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Led Zeppelin IV (aka ZOSO)

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★★★★½
(1006 Reviews)

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  • Within eighteen months three members of this band had gone from total obscurity to part of the best known rock band in the world. By the end of 1971 world domination was such that they could release their fourth album without any sleeve notes, no band image or song titles on the sleeve either. Therefore it has since been called by fans a variety of names from the obvious ‘Led Zeppelin IV’ to the less obvious ‘Runes’ after its many Lord of the Rings references to ‘Four Symbols’. Or ‘Zosa’ after its inside cover motif, or plain old ‘No Title’. Still, on pre-sales it went to #1 all over the world, being released on November 8th and staying at #1 into the New Year. Over the years it has probably generated enough sales to run a fairly large country. In the last thirty-two years it has won just about every accolade there is to get. Voted the best rock record ever in such illustrious magazines as ‘Classic Rock Revisited’, `Rolling Stone’, ‘Q’, ‘Mojo’, and even the Pattaya Mail. (We just had a vote Toto, Ella Crew, Andy, and Led Zeppelin experts Lars Fieste, John Osborne, Graham Rudd, Dai Coe, and the Dog – it was unanimous.)If you had wanted to put together a super group in 1971 all you would of had to do was put together Led Zeppelin, and there you are you had it. Out of the ashes of the `Yardbirds’ founding member Jimmy Page created Led Zeppelin (well, he had to, all the others had left). The new band did one tour of Scandinavia as ‘The New Yardbirds’. Jimmy Page originally joined the `Yardbirds’ as bassist, but switched to lead guitar to give the band a duel pronged guitar attack with a certain Jeff Beck on the other axe. Jimmy Page had long been a top session player, playing most famously on the Kinks’ `You Really Got Me’ famous guitar riff that almost invented heavy metal music. In Jimmy Page Led Zeppelin had a man with a vision as well as a guitarist that could shred the wallpaper off your walls one second and be as gentle as a snowflake the next. Robert Plant had quickly become the template of what a singer in a rock band looked and sounded like. His unique style of whoops, whines, and yells became his trademark. With his clear vocals he could always put across the stories he wanted to tell in his song writing partnership with Jimmy Page. Bass player John Paul Jones also had a previous successful career as a session player, but was completely unknown outside the inner music circles. His quiet nature, his bass playing skills, keyboard work, and help with the song writing were integral parts in the band and essential to its well being. Then behind the drums was the man to set standards of rock ‘n’ roll to the present day, even after his tragic death more than twenty years ago, Mr. John Bonham. (I mean even his name sounds like a drummer.) This God of Thunder only got the job because he went down with Robert Plant to keep him company on his journey from Birmingham, England, to audition for the band. The rest – as they say – is history.Is Led Zeppelin’s fourth album as good as its reputation? Has it stood the test of time? Stupid questions, of course it does. You get eight tracks all of which are classic. The opening one-two of the first couple of tracks allay any fears of fans that thought they might delve back further into their folksy roots after the rather laid back ‘Led Zeppelin III’ of the previous year. But the year of constant touring had honed their natural rocking instincts.As soon as Robert Plant leads the band off with those immortal lines, `Hey, Hey Mama, said the way you move, Gonna make You sweat Gonna make You groove, My, My Child when You shake that thing, Gonna make you burn, Gonna make You sting.`……you know you are off into totally politically incorrect rock ‘n’ roll heaven. The band then comes in with `Black Dog’s thunderous riff and off they all fly roaring straight the way through until you go without a second to catch your breath into the ‘Rock and Roll’ opening drum intro. What do you expect to get with a title like this? Page just peels off one riff after another, building them up to a shattering crescendo. John Paul Jones backs this up with some of the busiest fret work ever laid down in a studio by a mere mortal of his chosen profession. As for John (Bonzo) Bonham, he is a man at the height of his powers having the time of his life. Other tracks include the wonderful ‘Four Sticks’, so called because John Bonham gets the sound he wanted for the song drummed with four sticks simultaneously. (Obvious, isn’t it, when you think about it.) An acoustic ballad in ‘Going to California’. A keyboard orientated rocker in ‘Misty Mountain Top’, which on any other album, by any other band, would be the center piece of any collection. However, on this album it sometimes gets overlooked by its surroundings, but comes across as a real delight in the context of the album. There is also a raging folksy tale told with Robert Plant giving full reign to his Tolkien whims in the wonderful ‘The Battle of Evermore’, with some dexterous mandolin played by Jimmy Page. Robert Plant is able to display his vocal chops in his duet with Sandy Denny (ex-Fairport Convention), who in her illustrious but tragic career had probably never sung so sweet. The album closes with one of the darkest songs Led zeppelin ever recorded ‘When the Levee Breaks’, a blues as only Led Zeppelin can play, with Robert Plant’s vocals and harmonica play and Jimmy Page’s guitar to the fore as the others lay down a rock solid spine to the song.This was Led Zeppelin’s finest hour, and therefore rightly holds the claim to #1 album of all time.Oh by the way it also includes ‘Stairway to Heaven’. Does any body remember laughter?Mott the DogRe-mastered by Ella Crew

    Posted on February 23, 2010