Formed from the ashes of British blues-rockers the Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin shot to the stratosphere in the early 1970s. With Dionysian frenzy and a blast of blues-drenched riffs, they became one of the biggest bands of the era. Their intense musical excursions helped define the sound of hard rock, while their penchant for folk balladry added to their mystique as rock gods. The group called it quits after the death of drummer John Bonham in 1980, and remaining members Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, and John Paul Jones pursued (mostly) separate musical ventures.
UK remastered reissue of 1971 album, packaged in a limited edition miniature LP gatefold sleeve. Eight tracks. Atlantic. 2003.
Jimmy Page was a top London studio guitarist before he got rich and famous as the musical leader of Led Zeppelin. The group's fourth--and arguably their finest--album is as much a tribute to his technique as a monument to his versatility. Page produced the album, co-wrote all eight songs, and played mandolin as well as all the guitars. Musically, this 1971 disc ranges from acoustic English folke ("Goin' to California" and "The Battle of Evermore," the latter featuring the late Fairport Convention frontwoman Sandy Denny) to bone-crushing, bluesy riff-slinging. On the album's centerpiece, "Stairway to Heaven," these light and dark strains are dramatically intertwined. The chiming "Four Sticks" aside, it's the Little Richard-inspired "Rock and Roll" and the tricky time changes--a Zeppelin trademark--of the fast-and-furious "Black Dog" that elevate this album into more than just a bustle in aspiring guitarists' hedgerows. --Don Waller
Also known as the "rune" album or Zoso because of the medieval symbols adorning the inner sleeve, Led Zeppelin's fourth album, released in 1971, turned them from mere superstars into giant behemoths of the rock world. On tracks like "Black Dog," "Misty Mountain Hop," and "Rock and Roll," the combination of Robert Plant's banshee wails and Jimmy Page's frenetic guitar playing forever altered the stylistic bent of hard rock music. And the foreboding "When the Levee Breaks" demonstrated that Zeppelin could indeed play the blues fairly straight if they so desired. Still, everything here ultimately took a back seat to the album's (and, ultimately, the band's) magnum opus--the expertly constructed and deftly executed classic, "Stairway to Heaven." --Billy Altman
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