The vocal harmonies are great also, and the ending with that repeated line is something I have always liked. This is just one I can't help but bob my head with.

"Four Sticks" Once again, this is Led Zeppelin at their best and perhaps most creative, using more complex time signatures. This one was frustrating to record, and many of the takes captured for this song are the result of pent-up aggravation. The title comes from how Bonham used four drumsticks instead of the usual two. The acoustic section (featuring a great-sounding bass) is refreshing after the wild ride that is the main riff over which Plant wails. The vocal melody is ear-catching, and Jones has a small Moog part.

"Going to California" Things calm down with one more acoustic song, again with a great vocal melody. The mandolin makes a reappearance here. The lyrics are as lovely as the delicate acoustic guitar, even when Plant does a bit of shrieking. This is one that's always fun to play and sing for a small gathering, and is one of my favorite Led Zeppelin songs.

"When the Levee Breaks" This last song is a revamped (and partly rewritten) version of the original by Kansas Joe McCoy and his wife Memphis Minnie. There's a lot of subtle experimentation on this one, such as Bonham playing his drums in a three-story stairwell, backwards harmonica, backwards echo, phasing, and some interesting panning. It does maintain a blues feel, but overall, this is a wild example of what Led Zeppelin was capable of in the studio.

Epignosis | 5/5 |


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