Welcome to the 4th installment of my Led Zeppelin studio album reviews! These are tandem reviews with my amazing wife, Sarah who is posting her own reviews over at Caught Me Gaming. So be sure to check out her write up on Led Zeppelin IV right here!
As for me, I can sum up Led Zeppelin IV like this:
When The Levee Breaks.
As a Led Zeppelin Album: 4.5/5
Compared to the Rest: 5/5
Will this gag ever get old? It probably already has.
Speaking of gags, Led Zeppelin had one lined up for this album. Believe it or not, I’m not the only one who had lukewarm feelings to Led Zeppelin III. In 1971, the critical response for it was less than glowing and the sales were a bit sluggish compared to the band’s first two.
And they used it as bulletin board material.
Not to go the safe route and make a rehash of their bluesy first two albums. Or, fall into line with whatever was popular at the time to get a hit to chart for radio play.
But they went Full Zep instead.
There isn’t a song on here that you can potentially point to being radio-friendly prior to 1971. But Stairway To Heaven, an 8-minute and 2-second epic, went on to have the most radio airplay of all time. Zep went on to become, if not the most popular rock band of all time, one that is always mentioned in the top 5. The rest is history.
I had heard most of the tunes on Zep IV before I got to the album, but I appreciate them better within its context. Black Dog and Rock And Roll is a great 1 -2 punch to start. The Battle of Evermore is not one of my favorites on its own, but it makes for a nice breather before getting into Stairway here.
As great as side one is, I think I like side two even more. Zep big rockin’ riffs are usually one string affairs, but Misty Mountain Hop is a solid chord rocker. Four Sticks is a lower point for me on the album as it goes a just a bit too long for me, but it’s alright.
The last two songs are really where it is at for me. I’m not usually one for their folky ballads and Plant’s vocals can be a little cheesy, but Going To California is a drop-dead gorgeous tune. And When the Levee Breaks. Perfection. The drums, the guitar, the tone, the lyrics. Everything. Home Run.
I think this is why rock ‘n roll will always belong to the young and overconfident. They are the only ones who have the balls to pull off something like Led Zeppelin IV. Think of the temptation they must have to switch things up. How many bands do we know that did just that? Instead, Zep doubled down on what the did best and wrote (or let’s be kind and say, at least arranged) some stellar tunes.