In 1971, English rock band Led Zeppelin released an untitled, fourth studio album commonly referred to as Led Zeppelin IV or The Fourth Album. Unlike its predecessor Led Zeppelin III, which received lukewarm reception, the fourth album was a critical and commercial success and can be called one of the greatest rock albums of all time, certainly the band’s best. The album contains a stunning mix of rock and roll, blues, hard rock and folk. There is not a single weak track on the album; every song complements the other and one never overpowers the rest. The album contained some of the band’s most popular songs, including “Stairway to Heaven,” however even the lesser-known songs like “The Battle of Evermore” are just as strong.
Immediately starting off the album with a strong bluesy-rock song that’s “Gonna make you sweat/ Gonna make you groove,” is “Black Dog” followed by the appropriately named “Rock and Roll.”
The first folk song comes in with “Battle of Evermore.” The mandolin and acoustic guitar combo create a spellbinding backdrop for the song as Robert Plant and Sandy Denny narrate the story song with a magical, mystical quality. With lyrics like “The queen of light took her bow/ And then she turned to go,” this amazing track effortlessly transports listeners into a fantasy book.
Easily one of the greatest rock songs ever recorded, “Stairway to Heaven” begins with a slow quiet melody in the beginning with acoustic guitar as Plant croons, “There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold.” As the song progresses, it changes from an acoustic folksy tune to a hard rock song with a flawless guitar solo by Jimmy Page, until it immaculately flows back into a quiet ending with Page singing softly, “And she’s buying a stairway to heaven.”
If there were to be weaker songs on this album, they’d be “Misty Mountain Hop” and “Four Sticks.” There is nothing wrong with these songs, they just happen to be in such a knockout album, that they don’t stand out. Both are solid hard rock songs with beats that carry and stunning instrumentals. As a more abstract song, “Four Sticks” has a unique drum beat that was literally created with four drumsticks.
The album finishes off with a thick and heavy rendition of Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie’s 1929 blues song, “When the Levee Breaks.” The song sounds like it is walking through a tar pit as a slow, strong, iconic drum beat carries the sludgy guitar and harmonica. The hypnotic blues rocks song ends the album quite nicely.
The album contains a variety of songs and genres while still being cohesive. There is a reason that Led Zeppelin IV is the second-best-selling album in the United States. The boys knew what they were doing, and as pioneers of heavy metal and hard rock, Led Zeppelin doesn’t disappoint. Led Zeppelin IV has remained a staple in the music industry and this immortal album doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.