Led Zeppelin: Icons of rock music

Four names remain synonymous with the best of rock music. Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Bonham, and John Paul Jones are the four members of the legendary rock band Led Zeppelin. While almost everybody knows the band today, back in the early seventies, the members had yet to receive the same popularity in comparison to today’s standards. In 1970, the band had released three albums and had a solid fanbase, but the third album, Led Zeppelin III, left critics wanting more after their impressive sophomore attempt. The folk inspiration for the third album distanced the band from the hard-rock and blues mix they had previous success with. In an attempt to avoid the expectation of critics, Page removed a title and their name from their fourth album cover. Many people just referred to the album as Untitled. Nowadays, the legendary fourth record, released in November 1971, is known as Led Zeppelin IV.

Led Zeppelin IV gave the band the success they had lacked with their third album. The reception, both commercially and critically, was overwhelming. The record stayed on the UK charts for 90 weeks with its peak position at number one. In the US, the album stayed on the charts for a longer period of time, but could never reach the top spot. Led Zeppelin IV is one of the best selling albums of all time and the best selling album to not reach the peak of the US charts. Critics were blown away by the record. Most of the reviews published in 1971 gave a perfect score to the band’s fourth attempt. This critical praise continues today. Rolling Stone and many other publications have the album on their “Greatest Albums of All Time” list. The Grammy awards even gave the record the “Grammy Hall of Fame Award” in 1999. After the final seconds of the album, the listener should feel that all the praise is justified.

“Black Dog” kicks off the album with a bang. Plant isolates his vocals before Page comes in with an amazing guitar riff. The interspersed parts are not only clever, but also allows listeners to focus on the strengths of Zeppelin as a band individually. Plant has an iconic voice and only Jimmy Hendrix surpasses Page as a better guitar player. Eventually, Page gives a signature guitar solo over the crashing of Bonham’s cymbals and Plant’s “Oohs.” The second song on the album, “Rock and Roll,” begins with an impressive drum sequence. These drums carry the song and help get the most out of each part. They stop for the climax of Plant’s vocals and Page’s solo. Then the song ends with a drum solo from Bonham, where he establishes himself as the best part of one of Zeppelin’s best songs. “The Battle of Evermore” improves on the folk sound from Led Zeppelin III. Page accompanies Plant with his combination of mandolin and acoustic guitar. Plant shows off his literature knowledge with many lyrical references to J.R.R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

Everyone recognizes the final song on the first side of the record within the first few seconds. Whether a fan of Led Zeppelin or not, everyone knows the legendary “Stairway to Heaven.” Beginning with a duet between Plant and Page’s finger picked arpeggios across his acoustic, the song begins to build towards and epic conclusion. Flutes come in and Page’s acoustic becomes mixed with electric guitar. As soon as Bonham’s drums hit, the song begins to move faster towards the climax. Plant shows off his lyrical prowess with “there’s still time to change the road you’re on.” Before long, the song takes you to one of the most iconic guitar solos of all time. Page begins to shout. The drums build up intensity. Page overdubs different guitar licks over his main riff. Then, with a cymbals crash, Plant ends the song alone with, “and she’s buying the stairway to heaven.” The song is not only the best of Led Zeppelin, but one of the best of all time.

The organ and guitar riff lead “Misty Mountain Hop,” the first song off of the second half of the album. Plant’s vocals carry the same melody as the riff and Bonham’s drums drive the song to the end with impressive fills. “Four Sticks” is yet another song led by a notable riff from Page. Bonham puts a thumping drum beat that mimics a rapid heartbeat. For the chorus, Page replaces his heavy riff for a softer chord progression. Page and Plant pull off another duet in “Going to California,” another popular Zeppelin song. Page overdubs multiple acoustic guitars picking different parts, which each give a unique tone to add to the song. Plant also gives one of his best vocal performances. All of his traditional “Oohs” remain while in other parts he sings with a lower soothing tone. His lyrics sing about hope and optimism and are deeper than most lyrics that he writes. The album finishes with the incredible “When The Levee Breaks.” The song attains the drum sound that any band wants. Bonham achieved this by recording in a stairwell of a mansion. This method gives the various crashes of his cymbals and pounds of his snare drum a bigger punch. The intro contains a harmonica solo, which was recorded backwards so no one could replicate it. Page also stars in the song by playing with a slide. This technique gives the song a bluesy feel, that perfectly mixes with the beat of Bonham. The song is clever and should be more popular because the track is a highlight on an album full of wonderful songs.

Led Zeppelin IV is easily the best album from one of the most influential bands of all time. Zeppelin’s influence spans throughout multiple different genres. Artists across the various rock subcategories, from stadium rock bands Queen and Aerosmith to grunge bands Nirvana and Pearl Jam, cite Led Zeppelin as a major inspiration. Even pop stars, such as Madonna and Shakira, have said that the band has influenced them to an extent. Without Led Zeppelin, the state of the music industry would be very different.