The 1970’s. T’was the decade of disco, feminism, and Watergate. While many were still
protesting things such as Vietnam, many music fans were still trying to get used to a world without the Beatles. Multiplying the need for more musical messiahs, Jim Morrison up and died in a small hotel room in Paris, France, and Sonny and Cher managed to somehow procure their very own variety hour television special. What is the point of this rant?
, I hear you ask. And why are you not dissecting the album that you are supposedly reviewing?
, I hear you also ask. Quite simply, I’m making a point. And that point is that by 1971, the music world was in shambles
. Yes indeed, the need was high for a pioneering act, one that could fill the void left by the rapidly-burgeoning and subsequently equally rapidly deflating counter-culture. The call was made, the details processed, and Led Zeppelin slipped into the role of musical deities with their fourth release, entitled Untitled
Led Zeppelin IV
. Four Symbols
. It makes very little difference what you call it. Everyone is aware of the music the album offers, and everyone is likewise aware of the legacy the album has gained. Sure enough, with the lavish mountain of praise the album has garnered, it is inevitable that it will garner equally acute criticism. While millions praise Stairway to Heaven
as a rock and roll enormity, one that carries a legacy arguably larger than the album it is contained on, many (though more than likely a somewhat smaller amount) maintain that the song is gratuitously overrated. While millions cite the ingenuity and the mysticism, others’ just look towards Queen. So. Shedding all pre-conceived notions, and momentarily forgetting the fact that my user-name is Zeppelin related, how is the album, really?
Well, acknowledging the fact that most of you have already peered at the rating at the top left corner of the page, and have thus hindered any chance I have of surprising you, I’m just going to say it. The album is excellent. Blues rock has never been more perfected than on this mammoth album. Black Dog
proves with it’s serpent-y riff and perplexing odd time-signature that the band indeed knew exactly what they were doing. However, notice how I said “excellent”, instead of “OMG AWSUM THE BEST”. While many breathe a sigh of relief that I haven’t deemed this album Christ-like, allow me to tend to the wounds I’ve just caused many of you. While songs such as Rock And Roll
verify that British people are far more efficient at rocking, songs like The Battle of Evermore
establish that they’re also far more prone to musical self-indulgence. Allow some much needed elaboration on my part.
The Battle of Evermore
is frankly jaw-dropping. Its’ beauty and mysticism are unparalleled. John Paul and Jimmy create an ethereal rhythm for the song, courtesy of brilliant mandolin playing and subtle guitar strumming, and Sandy Denny (who appears courtesy of a call made by Mr. Plant) and Robert weave in and out from being hypnotic to just plain mesmerizing. Yes, the track is magnificent…for the first three minutes. While it’s possible for people such as Bob Dylan to create a six minute folk song and not sacrifice a thing, Led Zeppelin has a trifle more trouble in apprehending the beast that is consideration. In contrast, number like Misty Mountain Hop
are psychedelia improved upon, combining 60’s-esque keyboards with the unadulterated rock that the early 70’s brought. And of course, there’s the completely spaced out lyrical content.
Walkin’ in the park just the other day, baby,
What do you, what do you think I saw?
Crowds of people sittin’ on the grass with flowers in their hair said,
Hey, boy, do you wanna’ score?
Contemplating this sample of the lyrics, it would appear Robert is either at a Hippie rally or else scoring some drugs. Quite possibly both. Let us delve a little further.
I didn’t notice but it had got very dark and I was really,
Really out of my mind.
Just then a policeman stepped up to me and asked us said,
Please, hey, would we care to all get in line
This line seems to support the aforementioned theory, and reveals that Robert was apparently on some sort of hallucinogen, only to get stopped by a cop, and “put in line”, presumably for a CAVITY SEARCH PUNK! So, combine trippy lyrics with a pulsating rhythm courtesy of John Paul Jones and John Bonham, and add some tasteful guitar accompaniment (ala not
solo), and you end up with a fascinating piece of music.
Musical experimentation is encouraged. And why not? It’s far better than recycling the same riff and song structure over and over again. Bohemian Rhapsody
, Mr. Tambourine Man
… In fact, any classic song you care to name was more than likely the result of deviating from the norm of the time period. There are, however, dangers to such unorthodox approaches. Many abominations of music, which I’ll leave to you to name, have resulted from altering the path from the previously mentioned norm. Most unfortunately, one of them resides in the spot of track six, on this very album. I’ll concede, Four Sticks
may be a fantastic song under the influence of a few or more illicit substances, but judging on musical merit and pure entertainment, there is no reason to beat around any bush. The song is poor. It’s boring, it drags on forever, despite not being of epic length, and the entire song appears to lack inspiration. That said, it does present some admirable bongo utilization on the part of Mr. Bonham. Not enough…Not enough.
Perhaps realizing that the first attempt at a folk song went over with a mixed reception, the band decided to attempt one last folk tune for the album. And you know what? It makes up for any problem I have with any of the first four albums alone. It is that good, and it is Going to California
. Featuring only an acoustic guitar, a mandolin, and Roberts’ quiet, non-banshee like voice, the deadly calm and mesmerizing tranquility the song creates could possibly end a war if played loud enough. While many folk numbers tend to sound painfully similar to others, Going to California
creates an atmosphere never before experienced in the genre, an atmosphere that seems even more serene when surrounded by the blazing rock (and Four Sticks
) Zeppelin has become synonymous with.
Don’t you think you might be giving Led Zeppelin a bit more credit than they deserve?
I hear you. Even as this album was being endlessly delayed due to nuances like cover art problems, Michael Jackson (who was at this point not his alter ego, Wacko Jacko) was beginning his enormously successful solo career, John Lennon was preparing to slay the world with Imagine
, and Black Sabbath was taking preparation towards the release of the epic Master of Reality
. The thing that makes Zeppelin stand out is the diversity they exude, and the distinguished way in which they conquer it. Black Sabbath more or less stuck to their heavy metal, and John Lennon was busy sugar-coating his first solo album. Zeppelin, on the other hand, could capture the heavy, stomping rock and roll vibe, and then back it up with cerebral, haunting acoustic pieces. And on the subject of stomping…
You may need to order a new ass
after the excessive kicking you’re bound to receive from the gargantuan When the Levee Breaks
about this song is massive, from the opening drum groove to the slide guitar and harmonica. While Jonesy is busy laying low and giving support, Robert is assaulting you with arguably his finest performance ever, and even the bridge will tear you to pieces. What makes the song most refreshing, perhaps, is the chemistry the band has. The groove is supernaturally, well, natural
. Then again, perhaps it’s Jimmy’s fantastic production, which makes it sound like you’re going to get sucked into the speakers from which the music emerges.
You have all undoubtedly noticed it. In this review, I have not mentioned the song since a brief background bit in the second paragraph. I admit it. I wanted to save it for last. And without further ado, Stairway to Heaven
. I could prattle on like a pre-pubescent Zeppelin fan about how mind-melting the song is. I could harshly critique it like those who appear to be a wee to uptight. However, I’m not going to bother. You’ve heard it all before. Instead, I’m going to tell you what I think of the song, and allow you to make your own conclusion. To me, from the moment the track begins, something inside me happens. A certain emotion I can’t locate in any other situation surfaces. And as the song builds via flute, drums, and twelve-string guitar, so does said emotion. The lyrics are captivating in a way which I haven’t since experienced, and the only vocal take that can stand up to When the Levee Breaks
is unquestionably found here. And of course, Jimmy dominates with an improbably great guitar solo. You’d be hard pressed to find a more defining song for a band. However, that’s me. I’ll leave anything else to you.
So, should I believe the hype?
Of course not. Never believe any hype. What you should do, is purchase the album and see whether or not the hype will come to you
. Regardless of whether or not you adore the album, it’s definitely one that everyone must own, or at least hear in its’ entirety, and regardless of the circumstance, it’s an album that you have to have an opinion on. Many will tell you the album is the best. Don’t believe them. Many will tell you it sucks. Again, don’t believe them. And whether or not the album suits your fancy in the end, or whether or not it destroys it, you have taken part in a musical journey that everyone who loves music will at one point or another. Welcome.
Some fantastic songs
“When the Levee Breaks”
“The Battle of Evermore” drags on
Only eight tracks