The First Real Zep Album?,
This review is from: Led Zeppelin IV (Audio CD)
Zeps 1 2 and 3 were exciting, noisy, brash, and sometimes a little overblown ('Dazed and Confused' and the middle section of 'Whole Lotta Love' did go on a bit and get rather lost). There were gems in all three albums but as a whole they always seemed to me to be a little unformed, as if the band were so good at so much they didn't really know what they wanted to do.
But this is different. Zep 4 / Untitled / Zoso / call it what you will still has a wide range of styles but is more coherent and consistent. All eight tracks are great in their own right and the album as a whole towers not just over their first three albums but over pretty much everything else that had been done in the name of rock up until then. From the thrashing opening of 'Black Dog' and 'Rock and Roll' - both of which could teach Motorhead, Metallica et al a thing or two even now - to the more melodic 'Battle of Evermore' this is the sound of a band who had really found themselves. The biggest problem the album had in the days of vinyl was that a lot of people I knew would simply not bother to turn over to side two after 'Stairway to Heaven', being almost emotionally drained by the experience and unwilling to believe that anything could or should follow it. This is a shame, not least because 'When the Levee Breaks' shows what a stunning drummer John Bonham was and how they could really thrash out the blues. The Simpsons may make the odd snide remark about Zep having stolen from American culture but the fact is they could do it better than most american bands.
And what of 'Stairway to Heaven'? Is there anyone in the world who hasn't heard it? Is there anything about it that remains to be said? For me it achieves in 8 minutes what Wagner took an entire ring cycle to do. It's probably the greatest single piece of rock music in the world. Nuff sed.