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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 IV is often looked upon as rock's monolithic masterpiece, and is frequently included in 'best of rock' albums lists. These accolades are entirely warranted, undoubtedly; however, as everyone else has said on here already, it's not a prog album. That obviously wasn't the group's intent. There are moments of artistic brilliance on here, but not in the same vein as King Crimson's artistic brilliance, or even Bob Dylan's artistic brilliance. Maybe Page was right when he claimed that rock classifications and labels were restrictive...but maybe that's because his band was so distinctive. The musical influences are incredibly varied on here, more-so than any other Led Zeppelin album. It's almost an amalgam of the sounds of all their previous albums, with new ideas and musical notions thrown into the mix. Page's fascination with the occult and Plant's intrigue in fantasy literature (most notable Tolkien's works) are more ubiquitous here than on any other album they'd released, most significantly on the track "The Battle of Evermore". They also included some scathing sarcasm on here, specifically on "Misty Mountain Hop".


"Black Dog" Although it isn't conspicuous to the un-trained ear (like my own), this song is actually quite progressive in nature. It's built on two separate rhythms, or a polyrhythm, similarly to Genesis's "Watcher of the Skies". However, it's quite evidently a blues composition, and has no allusions to any other genre of music whatsoever. The genius of this track, though, is the way the group pauses the music at just the most sublime moments. It's not a philosophical, lyrically complex masterpiece, but it is arguably quite progressive (however, once again, only in construction, not in influence or sound). Rating: 9.3/10 Prog rating: 5/10

"Rock and Roll" I once heard Led Zeppelin IV described as a dramatic record, straight through; everything about it seems mystical and epic, and even intellectual, at times. You'd think that "Rock and Roll" would obstruct such a statement. However, Plant's expeditious vocals, Page's greasy guitar, and Bonham's whirlwind drums make for a surprisingly complex and thorough recording. It's quite obviously not complicated in the traditional sense; the composition is thoroughly simplistic. It's the way the instruments progressively work together to achieve that perfect, sleazy, bluesy, hard rock sound that make it so memorable. Rating: 10/10 Prog rating: 5/10

"The Battle of Evermore" "Evermore" is arguably Zeppelin's understated masterpiece. The mandolin is absolutely divine, and the antiphony provided by Sandy Denny tops it off. Plant's lyrics here pull off the Lord of the Rings references much more meticulously and impeccably than in the laughable "Ramble On", and they perfectly suit the music. Rating: 10/10 Prog rating: 6.4/10

"Stairway to Heaven" Don't be fooled by the songs length; although prog bands generally pull off epics quite well, other rock categorizations generally blunder in this area ("Time Has Come Today" by the Chambers Brothers; "Goin' Home" by the Rolling Stones). "Stairway" doesn't have a single boring or uninteresting moment; it's faultless progression until the immaculate climax makes the song interesting, the whole way through. I'll admit, some of its perfection has been spoiled by radio stations constantly playing it, but this is a minor blemish on the face of rock's magnum opus. It isn't as strictly progressive as some of their other tracks, but it's certainly worth a listen. Heck, the listen should be mandatory. If you haven't heard this song at least once, what rock have you been living under for the past 39 years? Rating: 10/10 Prog rating: 7.5/10

"Misty Mountain Hop" This track contains, in my opinion, Plant's greatest lyrical achievement, mostly because of his acrimonious sarcasm. The song itself isn't quite as sensational as some of the album's more refined tracks, but it certainly holds its weight when it comes to brilliant lyricism. Its structure is quite experimental, compositionally, but what Zepp songs don't have some experimentation in them? Rating: 8.9/10 Prog rating: 5/10

"Four Sticks" Continuing with their endless innovation and musical experimentation, this song is in...what time? 5/4? I'll have to re-examine it. But it's certainly one of their more progressive outings, and likely the most progressive on the entire record. Along with "The Battle of Evermore", I think an argument could easily be made as to why this song ranks among Zepp's best and most underrated. Rating: 10/10 Prog rating: 8/10

"Going to California" Easily the group's best folk output. I thoroughly enjoy Robert Plant's baritone vocal performance on here; it's much more subtle and much less irritating than his usual high-pitched wailing. Rating: 10/10 Prog rating: 5/10

"When the Levee Breaks" Ooh, boy, there's a lot to cover here. "Levee" is what you get when you combine Brian Eno's studio manipulation, King Crimson's experimental time signature shifting, Miles Davis's song structure, and Robert Johnson's blues. Quite an interesting amalgamation, if I do say so myself. This track is everything that's great about Led Zeppelin, and much, much more. As was the situation with "Stairway", this song continually builds until it reaches a beyond-satisfying conclusion. The studio direction here is untouchable; even the best of Eno or Phil Spector fall short when compared to this masterpiece (well...that may be a bit of a stretch, but it really is nearly entirely unimpaired). The rhythmic style here is quite varying; the structure is constantly changing and shifting, something that Zeppelin could, surprisingly enough, pull off consummately. And, to top it all off, Zeppelin's idiosyncratic version of the blues makes this track so memorable, and arguably the highlight of their entire career. Or at least one of them. Rating: 10/10 Prog rating: 9/10

Rating: A+ Prog rating: N/A

classicprogsovereign | 5/5 |


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