The heavy monster sound of Led Zeppelin, IS BACK. Not that there was anything wrong with the sound of Led Zeppelin III, just that the material maybe wasn’t as strong as we were getting used to back there. Can I say something? Immediately you’ll see where I’m going here when I say this. I absolutely adore the first THREE songs on this album. Best three songs here! And yeah, I’m being serious. God, ‘Stairway To Heaven’ is ‘Stairway To Heaven’ is ‘Stairway To Heaven’. It’s eight minutes long, has truly fascinating lyrics and a very purposeful, albeit getting to the point gradually, nature of the musical track. This ‘point’ is of course the heavier section of the song, the great Jimmy Page solo – and then I like the way the song closes. More of an event than a song, and a deliberately crafted event at that. The group reportedly ‘set about’ writing a suitably epic song that would rival the reception and glory of ‘Dazed And Confused’ during live performances. Nothing wrong with that, obviously. I like ‘Stairway To Heaven’ in case you didn’t quite get that during my mini-description of it back there. But, I guess this album revolves around whether you love, like or merely tolerate ‘Stairway To Heaven’. There are probably people out there that don’t even like the song at all. I’m not that kind of person, I fall definitely into the second camp. Whilst I’m here, I’ll also say that the huge drum sound of the overly lengthy ‘When The Levee Breaks’, along with the harmonica sound, is the best thing about the track. ‘When The Levee Breaks’ and ‘Stairway To Heaven’ are my least favorite two songs on ‘Led Zeppelin IV’. Which may sound ridiculous to some, it’s just I adore the faster, rockier stuff here so much more. Well, correction. The delicate ‘Going To California’ is one of my favourite Led Zeppelin songs. It’s just this straight folky thing, but Page and Plant both sound truly beautiful. A similar thing of possibly even greater wonder is the Sandy Denny assisted ‘Battle Of Evermore’. Sandy sings perfectly, not trying to be the main event, but still really aiding the haunting beauty of the song.
The “secret” of IV is probably its multifaceted character: there’s something for the entire family: dad can chop wood to the mid-paced stomp of “Black Dog,” son Jerry can freak out during the frenzied, turbo-boogie of “Rock and Roll,” while mom and uncle Dave can ponder during the gentle “Going to California.” It’s quite diverse, but it also seems to me that the dirtiness-factor has diminished, these are no longer the scoundrels of “Whole Lotta Love.” In the meantime, they’ve learned how to behave themselves and instead of turning only to the easy girls, they found the way to impress all the chicks out there with a more refined approach. Although, I’m not sure whether “refined” is applicable to “Black Dog,” as Plant promises Mama he’s gonna make her sweat and groove. It’s not as great a rock song as “Communication Breakdown” or as catchy as “Celebration Day,” but its brute force is undeniable. I wouldn’t have complained if it were a minute shorter though. “Rock and Roll” is about twice as good, steaming ahead at an amazing pace, while Bonham is torturing the cymbals with an inhuman power (or so it seems). Plant delivers his rock ‘n’ roll nostalgia with enough fervour, but ultimately this song is entirely dominated by Bonham and Page, who ensure that the song entirely lives up to its title. And the high quality level is continued with the folk song “The Battle of Evermore,” which again is proof of Plant’s infatuation with Tolkien’s literature – it probably also explains the drawing of the Hermit in the booklet as well, it might be Gandalf. All that cosy imagery about valleys, wars and castle walls is pretty silly, to be honest, but it’s also vague and by consequence, easy to ignore. Most importantly: the song delivers the goods, by grace of beautiful harmonies between Plant and folk diva Sandy Denny (Fairport Convention) who makes quite an appearance, while Page once again turns to his mandolin for authenticity’s sake.
Jimmy Page is the man on this album, he’s THE MAN. I just feel like squirming and rolling around naked in mud, with sheer glee – at the sound of this riff, and it’s variations. Really, I do! On ‘Black Dog’ you can hear classic Robert Plant vocal performance, classic, classic, classic. Oh, yeah, ‘Misty Mountain Hop’ has heavy drums, another fabulous riff, another winner, a great vocal performance again, great vocal rhythm actually – love what Plant does here. Okay, I’ll calm down. God, ‘Four Sticks’ is great too, another riff monster. So, even WITH ‘Stairway To Heaven’ and ‘When The Levee Breaks’ inhabiting around a third of this albums playing time, the rest is surely glorious enough for this album to deserve a ‘9’ score on the scale of 10? Just think, what if I actually loved instead of just liked ‘Stairway To Heaven’? What then?? Still, I can’t help that, can I?