"This has to be the album against which every rock album that followed should be measured": Led Zeppelin attain peak Led Zeppelin status on Led Zeppelin IV

Of all their records, Led Zeppelin’s fourth album, released in late 1971, remains their most admired work

Led Zeppelin IV cover art
(Image: © Atlantic Records)

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Led Zeppelin: Led Zeppelin IV

Led Zeppelin IV cover art

(Image credit: Atlantic Records)

Black Dog
Rock And Roll
The Battle Of Evermore (featuring Sandy Denny)
Stairway To Heaven
Misty Mountain Hop
Four Sticks
Going To California
When The Levee Breaks

Of all their records, Led Zeppelin’s fourth album, released in late 1971, remains their most admired work. From Jimmy Page’s unimpeachable riffs, through John Paul Jones musical invention and Robert Plant’s clarity of vocal to that titanic John Bonham drum sound, IV still emits a freshness that belies its age.

Black Dog’s machismo, Rock ‘N’ Roll’s Bonham-propelled brutality, Plant’s honeyed, evocative Sandy Denny-complemented vocal on The Battle Of EvermoreStairway To Heaven’s mainstream-slaying production and dynamism and that’s just side one. After defining metal and folk-rock, IV’s encore was to unwittingly provide hip-hop with When The Levee Breaks, source of its ultimate breakbeat.

The epithet ‘tight but loose’ has always accurately described the band’s aesthetic. Squeaks, scrapes and microphone bleed were not errors to be corrected in Page’s production ethos, but rather characterful and inherent ingredients of the feel. That, and the world’s biggest fuck-off drum sound ever committed to tape. 

Much has been written on the technicalities of this recording – basically two microphones hung above Bonham’s kit set up in a three-storey-high hall – and it’s not too much of a stretch to venture that Headley Grange, where IV was recorded, is the fifth member here. This ambience positively saturates the none-more-familiar finger-picked figure that introduces Stairway, the band’s finest recorded moment, near enough adding delay, such is the size of the reverb.

It’s been both loved and loathed in equal measures, but nowhere is Page’s supreme understanding of rock dynamics better illustrated than on Stairway, with a song that teases and caresses and then climaxes with nothing less than the world’s greatest ever guitar solo.

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Other albums released in November 1971

  • Hooteroll? - Howard Wales and Jerry Garcia
  • Barclay James Harvest and Other Short Stories - Barclay James Harvest
  • Madman Across the Water - Elton John
  • The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys - Traffic
  • Nursery Cryme - Genesis
  • Farther Along - The Byrds
  • Gonna Take a Miracle - Laura Nyro
  • A Nod Is As Good As a Wink... to a Blind Horse - Faces
  • There's a Riot Goin' On - Sly & the Family Stone
  • Muswell Hillbillies - The Kinks
  • Fragile - Yes
  • Funny How Sweet Co-Co Can Be - Sweet
  • Killer - Alice Cooper
  • Deuce - Rory Gallagher
  • Anticipation - Carly Simon
  • "Babbacombe" Lee - Fairport Convention
  • Bless the Weather - John Martyn
  • Bonnie Raitt - Bonnie Raitt
  • Brain Capers - Mott the Hoople
  • Choice Quality Stuff/Anytime - It's a Beautiful Day
  • Do You Like It Here Now, Are You Settling In? - Man
  • Dog Of Two Head - Status Quo
  • E Pluribus Funk - Grand Funk Railroad
  • Flowers of Evil - Mountain
  • For Ladies Only - Steppenwolf
  • Good and Dusty - The Youngbloods
  • Lost in the Ozone - Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen
  • Nazareth - Nazareth
  • Nilsson Schmilsson - Harry Nilsson
  • Performance Rockin' the Fillmore - Humble Pie
  • Pictures at an Exhibition - Emerson, Lake & Palmer
  • Quicksilver - Quicksilver Messenger Service
  • Sanctuary - Dion
  • Sunfighter - Paul Kantner and Grace Slick
  • There's Gotta Be a Change - Albert Collins
  • Whatevershebringswesing - Kevin Ayers
  • Year of Sunday - Seals and Crofts


What they said...

"Led Zeppelin – a band never particularly known for its tendency to understate matters – has produced an album which is remarkable for its low-keyed and tasteful subtlety. The march of the dinosaurs that broke the ground for their first epic release has apparently vanished, taking along with it the splattering electronics of their second effort and the leaden acoustic moves that seemed to weigh down their third." (Rolling Stone)

"With immaculate playing (multi-instrumentalist John Paul Jones’ contributions are not to be underestimated, either), a mystically obscure sleeve, and a remarkable range of tunes, Led Zeppelin IV, is still, for many, the best example of the group’s craft. Robert Plant thinks so himself. He has been quoted saying, simply: "the Fourth Album, that's it." (BBC)

"Going to California is the group's best folk song, and the rockers are endlessly inventive, whether it's the complex, multi-layered Black Dog, the pounding hippie satire Misty Mountain Hop, or the funky riffs of Four Sticks. But the closer, When the Levee Breaks, is the one song truly equal to Stairway, helping give IV the feeling of an epic. An apocalyptic slice of urban blues, When the Levee Breaks is as forceful and frightening as Zeppelin ever got, and its seismic rhythms and layered dynamics illustrate why none of their imitators could ever equal them. (AllMusic)


What you said...

Gary Claydon: They say that the devil has all the best tunes but if Russ Ballard was right and it was God who gave rock 'n' roll to you, then, surely, Led Zeppelin's fourth album was exactly what He had in mind when bestowing His gift.

It's always difficult ranking Led Zeppelin albums. Physical Graffiti would probably be the one I'd take to that imaginary desert island if I was only allowed one LZ album because a) it best showcases the scope and sheer brilliance of the greatest rock band there has ever been, b) It contains Kashmir, and c) it's a double album, which means more Led Zeppelin, which can only ever be a very good thing. II will always be special for me, as that was the one that turned me on to rock music and triggered a life-long musical odyssey.

It was also the first album I ever bought with my own money, a few weeks before my 11th birthday. I remember going to buy it and the guy in the shop telling me that a new Zeppelin album was coming out. Thus, a couple of weeks later, I was back, buying an album on release for the first time in my life. That album was Led Zeppelin's fourth and despite it not being my personal favourite ( but we're talking in tiny fractions here!) is quite possibly the one I'd describe as their best.

Led Zeppelin's fourth was a natural progression for the band, bringing together the elements from their previous albums – the heavy electric blues and hard rock of the first two and the more introspective, folky-leanings of III – to produce an exhilarating piece of work from the first note to the last.

Everything about IV was perfect. The ad campaign, teasing the 'four symbols'. The album sleeve without any identifying factors, just a mysterious old painting and a scene suggesting urban decay. The hermit guiding you towards some hidden treasure and eventual enlightenment (plus the corny 'demonic' mirror image thing). The production. The performances of each of the musicians involved.

Slide out the precious vinyl – and it really does have to be the tactile delights of vinyl for this one – drop the needle in the groove and that couple of seconds of delicious anticipation as the vinyl 'hiss' gives way to...

Plant's "Hey, Hey mama...", an opening Bonzo salvo and the 'awkward' riff, part constructed by JPJ, that introduce the incendiary Black Dog, with Page's guitar solo consisting of four overlayed Gibsons and an acapella section apparently inspired by Fleetwood Mac's Oh Well.

You want good time rock'n'roll? Well, baby, step right on up to track two and you got it in spades.

The Battle of Evermore calms and soothes (and introduced the young me to the talents of Sandy Denny and later lead to a rewarding delve into folk music).

There's nothing I can say that hasn't already been said about the majestic, sheer, almost cinematic, brilliance of Stairway To Heaven. People moan about it being overplayed but there are good reasons why the very best pieces of music are also the most often heard.

As you flip over to side two, it's worth reflecting on the fact that the rest of the tracks on IV aren't completely overshadowed by the magnificent Stairway, a testament to just how good this album is.

Misty Mountain Hop is nicely upbeat and along with Four Sticks, with its 'difficult' drum parts is a Zep track that Robert Plant never really seemed to tire of, both being staples of the Page/Plant collaboration as well as old Percy's live outings well into the 21st century.

Going To California, with its tale of unrequited love and earthquakes, slides back into gentler, acoustically inflected waters.

Album closer When The Levee Breaks brilliantly reconstructs an old Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe McCoy blues song. It's best known for the drum sound that John Bonham and engineer Andy Johns worked so hard to achieve and is one of the most sampled drum tracks ever. The whole thing is a whirling, pounding head-trip, replete with bottleneck slide, mean blues harp and backwards echo in abundance.

As the needle slips across the run-off track and the tonearm settles back into its cradle, take a few moments to let the previous 42 minutes and 37 seconds wash over you and wallow in the sheer aural ecstasy. Man, this is a fantastic album.

Peter Thomas Webb: Led Zeppelin's fourth album is so firmly implanted in the DNA of classic rock listeners that it is hard to even fathom beyond a clichéd set of superlatives. Still, while it is probably Zep's most characteristic album it is (as others have said) not necessarily their greatest. The question is why.

One thing I notice, after several years of favouring Physical Graffiti when I need a Zeppelin fix, is the way Zep IV feels slightly over-anxious to establish the band's credibility in realms other than hard rock. The Battle of Evermore and Going to California are attempts to embrace the British folk revival of bands like Fairport Convention (even enlisting their former singer, Sandy Denny, on Battle) in ways not entirely suited to Zeppelin's strengths. Physical Graffiti has "folk" tunes as well, but by then Zep seemed content to just relax in an open field and let the woody vibes flow.

Still, there's no denying the incendiary power of the two side openers on Zep IV, Black Dog and Misty Mountain Hop." With Stairway To Heaven (assuming you can sit through it yet again; I couldn't), you get one of the greatest guitar solos ever recorded. And on When the Levee Breaks, Zeppelin finally assimilate the blues in ways that feel natural and organic to the band's creative vision.

One nice surprise for me this listen: Four Sticks, which for all its placeholder status is just strange enough to throw a stylistic curveball at the point the album needs it. Since I'd rate both Zeppelin I and Physical Graffiti one point higher than IV, my rating this week is 9/10.

David Longman: This album has to be the one against which every rock album that has followed should be measured. It's easy to overlook the impact this had at the time of release. After two dynamic albums and the less frenetic LZIII, this burst out like an uncaged tiger. From Plant's "Hey, hey mama ..." to the cannon fire of John Bonham on '..Levee Breaks, this was raw rock'n'roll at its peak. When you judge this album try to remember the first time you heard Stairway To Heaven, and I defy you not to give this 10/10.

Gus Schultz: It’s not my favourite LZ LP, possibly because of over-exposure, but I never liked how the original album sounded due to either the production or LP mastering, in particular Rock And Roll just sounded very flat. Although I haven’t listened to any remasters to hear if it improved and I haven’t played any Zep for years. 

Stairway to Heaven – it goes without saying – is likely their biggest song of all time, always being the number one spot of all the year-end radio station countdowns in the seventies. Also being the number one song at high school dances. I used to enjoy watching people scramble for a partner to dance with slow and tight then the look of bewilderment and awkwardness when Page cranked out his solo. It is certainly a tune I don’t need to hear again, and maybe that goes for the rest of the album as well. That being said, it was a very good album in its day, and songs like Rock And Roll, Black Dog and Misty Mountain Hop got my adolescent heart and blood pumping hard and fast.

Hai Kixmiller: What more is there to lavish upon this masterpiece?

Being the band's fourth album in three years, I am awestruck by Jimmy Page's and Robert Plant's abilities to write so much great music in such a short period of time. It is difficult for me to discern whether Led Zeppelin IV is a thoughtful, planned, amalgamation of the harder rocking bluesy bits of the first two albums and the slower acoustic, folksy stuff of the third album. Or whether it's simply a brilliant assemblage of left-over, brushed-aside songs which failed to make it onto the first three albums.

Regardless of their origins, the importance and influence of the songs from Led Zeppelin IV resonated all through the 80s and 90s. I would argue that Stairway To Heaven is the archetype for the hard rock ballad. Is it any wonder that just about every hard rock act during the 80s needed to have a hit ballad before they were considered successful? And how many Robert Plant clones did you hear throughout the 80s and 90s?

Even today, you can still hear the echos of Led Zeppelin IV in the music of today's rock'n'roll torch bearers, bands and artists like Dirty Honey, The Dust Coda, Greta Van Fleet, Black Label Society, Black Country Communion, Wolfmother, Jack White, The Vintage Caravan, Rival Sons, The Record Company, Earthless, etc.

Released over 50 years ago, Led Zeppelin IV is a rock'n'roll juggernaut. Nothing can stop its continued reign as one of the greatest albums ever. It has one of the most iconic acoustic guitar licks ever, in that if you ever tried to play said guitar lick in a music store you could legally be tarred and feathered for your blasphemous act. This simple infraction of guitar store decorum, in and of itself, is enough to secure the mythical and timeless quality of this album. But listening to the album and passing it on to the next generation is a much more enjoyable experience.

Douglas Mackenzie: I'm not sure there's any point in reviewing this album for this audience. Does anyone on this list not know this? Some albums live forever. Certainly, as flong as there is rock music, there will be LZ IV as the pinnacle – or one of the pinnacles – of 70s rock.

I don't think you even need to discuss it. What can you say about it? It's one of the most written-about albums in the entire annals of rock, what's the point in discussing it any more? It represents the absolute peak of 70s rock, is truly timeless, and is still the peak today.

Nigel Mawdsley: Led Zeppelin IV was the first album that I heard by the band and I thought that I would become a massive fan, however, I find LZ's other albums underwhelming in comparison. What a great album IV is though!

Greg Schwepe: Yes, this was my very first Led Zeppelin purchase. And yes, Led Zeppelin ended up being my favourite band to this day, even though other bands I am a fan of have been around longer and have released more albums. And, believe it or not, this isn’t my favourite Zeppelin album, even though it’s chock-full of classics! But I can still listen to it 10 times in a row (like I just did!). The mystery, the mystique, the symbols, the cavernous drums, the epic guitar solos, the hermit wizard guy holding the lamp on the inside cover, and the slumped-over old guy in the picture on the cover with a big bundle of sticks on his back... yes, this is Led Zeppelin IV!

I didn’t buy Zeppelin’s catalogue in the order they were released. And I found out later I kind of started in the middle. But what an album to start with, right? This had been out about six years when I bought it and it had already made an impression on the music world. 

Hands down, the opening salvo of Black Dog and Rock And Roll are probably the best opening two tracks on any album ever made. The swagger and call and response of Black Dog, followed by the frenetic opening drum frenzy of John Henry Bonham on Rock And Roll. Just sets the tone right then and there.

But while Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones can create some Godzilla-stomping riffs, let’s not forget the acoustic guitar and mandolin intricacies of The Battle of Evermore with Sandy Denny’s vocals harmonizing with Robert Plant. Throw in a few Tolkien references just to make you feel like you’re near The Shire.

Next comes either a favourite song of many, or the most overplayed song of many. Take your pick. Chances are it was always near the top when your local FM station did their weekend-long “[Pick Your Holiday] Top 100 Countdown.” And was played at the end of every high school dance too. Personally, I’ve heard it 10,000 times too, but once I get lost in the lyrics and the ending solo, I kind of forget I just listened to it for 10,001th time. Oh, I didn’t even mention the title, but you know what song I’m talking about.

Flip the vinyl over and you have the grooving romp of Misty Mountain Hop to open side two. Four Sticks follows with the title referring to the total number of drum sticks Bonzo was holding while nailing down the repetitive beats.

Probably Robert Plant’s best performance on the album comes next with Going to California along with the beautiful acoustic guitar and mandolin. This song brings out a “moment.” Wow.

We end this colossus of an album with the monster drumbeats of John Bonham on When The Levee Breaks. And if you’ve ever read or seen any Zeppelin documentaries you know how the drums were placed in an area of Headley Grange where the stone features of that house enabled Jimmy Page to capture that huge drum sound. And maybe the most wicked harmonica sound that rivals Sabbath’s The Wizard.

10 out of 10 for me on this one. A true classic and the album that introduced me to this band. Now, still trying to figure out who the May Queen is though…

Miz Patel: As near perfect as any album can be. Much as I love Houses Of The Holy, Physical Graffiti and Presence that followed, I think this is Zep at the peak of their powers. It’s got just about everything.

There’s so much crap written about Jimmy Page and Led Zeppelin these days that the detractors fail to see that those stretches, those “mistakes”, the timing, the pitch etc are all massive contributions to the magnificence of those four astounding musicians. So many moments on this recording have inspired and influenced generations that followed and continue to do so.

Bloody marvellous masterpiece! Nuff said.

Philip Qvist: Enough has been written about Led Zeppelin IV (or whatever people want to call it), so I doubt I can add much more to those comments, but allow me to try.

It might be one of my all-time favourite albums, but the first time I heard it in full was the mid to late 80s - over 15 years after it had been released.

Stairway To Heaven definitely fits in the overplayed category, but Jimmy Page's guitar solo never fails to give me goosebumps. That song is still a masterpiece.

Any album that starts with Black Dog and finishes with the momentous When The Levee Breaks has something going for it; while the acoustic Going To California is an understated classic.

The songwriting of Robert Plant and Jimmy Page hit its peak on LZ IV, and that is before mentioning the contributions from the other two band members.

Bringing in the late, great Sandy Denny to sing dual vocals on The Battle Of Evermore was a masterstroke, and while I might be in the minority here, I love Rock And Roll.

This album, along with Led Zeppelin II, remains my go-to Led Zep records, and both are pretty much flawless.

I could go on, but I think you get my drift. Most critics have called LZ IV a masterpiece, and I can hardly disagree with that assessment. An easy 10/10 from me:  All killer with no filler.

Mark Herrington: Difficult to write anything that hasn’t been written about one of the best hard rock albums ever.

I still have my old 70s LP somewhere , but it's a little less worn than any of my Sabbath , or Dio-era Rainbow albums. I didn’t play this to death , simply because I preferred other albums to obsess over. Still a 10/10 , for me .

Bill Griffin: Not my favourite Led Zeppelin album, but it is in a second-place tie with all of them except Physical Graffiti (which is my favourite). Still, there isn't a bad track on here (or any Led Zeppelin album). I can't even pick a standout track because every one of them is excellent. They may have been inconsistent live but they always delivered on vinyl.

Brett Deighton: I’m sure we’ve all heard stories like this before, but I’m one of those people that found this a life-changing album. I had discovered music by flipping through my parent’s vinyl collection and then one day was visiting a friend when he passed me what many call Led Zeppelin IV. I put the headphones on and discovered my favourite band of all time. 

This was the first album that I obsessed over, trying pull apart what each member was playing and studying the lyrics religiously (I’m still not sure what some of Stairway is about). I loved the power, but then also the light and shade of songs like Going to California. Sometimes a band writes an album that just feels personal, like they made it to specifically connect with you. For me, this was that album. My favourite of all time and therefore a perfect 10 in my eyes.

Ian Bullass: Some albums I never want to hear or need to hear again, possibly because it was overplayed in my teens. I just can't stand his voice anymore. I stop at III nowadays.

John Davidson: Led Zeppelin's untitled 4th album arrived in 1971, a mere three years after the group was pulled together by Jimmy Page from the ashes of his previous band The Yardbirds.

Even if it's not their "best" album it's the one that defined their career and rightly so.

It confidently blends the heavy blues, bombastic rock and folky leanings of their first three releases into an album that took them from mere greatness into legends.

Black Dog almost has the foot tapping but the time signature is tricky and the riff swirls and switches. Rock And Roll is as close to a straight-up rock'n'roll song as Zep ever came. Battle of Evermore felt like an indulgence when I first heard it way back in the day. Where were the electric guitars? But it's too good a song to quibble about.

Even now, as overplayed as it is, Stairway to Heaven is a magnificent centrepiece and a template for so many songs that were to follow. When the gentle, contemplative, strains of the opening section begin to open up and take flight you can still feel the rush of excitement When the drums kick in the song starts to rock and then the guitar solo arrives in a moment of musical bliss.

Side two opens with Misty Mountain Hop. It has the difficult job of following Stairway and these days doesn't even get the grace period while you flip the album, but Jones' electric piano riff gives it a distinctive feel. Four Sticks remains one of the best songs on the album. The urgent riff and the impossible drum pattern underpin the song but there is so much going on it still fascinates even today. Going to California should feel out of place but the finger-picking is superb and Plant has rarely sounded so playful and melancholy. When the Levee Breaks repackages the delta blues stylings of their first album. A thunderous beat, plaintive mouth organ and searing guitars bring the album to a glorious close

If you listen very hard the tune will come to you at last. 10/10. And it's not even their best album

Andy Rawll: As the blues-rock bluster of the first two gave way to more mystical, folk-fueled fare of III, the album, that shall remain nameless, provides a satisfyingly cohesive suite of styles and casts a beguiling spell of myriad moods. Given the overfamiliarity of the songs of side one, it's side two that for me has enduring appeal. The psyche stomp of Misty Mountain Hop has a great rockabilly punk edge, while Sticks has a fabulous garage sludge groove. The ethereally atmospheric California provides the perfect preface to the hypnotic and arresting album finale, driven by Bonham's dambusting percussion and Page's brilliantly voiced guitar orchestration.

Roy Bish: The first album I heard by Zeppelin, and I was immediately hooked. It belonged to the older brother of a friend, I became a lifelong devotee of Led Zeppelin, 48 years on they are still my favourite band, and this is one of my favourite albums. It is a perfect rock album, from the clarion call of Black Dog to the immense Bonham-driven When The Levee Breaks. It is pure perfection.

Stan BowersL 10/10. Great album, even though I prefer LZ I, LZ III, HOTH and PG to it. Just goes to show you how good Zep were. Those first six albums are not only 10s, but cornerstone albums for everything that came after them. If you take Led Zeppelin, 70s Aerosmith and the first four Van Halen albums and throw them in a blender you get the 80s bands.

Wade Babineau: 10/10. Took all the elements of the first three albums and fused them together, which they took a step further with Physical Graffiti. Of all the songs, Four Sticks was never my favourite, but I won't skip it either.

Richard Cardenas: Tired of most of this record but that does not diminish its greatness. Still a nine for me.

Evan Sanders: 10/10. I can't add much to what has already been written. I'll put in a few words about Four Sticks, named because John Bonham was playing it with two pairs of drumsticks. There appears to be only one live recording of it. I'm also fascinated by Led Zeppelin's tendency to not include the name of the song within the lyrics, e.g. Black Dog, Battle Of Evermore, Four Sticks.

Ed Feeley: An epic album for the ages. All the tracks are different, but they somehow sit together comfortably without overshadowing each other. I always thought that Black Dog was the most unique and maybe the most representative song they ever did. I was surprised when I found out that the main riff was composed by bassist, John Paul Jones. Rock And Roll is sort of the outlier here as it doesn't blend as well into the mystical vibe of the rest of the album, maybe for the better. Stairway which we've all heard 1000 times is their magnum opus. Misty Mountain Hop is one of the most fun tunes they've ever done. 

The acoustic numbers soar with the mandolin becoming a featured instrument on The Battle of Evermore. The album ends with the anthemic heavy blues of When the Levee Breaks, which also channels a psychedelic vibe with its haunting harmonica backdrop. Incredible ear candy from start to finish. We've all listened to it so many times we tend to take it for granted, but it really is a remarkable album. I wish some band would come out with an equally compelling piece of music today.

Elad Winberg: An iconic masterpiece, and one of the best albums of all time. I love every song on here, and even if some tracks such as Stairway To Heaven or Black Dog are really overplayed, they're still amazing songs, and both have some of the best guitar playing of all time. If I have to choose a favourite Led Zeppelin album, I'll say that it's a tie between this album and Led Zeppelin II. Both are highly influential and have a lot of classics on them.

Mike Canoe: I don't generally do song-by-song observations in my writeups, but this is a special album for a special occasion so here are the fourth album's eight tracks listed from my most favourite to least.

Four Sticks: A dark and terrifying dazzler. My fouth favorite song in their entire discography. I have no idea what Plant's wailing about but, whether by accident or purpose, the clearest lyric is "Oh baby, the river's red, ah baby, in my head." This is the version of Led Zeppelin that had us all holding the album gatefold up to the mirror. Four Sticks is on the short list of songs that my son and I came up with that if you hear it start at a party, you just head for the exit and go.

When the Levee Breaks: Apocalyptic harmonica combined with the biggest earth-quaking booms I had heard on record at that point. As an unstoppable wave of impending calamity rolls forward, Robert howls and wails for the death and destruction caused by the coming flood, for his own destruction in whatever form it arrives.

The Battle of Evermore: A haunting mandolin-led folk ballad that name-checks both Ringwraiths and "the Prince of Peace." Sandy Denny's gorgeous co-vocal weaves in and around Plant's voice making for an absolutely mesmerizing experience.

Rock And Roll: Hey, I like the fun songs too and this one is nothing but sheer joy packed into it's less than four minutes. Kudos to Ian Stewart for the boogie-woogie piano.

Going to California: I remember reading somewhere that George Harrison chided Zeppelin for never writing ballads so they wrote one, The Rain Song, for their next album. This one sure sounds like a ballad to me, and one I like better than The Rain Song. Admittedly, most ballads don't include a punch in the nose.

Misty Mountain Hop: The pretty and free-spirited younger sister to Four Sticks. Kinda weird, a little scary, but – hey – it could be great too. Another fun one. If the rest of the album is The Lord of the Rings, this one has the adventure (and economy) of The Hobbit.

Black Dog: A rank and skanky blues track that actually sounds like one they wrote without co-opting and overhauling a previously recorded blues track. Reportedly named after a literal black dog that hung around outside the studio. I have my doubts.

Stairway to Heaven: You knew it had to be this way. The minute the acoustic guitar starts, I get a pit in my stomach. Then the recorder, then the very carefully phrased and enunciated lyrics. Everything about it telegraphs it as The Most Important Song Ever. And, of course, at time one it was, my first Zeppelin (and overall music) crush when I was just finding my way into rock music. Now I pretty much think of it as the 2 1/2 greatest minutes of rock'n'roll - preceded by 5 1/2 minutes of overly sincere whimsy.

Overall, Led Zeppelin's fourth album probably ranks sixth out of nine (I include odds-and-sods Coda) on my personal Zep-meter but that has more to do with overfamiliarity than the songs themselves. It was an absolute blast to revisit. Here's to the next 300 (or so) albums.


Final score: 9.21 (396 votes cast, total score 3651)

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