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Old 01-26-2005, 10:10 PM   #1
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Review of Zeppelin IV from amazon.com

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The beginning of Led Zeppelin's decline, January 22, 2005


Led Zeppelin's fourth album is generally regarded as their creative peak - a general opinion I do not agree with. The way I see it, while this is a great album in its own right, it marks the beginning of a long decline for the band that would bottom out with their 1975 release, "Presence".

Led Zeppelin were never master songwriters. I'm sorry if I offended any devoted fans with that statement, but it's true. Lets face it - as far as actual songwriting goes, generic blues and folk rip-offs like "Dazed and Confused" or "What Is and What Should Never Be" are nothing special.

What Led Zeppelin WERE masters of, however (at least in their early years), was atmospherics. With their skills as musicians and producers, the band injected a drab, foreboding, "the apocalypse is just around the corner" atmosphere into their music - one which no musicians before or since has ever come close to matching.

As Led Zeppelin's career wore on, however, the atmosphere that made their work so great slowly disappeared, until they eventually regressed into little more than a decent hard rock group with above-average technical chops and a huge fan base.

The first signs of trouble can be heard on the opening tracks here. Yes, "Black Dog" and "Rock & Roll" are both great slabs of radio-friendly lust rock. But compared with their counterparts on Led Zeppelin's first album ("You Shook Me" and "Communications Breakdown"), they sound disappointingly... well... normal. They also illustrate another growing problem for Led Zeppelin - the decline of Robert Plant's voice. He's lost much of the roaring power he displayed on the band's debut, and his head-voice vocals are starting to sound like a bad Bee-Gees impression.

Atmosphere is back for "The Battle of Evermore", but unfortunately so are Robert Plant's D&Desque lyrical stylings. He introduces us to the Queen of Light, the Dark Lord, and the Angels of Avalon, and then let's them slug it out while "horses thunder down in the valley below". The song is saved from being totally embarrassing by the beautiful singing of guest vocalist Sandy Denny - but only just barely.

(Actually, Sandy quite clearly blows away Robbie as a singer here. Almost makes you wish the band had ditched him and picked her up as a frontwoman. Imagine what she could have done with "Kashmir"...)

Side one closes with "Stairway to Heaven", which has had a stranglehold on FM radio for 30 years, and almost deserves to. From the opening riff (stolen from progressive rock band Spirit - not that anybody cares) through the beautiful vocal melody to the famous guitar solo, it's one of the most perfectly structured rock songs ever written. So perfectly structured, in fact, that you have to listen to it a few dozen times before you start to notice that not much is going on musically after the guitar solo, and that the lyrics are some of the stupidest the band ever wrote. ("All are one and one is all"!)

Sadly, things take a real dive on the beginning of side two. "Misty Mountain Hop" one-ups "Hats Off to (Roy) Harper" from their last album in the 'stupid-unmelodic-inside-joke-that-nobody-cares-about' department, and "Four Sticks" chugs along for 4 1/2 minutes with Plant wailing over a bass line that keeps promising to turn into a melody, but never does. Apparently John Bonham used four drumsticks to get the sound he wanted on that track - hence the name. Well guess what, Bonzo? Nobody gives a **** how many sticks you're using if the song you're playing sucks.

Things get better with "Going to California". Plant can't resist going off about "the wrath of the gods" in the bridge, but the rest is a perfectly pretty little acoustic ballad. And then...

...then we hit the blues cover "When the Levee Breaks" - the best song on the album, and maybe the greatest song Led Zeppelin ever did. All the dark atmospherics that were missing at the beginning of the album are back with a bloody vengeance. For seven minutes, the band conjures images of screaming victims as they are consumed in an apocalyptic flood. Bonzo and John Paul Jones lay down a crushing rhythm track, Page uses his production tricks to turn his slide guitar and Plant's harmonica into instruments of sonic terror, and even Robbie makes himself useful, turning in a vocal performance almost on par with his earliest work.

Newcomers Led Zeppelin will probably be tempted to pick up this album first, if only because it has "Stairway to Heaven". I'd advise them against that. The best approach to Led Zeppelin is (in my opinion, anyway) to listen to their albums in chronological order, starting with their debut and working forwards from there. As for Zeppelin fans... oh, who am I kidding? There's no such thing as a Led Zeppelin fan who doesn't already own this.


Got me thinking about the group's career and shit.
What do you guys think?
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Old 01-26-2005, 10:21 PM   #2
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Re: Review of Zeppelin IV from amazon.com

Interesting perspective, with some legitimate criticisms. I am sure we are going to have alot of pissed of LZ fans sounding off soon enough.
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Old 01-26-2005, 10:25 PM   #3
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Re: Review of Zeppelin IV from amazon.com

Quote:
Originally Posted by NewDawnFades
Interesting perspective, with some legitimate criticisms. I am sure we are going to have alot of pissed of LZ fans sounding off soon enough.
I don't put much stock in it. A lot of those Amazon reviews are way out there.
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Old 01-26-2005, 10:33 PM   #4
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Re: Review of Zeppelin IV from amazon.com

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Led Zeppelin's fourth album is generally regarded as their creative peak
I disagree.

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Old 01-26-2005, 10:36 PM   #5
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Re: Review of Zeppelin IV from amazon.com

They did lift a lot of riffs from older, unknown Blues artists but what they did with those riffs in the creation of original songs was still brilliance in my book.

And they never declined in a general sense imo. They were incredible, almost perfection up until Physical Graffiti. I thought Presence was a bit weak but they made a strong come back and successfully updated their sound with the release of In Through The Outdoor. So all in all I would say they were outstanding the whole time with a slight hiccup on Presence, though I like some of the tracks.

His review doesn't bother me, I just don't agree with the majority of it.
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Old 01-26-2005, 10:38 PM   #6
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Re: Review of Zeppelin IV from amazon.com

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aladinsane

His review doesn't bother me, I just don't agree with the majority of it.
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Old 01-26-2005, 10:48 PM   #7
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Re: Review of Zeppelin IV from amazon.com

The review is indeed an interesting, and somewhat valid, perspective on the band's history. The reviewer is correct that by IV, the band is going far less for atmospherics. But they never completely abandoned that. They just underplayed that as they got more into being a band. They played the studio less and played their instruments more as they went along. That's a natural progression, when you consider that Page and Jones (at least) really got their start as studio players, and Zeppelin was when they really "took to the road" with their music.

But I don't even consider IV to be their "peak" album. I think they "peaked" with Houses of the Holy and declined from there (but it was never a catastropic decline...they just never surpassed those first 5 albums for consistant high quality rock, in my opinion).
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Old 01-26-2005, 11:09 PM   #8
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Re: Review of Zeppelin IV from amazon.com

I can understand some of the criticisms (lyrics were never Zeppelin's strong point), but I don't agree with the fact that "atmospherics" was Zeppelin's defining characteristic, or their only good one. This review certainly isn't going to prevent me from considering IV to be one of the best albums ever recorded.
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Old 01-26-2005, 11:16 PM   #9
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Re: Review of Zeppelin IV from amazon.com

Everyone's got a voice and an opinion... It will not change how I treasure and applaud such a great body of work (production, writing, performance, etc). And I actually regard Led IV and beyond as my favorites.
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Old 01-27-2005, 09:14 AM   #10
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Re: Review of Zeppelin IV from amazon.com

My opinions:

1. He's right. LZ were never master songwriters.

2. "Black Dog" doesn't sound at all "normal". "Rock And Roll" does.

3. Sandy Denny is remarkably underused in "Battle."

4. This isn't the document of Plant's vocal decline. That would be Physical Graffiti.

5. "Misty Mountain Hop" and "Four Sticks" are two of the most original sounding songs on this album. To fail to appreciate "Four Sticks" in particular is philistine. And as for Bonzo's playing "sucking", :flipoff:.

6. There's nothing wrong with the lyrics to "Stairway." They may not be laden with all the heavy meaning that people ascribe to them, but they're not "stupid."

7. "When The Levee Breaks" is a great song, but I get the impression that this reviewer has a "LZ must play the blues" fixation. He probably doesn't appreciate this album because it shows a distinct departure from the blues.
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Old 01-27-2005, 10:14 AM   #11
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Re: Review of Zeppelin IV from amazon.com

Quote:
Originally Posted by dkmonroe
My opinions:

1. He's right. LZ were never master songwriters.

2. "Black Dog" doesn't sound at all "normal". "Rock And Roll" does.

3. Sandy Denny is remarkably underused in "Battle."

4. This isn't the document of Plant's vocal decline. That would be Physical Graffiti.

5. "Misty Mountain Hop" and "Four Sticks" are two of the most original sounding songs on this album. To fail to appreciate "Four Sticks" in particular is philistine. And as for Bonzo's playing "sucking", :flipoff:.

6. There's nothing wrong with the lyrics to "Stairway." They may not be laden with all the heavy meaning that people ascribe to them, but they're not "stupid."

7. "When The Levee Breaks" is a great song, but I get the impression that this reviewer has a "LZ must play the blues" fixation. He probably doesn't appreciate this album because it shows a distinct departure from the blues.
I pretty much agree with your critique of the critique. I especially agree with you that Physical Graffiti is when Robert Plant's voice starts failing to deliver the goods. That was one of my biggest disappointments in that album.
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Old 01-28-2005, 12:24 AM   #12
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Re: Review of Zeppelin IV from amazon.com

I can't really take this review with too much salt (Not that I need anybody else to tell me about the musical merits of one of my favorite and most listened-to albums of all time). I find it curious that, among all the songs Zep 'ripped off', the reviewer chose to mention What Is And What Should Never Be, which I understand to be one of Zep's more original tunes (especially when the one song off the album the reviewer seems to stand behind is an obvious blues cover) - not to mention the fact that Dazed and Confused isn't exactly one of the songs Zeppelin ripped that I would clearly consider to be either originally blues or folk-based. Plus, I don't understand where the reviewer is coming from referring to Robert Plant as 'Robbie'. Maybe I'm wrong, but to me it just sounds like an effort at belittlement.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aladinsane
They did lift a lot of riffs from older, unknown Blues artists but what they did with those riffs in the creation of original songs was still brilliance in my book.
It's my understanding that they stole a lot of the lyrics and subject matter for the lyrics, but a good bit of the actual music is quite original, especially Page's riffs.
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Old 01-28-2005, 02:41 PM   #13
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Re: Review of Zeppelin IV from amazon.com

Amazing production and atmospher chops - I'll agree with him on that. No one's been able to do that but Zep, out of everything I've heard.

Needless to say his reveiws of the individual songs are laughably contrary to my central beliefs 'bout Zep's work. And I disagree that Led Zeppelin weren't master songwriters. Check out No Quarter, Kashmir, What Is And What Should Never Be, Stairway to Heaven, Misty Mountain Hop, Tangerine... Master songwriters? Yep, I see it that way.
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Old 01-28-2005, 02:53 PM   #14
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Re: Review of Zeppelin IV from amazon.com

Quote:
The way I see it, while this is a great album in its own right, it marks the beginning of a long decline for the band that would bottom out with their 1975 release, "Presence".
OMG, I honestly wanted to read it up to the end, but I got astounded in the very beginning. BS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Long decline... bottomed out with... PRESENSE!!! One of my favourite albums!!! I don't even want to read more of it, it's BS.
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