Thursday, April 14, 2016

When Music Mattered - Led Zeppelin IV (1971)

When Led Zeppelin released their first album, the hype surrounding the record was so thick you could cut it with a dull knife. The second album delivered rock standards that are still popular today, and the third record was something the band made to appease their own interests. But by the time Zeppelin got to their fourth record, music critics were merciless in their assertion that Led Zeppelin was all hype and no talent.

The criticism got to Zeppelin so much that they decided to put no hype behind their fourth album at all. There are no pictures of the band on the fourth album, and the album officially has no title. But even when Led Zeppelin is trying to be anonymous, they still manage to be iconic. The fourth Led Zeppelin album is the one where they introduced the four symbols that would identify the band for the rest of its existence, which goes as far away from anonymous as you can get.

The fourth Zeppelin album cemented the band's legacy as one of the classic rock icons that created the foundation of heavy music, despite the fact that the most popular songs on the record are not terribly original. Every music fan is aware of the spat between Spirit and Led Zeppelin about "Stairway To Heaven," and that has helped to take the heat off the other songs on the record that lifted their inspiration from other sources.

The John Bonham intro to the song "Rock and Roll" is a sped up version of the intro to the Little Richard song "Keep a Knockin'." The body of "Rock and Roll" is nothing but the same 12-bar blues that thousands of other songs are based on. The song "When The Levee Breaks" is a re-work of a 1929 blues classic. The band gives credit to the original writers, but they also take some of their own writing credit which may or may not be deserved.

That being said, all of this does nothing to dilute the fact that Led Zeppelin IV is one of the greatest rock albums ever recorded. In my opinion, Led Zeppelin could have recorded dozens of albums of all interpreted cover music and it still would be better than all of the garbage that is being released today. Every member of Led Zeppelin was a devoted blues musician who made a habit of lifting parts of songs and putting them into their own compositions. The problem other musicians had with Zeppelin is that when Zeppelin interpreted other artist's songs, the interpretation was usually much better than the original.

Led Zeppelin was the epitome of a blues-based rock band that wore its influences on its sleeve. There was never anything fake about Zeppelin, and Led Zeppelin IV captures the band at the pinnacle of its powers. It is an album recorded in studios all over the world, and it projects Jimmy Page's "wall of guitars" concept to perfection. If there ever was a perfect hard rock record, Led Zeppelin IV would be the shining example of that perfection.

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5

George N Root III is a music lover who has an extensive collection of classic rock albums. You can follow him on Twitter @georgenroot3, or send him a message at