LED ZEPPELIN — Led Zeppelin IV

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LED ZEPPELIN - Led Zeppelin IV cover
4.49 | 174 ratings | 9 reviews
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Album · 1971

Filed under Hard Rock


1. Black Dog (4:57)
2. Rock And Roll (3:40)
3. The Battle Of Evermore (5:52)
4. Stairway To Heaven (8:03)
5. Misty Mountain Hop (4:38)
6. Four Sticks (4:45)
7. Going To California (3:31)
8. When The Levee Breaks (7:08)

Total Time 42:37


- John Bonham / drums
- John Paul Jones / bass guitar, keyboards, mandolin, recorders
- Jimmy Page / guitars, mandolin
- Robert Plant / vocals, harmonica

Guest musicians:

- Sandy Denny / vocals (track 3)
- Ian Stewart / piano (track 2)

About this release

Release date: November 8, 1971
Label: Atlantic Records

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Specialists/collaborators reviews

Well, what can I say? This is obviously an important album, based on the fact that it is one of the most well known albums of all time. Not only is it a milestone of Classic Rock, but it is one of the origin albums for Metal and Progressive Metal alike. As a Progressive Metal fan, I speak to my fellow Progressive Metal fans when I say: if you want to understand where the genre came from, you need to listen to this album, especially paying attention to "Black Dog" and "Stairway to Heaven". This band defined a genre, and inspired many and will continue to inspire many who follow them.
My next non-review is about my first musical thrills. Led Zeppelin's albums III and IV are two peaks of band's output and one of the best rock albums ever created, period. Their innovative, progressive approach to rhythm'n'blues and folk remains fascinating despite passing years and I just can't help but wonder: how was it possible to create such masterpieces one after another? At this point the reason behind this text becomes obvious - I'm not going to tell you why this stuff is amazing. There is music that just can't be described with words and given my deep attachment to Zeppelin's output - rooted in childhood which makes being objective even more difficult - I won't try to do it. I just want to express my admiration for this mature, timeless and unique masterpiece of hard rock/rhythm'n'blues. Everyone should listen to it before walking up stairway to heaven.
Stairway to Zeppelin's cult status.

Led Zeppelin's harvest album, Runes, Four Symbols, the Zoso album, the fourth Led Zeppelin album, whatever you want to call it, is the pinnacle of success for the legends of proto metal. LZ4 actually surpassed everything the band had done before and was never surpassed by the foursome. It seemed on the making of this album that all the planets were aligned as perfection resulted. The album often sits proudly at the top of top 100 lists, some calling it the best album ever made. I am not sure I would go to this extreme but it certainly is a masterpiece on every level. Musically the album is flawless, the band are simply outstanding on every track, Plant's vocals are influential and have become iconic on this album, and it boasts one of the all time greatest songs ever written.

Side one has been critically acclaimed as being the most perfect side one in history. All of these accolades and here I am reviewing it finally 40 years later. I cannot go back in time and even speculate as to how this album impacted a generation, but it did. The songs became part of the hippy drug induced consciousness and even still stand the test of time today in comparison to recent albums. The album is timeless in many ways and speaks on many levels.

Black Dog begins with a strange guitar effect underplayed and soft, almost ignored. Then Plant powers out "Hey, hey, mama, said the way you move, gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove." This is followed by a progressive slice of guitar riffing that measures it's own time sig, almost improv style. The trade off between Plant's acapella and Page's riffing machine hand are trademarks of Zeppelin. There is a crazed lead break with heavy blues influences and the pummeling drums of Bonham. One cannot forget the impact of Jones on bass either, the four are locked in battle and the winner is rock.

As if on cue the song Rock and Roll cranks through the speakers almost destroying them. "Been a long time since I rock and rolled" Plant screams and Page answers with driving hammering riffs. The effect is a blitzkrieg of smashing axes and uncompromised noise levels. This was not one for the parents and teens would have loved turning this up to 11. As a live staple the song opens many concerts for good reason as it gets one in the mood to bang head.

Things settle with a heavy laden acoustic flavour with the mystical Battle of Evermore. "The Queen of light took her bow, And then she turned to go, The prince of peace embraced the gloom, And walked the night alone, Oh, dance in the dark of night, Sing to the morning light." Plant sings with reflective haunting clarity. The enchanting land of Mordor seems to beckon through the music as we hear Paganistic phrases such as "the dark lords rise in force tonight" and the "angels of avalon waiting for the eastern glow", and of course it was thematic content like this that garnered the cult following of the group that still exists. The high harmonies of multi layered Plantisms is a nice touch creating atmospheres of dark forests and full moons. The band were always edgy and full of mystique, even to the point where they remained anonymous in the media and on album covers. This album has a striking gatefold with a sorcerer wielding a magical lamp on a stairway, perhaps showing the way to unwary travellers.

The song Stairway to Heaven may be the most discussed song in rock history, and still remains as enigmatic as ever. The song is very controversial, with its satanic references hidden beneath the words, apparently Page wrote it with a spirit guide and was guided to pen the words subconsciously in a trance. Whether this is true is up for objection but it certainly is a powerful song. Stairway To Heaven is landmark of classic rock. The single sky rocketed them to success. The song has been played live everytime the band appeared and in fact in the reunion for live aid the song was arguably the highlight of the entire event. It is a long song and yet radios worldwide still continue to play it. It has been parodied and indeed the cliche is that music stores will put up signs to the effect that there is not to be any playing of Stairway to Heaven. The intro is the most performed guitar part and really is a 12 string piece of beauty. The main reason Stairway to Heaven captivates is due to the well known spell binding lyrics about finding a way to heaven, but "there are two paths you can go by, in the long run there's still time to change the road you're on." During the 80s many evangelists panned the song for this message stating it was poisonous to think there are two paths to heaven. Then there was the infamous backwards masking of the song, when you would hear phrases such as "here's to my sweet Satan, no other made a path for it makes me sad, whose power is Satan." Suffice it to say the song caused quite a stir in evangelical circles, and I have never forgotten this, especially due to the Message against Rock video that found its way into many churches, and now youtube has many clips with the backmasking. It is downright creepy and of course Zeppelin members deny everything, although Page admitted a high interest in the occult and even resided in the quarters of renowned satanist Alexander Crowley. The song also became legendary in Australia on a special event called 'Stairways to Heaven' where over 20 artists performed live their own version of Stairway to Heaven, many parodying the song with the likes of Rolf Harris and there is also a folk and pirate version on the telecast. The song means many things to different people; it sounds sugar sweet and uplifting, yet has dark overtones of losing the soul. The song has been played to death on radio but never loses its power, love it or hate it.

Side two.

I will admit I have not played this as much as the first side but I do not think I am alone in this. Hard to beat the first side but there is still an excellent array of tracks that are replenished with delicious guitar augmentations by Page. I had to remind myself again of the music offered here, unlike the unforgettable side one. The intensity of the music is startling, with songs such as Misty Mountain Hop. The layered harmonies of Plant is outstanding. "Walkin in the park just the other day, baby, What do you, what do you think I saw? Crowds of people sitting on the grass with flowers in their hair said, Hey, boy, do you wanna score?" The content was a 70s by product that would speak to the flower power generation but remains endearing and perhaps historically important today. The lyrics are about finding freedom in the same way as woodstock provided sanctuary for a time, and points a middle finger towards authority; "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, get in line". The escapism that was sought in this era was also encapsulated in the movie "Song Remains the Same" with shots of Plant spending time with his flower child in the woods near the lake.

Four Sticks steers towards heavy repetitive rhythm and blues, with a hypnotic riff. Plant improvises on his performance; "oh baby, the river's red, oh baby, in my head, there's a funny feeling going on, I don't think I can hold out long". The repeating riff is fine but I find this one a low point of the album if there is one. It seems to just go nowhere for me like all stoner rock. The African polyrhythms and estranged musical shapes at the end are certainly an ear opener and legend has it is played by Bonham with four sticks.

Next is the quiet and beautiful Going to California. The dream of freedom from the social cocoon to embrace flowers in the hair and living in the woods is captured here. Plant is indelible here; "Took my chances on a big jet plane, Never let them tell you that they're all the same, the sea was red and the sky was grey, wondered how tomorrow could ever follow today, the mountains and the canyons started to tremble and shake, as the children of the sun began to awake." The acoustics are folk induced throughout and it feels like a distant memory or a dream with dream imagery and ethereal vocals, especially the soaring section; "Seems that the wrath of the gods, got a punch on the nose and it started to flow, I think I might be sinking." The Pagan content is really as timeless as the album, and it runs as a thread in every song and from album to album.

Last song is my favourite on side two, When the Levee Breaks. It is a hybrid of blues, swamp rock and folk. The harmonica is a powerful statement that leads the way with a driving AOR signature. The harmonica sounds like a lonesome train whistle on a dark stormy night, and there is a decidedly dark atmosphere. It settles mid way through into a melodic slide guitar dominated section. Plant is terrific singing bluesy melancholy phrases such as, "Lord, mean old levee taught me to weep and moan, Got what it takes to make a mountain man leave his home." The atmosphere generated is once again commanding with a prevailing sense of being transported to another land. Only Zeppelin were able to do this at the time, a trend so ferociously original for a rock band.

So we come to the end of what I thought would be a short review. Well, the album is a landmark, which I have already said, but it cannot be overstated. A lot of the songs have ended up on compilations. No matter how one drinks in this fountain, one thing for sure, an album with this much impact on music will never be repeated. If you only want to own one Led Zeppelin non compilation album, this is the one.

Although it does represent a peak for the band both in terms of songwriting and performance - Black Dog is their best rock and roll number, When the Levee Breaks is the heaviest blues- rock they ever deployed, and Stairway to Heaven is justly their most famous song - I can't bring myself to give the fourth Led Zeppelin album a perfect mark. The fact is that aside from the named songs and the energetic rock and roll, the album contains a lot of filler.

In particular, I can't get into the two acoustic numbers, The Battle of Evermore and Going to California, both of which seem to be inferior stabs at the sort of acoustic experimentation that made the band's third album so very compelling. The Battle of Evermore, in particular, is a big letdown - it feels like the extended intro to a song that never kicks into high gear. As for Misty Mountain Hop or Four Stick, frankly once the record's over I can barely remember what they sound like.

I don't dispute that this album has some fine five-star songs on it, but the fact is that half the songs just completely fail to engage me. Three stars is a more than fair compromise.
Conor Fynes
'Led Zeppelin IV' - Led Zeppelin (10/10)

This is not just a masterpiece of progressive music, but a masterpiece of rock all- encompassing. There aren't any twenty-minute epics on here; neither are there running lyrical concepts, synthesizer solos or John Petrucci/Jordan Ruddess solo battles... No, this is just rock; but rock of the absolutely highest caliber.

...and when I say rock, don't let that catch you off guard. There is alot more to 'Led Zeppelin IV' than simply rock. The band was progressive in the sense that they managed to incorperate alot of difference styles into a classic/hard rock environment. Songs like 'The Battle Of Evermore' for example utilize a heavy drawing from the realm of folk, whereas 'When The Levee Breaks' pays an homage to the American delta blues scene.

Extraneous influences aside, the album starts off with one of the band's most rocking songs, 'Black Dog.' There is a great riff here, and if you pay attention to the time signature of this song, you can see why it's easy to consider Led Zeppelin at the very least; a prog and metal related act.

'Rock n' Roll' is a pretty straightforward song, but it's really fun. Good energy; the sort of song that would be amazing to hear live if I could go back in time and actually see the band perform...

'The Battle Of Evermore' is actually a special track to me. It's actually the song that convinved me to learn an entire instrument; the mandolin. This track really shows what a versatile player Jimmy Page is, being able to pull off heavy riffs and solos for the first two songs, then tone it down into the folk realm and have his instrument sing regardless of the mileau.

'Stairway to Heaven' is an obvious, albeit overplayed masterpiece. To truly appreciate a song of this fame, you have to wonder what the world would be like if this song had just come out in the 21st century; and this was your first time listening to it. Even regardless, it's a great song with a perfect build-up to a fiery climax.

'Misty Mountain Hop' and 'Four Sticks' are both great songs; the former being one of the most memorable Zeppelin songs I've ever heard. While I do appreciate the live 'Page & Plant Unplugged' version of 'Four Sticks' alot more than this studio rendition, it still has the power intact.

'Going To California' is a very beautiful song, and possibly my favourite on the album; although it's also the song that took me the longest to fully appreciate. The melody is here is gorgeous, and sung soulfully by Plant.

'When The Levee Breaks' might be my least favourite song on here, but it certainly still has power enough to hold a decent finale for a great album. Very bluesy, and a great closer to one of the greatest moments in rock history.

'Led Zeppelin IV' is a classic. Totally essential listening for anyone in the western world; and I certainly don't say that about all albums.
Everybody knows who Led Zeppelin is, quite possibly the most influential rock band of all time. Great stuff comes from this band. Well after listening to this album for a while, I can't say it's a masterwork. There's some creative stuff coming from here, but again there's also a lot of repetitivity here. That's okay. For a blues based album, this is phenomenal. I really enjoy listening to it, but again, there are moments that make me want to hear something else. You may see what I mean. The album kicks off with Black Dog, a great bluesy song. The riffs in this one and it's a nice one to hear. It's main feature is it's call-and-response type melodies between Robert Plant's vocals and the instruments of the band. It goes on a bit, but it's an overall good listen.

The first time I heard the next track, Rock and Roll, I thought it was one of the greatest pieces of music. It hits you hard with a driving beat and a loud 12 bar blues progression. However, that's almost all it seems to feature. Sure, occasionally the music drops out so you can hear lonely, lonely time and there's a guitar solo and an ending drum solo, but overall the song doesn't change it in the least, making it boring for repeated listening. Great for a couple of times, boring after that.

The Battle of Evermore is one of the best tracks on the album. The instruments are stripped down to just acoustics, and there's some interesting mandolins. This is a lovely track to fall asleep to, because it's just hauntingly pretty. There's also plenty of mysticism in the track. Along with those things, I beleive that this is Robert Plant's best vocal performance in Led Zeppelin. He goes through a great vocal range in this song, and there's a great echo effect towards the end that expresses the music very well. Nice job with this one.

If you've ever been interested at all in rock, you will definetely know that Stairway to Heaven, the fourth track on the album, is quite possibly one of the best songs ever created. Many call it overrated, but it is definetely deserving of being overrated. In case you don't know what this track is, I'll give you an idea of what it sounds like. It starts off with acoustic guitar and after a bit some flute. The vocals come in quietly and start the music. The verses eventually build in intensity until the drums start in. Clean guitars replace the acoustics, untill suddenly the guitar seems to burst out and proclaim something. Something life changingly important. After the grand proclamation, it segues into a very well composed guitar solo by Jimmy Page. This leads finally into the epic closure, and everything climaxes into a very emotional ending. Everything finally breaks away, and the vocals close out the aftermath.

If there was an example for anticlimactic, the next song would be a good one. After the grandness of 'Stairway', there's another simple blues riff based song called Misty Mountain Hop. Nothing terribly great about this one. In fact, I often find myself thinking, When is this one going to end?. Oh well.

But that's alright, the fifth song serves as a good spacing between 'Stairway' and Four Sticks, another great song. Although this one is rather repetitive like the preceding one, this one has a great groove and is in 5/4 through most of it. Robert Plant's unintelligible vocals just add more to the track too. I've heard that this is the only track that Zeppelin didn't perform live, and I bet there's a good reason for that. John Bonham's tom grooves on the set are most definetely difficult, causing trouble in the studio until he picked up an extra pair of sticks and was able to lay it down. A good track, and it definetely deserves a thumbs up.

Going to California is a very folky vibed song. It doesn't have the same atmosphere as The Battle of Evermore, it definetely has more of an earthier feel to it. There's some beautiful acoustics here, and some great longingly beautiful vocals. Althought there's not much terribly great stuff going on here, it's short, making it a good one to listen to.

When the Levee Breaks is a song I have mixed feelings about. There's quite a few ideas in this one, and it changes a bit, but overall it's very slow and repetitive. I really don't know what people talk about when they say it's one of the best songs ever created. I really feel that there's not much going on in it's 8 minute length. But people say it's good, so you might as well go with their opinions.

Well there you have it. Some songs just are great and definetely make it a worthwhile listen. Other ones make you want to go to the next, simply because of their repetitivity. That's my general opinion on the album. There are definetely parts that make it one of the most recognized albums of all time, but there are better ones out there that you could be listening to. I'd reccomend it to any fan of blues and simple hard rock, though metalheads will certainly find plenty of elements to appreciate.
Led Zeppelin's fourth album I imagine needs little introduction to any fan of Rock Music over the age of 40 and has an almost mythical status. Although I slightly prefer Physical Graffiti over IV this is the album I would recommend to anyone wanting to start their Zeppelin collection. Most bases of their sound are covered, from the Heavy Rock, the folk and acoustic elements and the Blues. Every track on this album is worthy of inclusion and not a single filler is present.

Any fan who had been thinking that the band were going in a more lightweight direction with the more acoustic Led Zeppelin III immediately had that thought dispelled with opener Black Dog, one of the bands most powerful Rockers with a fantastic riff from Page and closing the song with one of his best solo's ever, proving that a well considered melodic solo is far more listenable than the blur of notes employed by many modern Metal guitarists. Bonhams Drumming is pure genius on this track, choosing to play it straight when many players would have gone for a more complex approach.

Rock and Roll sounds like the title suggests, an up tempo rocker which fell together very quickly from a Jam in the studio when Bonham started playing the drum intro to a Little Richard song and the rest of the band fell in.

The Battle of Evermore is the first of two acoustic songs and is perhaps the better with some great vocal interplay between Plant and Sandy Denny of Fairport Convention guesting.

Can there be anyone who hasn't heard A Stairway to Heaven? One of the most played songs on American Radio at least. A perfect composition, starting with the beautiful acoustic introduction and building to a climax with another fantastic solo from Page in the mid section before moving into the heavy coda.

Side 2 of the original vinyl version opens with Misty Mountain Hop and Four Sticks. The former, a bouncy, upbeat number and a great favourite of Robert Plant apparently. Four Sticks, so called because Bonham plays his drums with four sticks is another slice of Heavy Rock and another great riff from Page.

Going to California is the second totally acoustic song and again Plant really shines. But Zeppelin save the best until last with When the Levee Breaks, a Blues number originally recorded by Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe Mccoy. Naturally it's given the Led Zep treatment and sufficiently changed for the band to take partial writing credits. It's now legendary for Bonhams drum groove which became the most sampled drum part of all time and it's easy to see why as it's so powerful. All the more amazing as it was recorded with only one Microphone strung up in the hall of Headley Grange. Plant also plays some great Mouth Harp here too.

And there you have it, one of the greatest Rock albums ever and easily worthy of a 5 star rating.

Members reviews

Now, after a powerful debut and reaching a greater album with the third one, here come THE masterpiece from Zep. Really one of the best and most loved albums on rock, with one of the best songs ever (Stairway to Heaven, of course). If I could consider the Black Sabbath debut to be for hard rock what In the Court of the Crimson King is for prog, then this album would be to hard rock what Close to the Edge is for prog. Every song is wonderful and powerful and they are all different and have their own identity, not repeating themselves anywhere. Really an album fit for one of the greatest rock bands ever.
This album more than any other is the soundtrack to my life. As a teenager in the 70s I listened to it countless times. I listened to it in the car in the 90s with my children. My son learnt to play Stairway to Heaven on his guitar. My dad who was a swing musician even improvised to Stairway to Heaven on his clarinet. And when I listen to the album now I still enjoy it just as much. I could say a lot about this album that has already been said by others. But one quote sums it up. In the words of Robert Plant, ”The fourth album, that’s it.”

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