Saturday, 8 January 2011

CD Review: Led Zeppelin IV, by Led Zeppelin (1971)

Led Zeppelin's most famous album is a soaring, technicolour musical journey, with the band pushing the limits of experimentation and in the process finding several peaks of innovation. As Led Zeppelin spread their wings in all the successful directions, John Paul Jones and John Bonham again make sure that the band's foundation is visible, while Robert Plant and Jimmy Page take turns in the high-intensity limelight.

Led Zeppelin IV is most famous for Stairway To Heaven, a sprawling 8 minute epic mystical tale representing the pinnacle of Plant and Page's songwriting. Universally recognizable from its opening few notes, Stairway To Heaven is a song with the power to instantly cast a magic spell and set a mellow yet curiously empowering mood. It builds from the slowest of beginnings to a glowing final two minutes, Page letting loose on guitar with Bonham mopping up behind him before both give way to Plant's anguish.

Stairway To Heaven stands with Smoke On The Water as an early and enduring anthem, defining the pioneering days of metal. But while Stairway understandably dominates the album, it is only one of five terrific tracks.

Shorter and more on the sharper end of Led Zeppelin IV are the opening two songs, Black Dog and Rock And Roll, both delivering solid jabs of energy, Page's guitar sounding particularly feisty. Misty Mountain Hop finds a groove that is briskly joyous, and the album ends with When The Levee Breaks, one of Zeppelin's most soulful trips and a memorable reimagining of a 1929 song. Bonham's thundering drums and a haunting harmonica make the song as powerful as the storm it describes.

Led Zeppelin IV is not without its off-target efforts, The Battle Of Evermore moaning away to no great effect, Four Sticks getting stuck in a circle and Going To California not arriving. These tracks point to the lack of focus and relatively lazy songwriting that would creep with increasing frequency into Zeppelin's future efforts.

After Led Zeppelin IV the experimentation and innovation continued, but the success rate dropped as the band struggled, perhaps unsurprisingly, to find new peaks to conquer.


Jimmy Page - Guitar
Robert Plant - Vocals
John Paul Jones - Bass
John Bonham - Drums

Songlist (ratings out of 10):

1. Black Dog - 10
2. Rock And Roll - 10
3. The Battle Of Evermore - 6
4. Stairway To Heaven - 10
5. Misty Mountain Hop - 8
6. Four Sticks - 7
7. Going To California - 7
8. When The Levee Breaks - 9 *see below*

Average: 8.38

Produced by Jimmy Page.

All Ace Black Heavy Metal CD Reviews are here.

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