Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin Iv
The untitled album proved every bit, if not more controversial in comparison with its predecessor. For a start, it is usually known as IV or ZOSO. In fact it is untitled. ZOSO is the approximation of the letters of the four symbols on its cover which were the only markings on the exterior cover of the album. Indeed, until you opened it up, you had no idea that this was from Led Zeppelin - there was not a marker to suggest anything of the sort. The idea was to see if the music was capable of selling itself. The record company was, understandably chary about it as they felt that, without an easy way of identifying the band, few would buy it. How wrong they were! Knowledge of it spread through word of mouth and it became Led Zep's biggest selling album, shifting over 23 million copies in the US alone since its release.
Another controversy arose around the myths which surrounded the album. These were to have more lasting impact and to an extent dog the album to this day. The four symbols were said to be connected or derived from then occult, and as Jimmy Page was a known admirer of the works of Aleister Crowley, the myth that the album and the band were, in some way satanic, grew up. Robert Plant inadvertently added to the controversy when he claimed that, as he was writing "Stairway To Heaven", the words suddenly seemed to flow from him as if he were possessed. To cap it all, it was alleged that if played backwards, one could distinctly hear the following in "Stairway To Heaven":
"Here's to my sweet Satan./ The one whose little path would make me sad,/ Whose power is Satan./ He'll give you give you 666./ There was a little tool shed where he made us suffer,/ Sad Satan."
Having heard "Stairway To Heaven" backwards I can say that, if you wish, you can hear all sorts of "words", as you would with any song or indeed any speech. Play a recitation of the Bible backwards and you will find something. What cannot be believed about the allegations regarding "Stairway To Heaven" is the absurd notion that these "messages" are in some way subliminal paeans to Satan. As Plant himself once said, if the band could put subliminal messages into their music, the one they would use would be "buy more records".
Enough of the crap, it is the music that counts, and by God what music it is. Though often derided in the late 70's for being rock dinosaurs, few looking back would deny the importance and influence that IV had on music at the time. The album opens with "Black Dog", a stop start blues based number with a distinctive guitar riff. The title has nothing to do with the lyrics, and is allegedly a reference to a swarthy canine which hung around the Headley Grange Studios during recording. The heavy riff and throbbing drums are accentuated by the fact that it was recorded in the crypt of the old manor, and the wailing vocals provide a strange call and response to each other and there can be little doubt that the use of the track as an opener was a stunning success. It instantly draws you in and holds you. Once there, the remainder of the album opens up. Not once do you desire or feel able to stop listening.
"Rock And Roll" follows, a thundering riff over a traditional rock and roll style beat, which even seen John Paul Jones put in a bit of honky tonk piano at the end. John Bonham's drumming powers its way through this and provides the immense force and speed which thunders the track along. Page and Plant keep up with it, but by the end the listener has been subjected to two tracks which have ratcheted up the tempo and delivered pace, energy and power to the listener.
Time then to slow down. Sandy Denny of Fairport Convention guests on "Battle of Evermore", a slower, mellow number distinguished by Page's mandolin playing and the frequent references to "Lord Of the Rings". Calmer now, we seem to be slipping into a slower phase as the opening bars of "Stairway To Heaven" begin. Amazingly, Plant was only 21 when he wrote this and it is hard to think how a youth of such years could come up with such brilliance. What distinguishes is the track for me is the restraint. Jones' keyboards keep the drumming of Bonham in check while the smooth acoustic guitar quietly slips into electric almost imperceptibly. This provides the opportunity for the lyrics to shine through, clearly and without possibility of mistake in the hearing. It is only towards the end, and that wonderful solo, that the full power of the track comes out, leading to the final verse and that ending, the long drawn out final note of Plant's voice before the final line is delivered.
As an interesting set of asides, "Stairway To Heaven" is also the world's biggest selling song on sheet music - over 150,000 copies are sold every year! There is even a muzak form of it as a harp solo as well as an album comprised of cover versions put together by an Australian TV show host who introduced each episode with a different version. The notorious Rolf Harris cover of the song caused a UK biker group to issue death threats against Harris, who required police protection for several months thereafter. Finally, the band were unsure as to whether even to include it on the album, and debuted it at a concert in Belfast. The song was received with stunned silence, after which Plant reputedly turned to Page and suggested it be scratched from the album. Page, who was facing the audience motioned to him to turn round at which point he saw hundreds of lighters going up and faced rapturous applause.
Side two of the original vinyl was different in some ways. "Misty Mountain Hop" was seen as having drug references, but Tolkien also featured here. It is a happy song about happy times with a surprisingly dark overtone, the combination of which lends it the undeniable charm it has. "Four Sticks" takes its name from the fact that Bonham played this with four drumsticks, hence the distinctive sound. If the album has a weak track, this is it. However, it has a driving rhythm and plenty of restrained power within to make it worth a second listen. My only criticism would be one of production in that it seems a tad too oppressive.
"Going To California", allegedly written for or about Joni Mitchell, also stands accused of drug references. But it is another slow, acoustic number, the mandolin again featuring heavily, and perhaps speaks more of discomfort or unease with the modern world and longing for greater simplicity in both life and the world. And finally, there is "When the Levee Breaks". The title and some of the lyrics were borrowed from an early delta blues song by Memphis Minnie, but the delivery here is completely unique. One reason is that, apart from Plant's vocals, everything was recorded at normal speed and then played slightly slower. Also Bonham's drumkit was set up in the stairwell and the recording mikes were some floors above, giving it a distinctive, muggy feel. Then there is the most amazing double harmonica solo. But what strikes you is the driving riff and the power drumming. John Bonham is absolutely superb on this track, and creates the necessary heavy and oppressive sound to mimic the driving power of the rain. In latter days, as disillusionment with "Stairway To Heaven" grows through over-familiarity, this track is often cited as being the best on the album.
So there you have it. Of all the albums there have ever been, this is one of the absolute few must-have releases. In some ways this marked the high point of rock as a genre - no one was going to be able to match it and rock would begin a slow and inexorable decline ever after.
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on 2009-08-18 radiox Said:
on 2009-08-16 hstisgod Said:
Both you and Sinipunk have points, these guys are the most hyped Rock band in the history of industry music, a span of over a hundred years. But to call something the Milli Vanilli by giving it a 2 out 10? Your score is weighted heavily by a prideless inaccuracy, against only the rest of the LedZep catalogue, NO OTHER ARTISTS CONSIDERED.
My point, thank you for your take on this album. My opinion differes regardles of who fights or paws, I grew up on this stuff. Hung with my parents while they poked at me for information...Truth is, LedZep 4 isn't their best record, but it's certainly better than almost 90%, anything Zep released was a step up in anything most artists ever offer. Deny that, and i'll know you're full of it! lol
on 2009-08-16 MusicGuru Said:
Yes I did give it a very low score without my explanation, but, since you want one so badly I will explain why it sucks so much. Robert Plant=annoying vocalist that makes me want to listen to some deathcore for relief (I HATE deathcore). Jimmy Page=one of the most overrated guitarists who stole from the legends that he worshipped as a kid. I got nothing against JPJ or John Bonham though. I don't like their style though.
on 2009-08-16 Sinist3r Punk Said:
A classic, overhyped album
Definitely not their best work, but for some reason people cant get over LZ4
on 2009-08-15 hstisgod Said:
MusicGuru, did you really just give a classic 2/10 without explanation?
on 2009-07-02 dscanland Said:
This was my first introduction to Led Zeppelin and still holds a special place in my heart. I have since moved on and found may other gems in their massive catalog but this one still remains special.
on 2009-07-01 evenflown Said:
Led Zeppelin is of the finest in music that will ever be seen, they are both hard rock at its all time finest, and at times they are melodic ballads that feel like folk songs, from "Stairway to Heaven" to "Rock and Roll", "Black Dog", "Misty Mountain Top", "The Battle of Evermore" this album is in the top ten of all time it has influenced rock and almost every genre of music forever more after its release, built up with one of the top five vocalists of all time, Robert Plant, and one amazing drummer, John Bonham and you have got the package that many rock bands would dream to have, Led Zeppelin is one of the most talented acts to ever be conceived in music, and so is this 8-songed album simply entitled IV, that will be remembered when people are listening to music that even our grandchildren's grandchildren will think is strange...
on 2007-08-04 SolitaryMan Said:
8 songs. That's all. Not much, really. Just 8 songs and somehow, Zep IV is considered by many to be one of the greatest albums of it's or any time. Must be 8 damn good songs, right? Hell, must be 8 classics! And that'd be right. We all know "Stairway to Heaven", "Rock and Roll", "Black Dog" and "Misty Moutain Hop", classic radio mainstays and just great rock songs, unarguable in their brilliance and each for their own reason(s). "Going To California" and "The Battle Of Evermore" are lesser hits, but hits all the same, the latter being one of my personal favorites from any band. And album closer "When The Levee Breaks" is an excellent hardening-up of an old folk classic. So, front to back, a collection of classics. I used to think this was a "Greatest Hits" album for a time, and that speaks volumes, doesn't it?