Led Zeppelin IV
This is the iconic Led Zeppelin album, which the band didn’t even bother to title – it’s sometimes known as IV or Zoso. Despite its over-exposure, I’m still immensely fond of ‘Stairway to Heaven’; there’s plenty to admire from the pretty folk melody to the arrangement that builds from recorders and acoustic guitar to full fledged rock, while Page’s solo is an all time favourite. The other epic, ‘When The Levee Breaks’, is one of the most intense moments in the Zeppelin catalogue with an enormous drum beat, Plant’s paranoid wailing and some effectively minimal guitar leads from Page; it’s easily one of the best songs, and captures the dark blues pounding that Zeppelin were striving for better than anything else they recorded.
IV starts well, with the pairing of ‘Black Dog’ and ‘Rock and Roll’; Zeppelin’s takes on basic blues and rock respectively. ‘Going To California’ has another pretty folk melody, later requisitioned by Pearl Jam for ‘Given To Fly’, but it doesn’t really go anywhere too spectacular. It’s the remaining three songs that cause major problems. ‘The Battle Of Evermore’ meanders through dumb lyrics about ring-wraiths and fairy queens for six minutes, and even the presence of Fairport Convention’s Sandy Denny on vocals doesn’t help. ‘Misty Mountain Hop’ rides a leaden footed electric piano groove, while the vocal line irritatingly accentuates each beat in the bar. Meanwhile, ‘Four Sticks’ is a throwaway; the only memorable aspect of it is that Bonham drums with four sticks. IV is far from Led Zeppelin’s best album; the only reason it’s the famous one is because it features ‘Stairway to Heaven’.
‘Stairway to Heaven’ and ‘When The Levee Breaks’ alone are enough to make IV a very good album, but Led Zeppelin made even stronger records.