In case you missed it, here's my take on Led Zeppelin I, Led Zeppelin II, and Led Zeppelin III.
Today's album in review is the unofficially named Led Zeppelin IV.
1. "Black Dog"--One of the most recognizable Led Zeppelin songs. It uses an almost call-and-response pattern between Robert Plant's vocals and Jimmy Page's guitar riffs which gives it a very raw and emotional feel. Mostly, the guitar riffs and percussion use an insane off-beat rhythm that's just...gorgeous.
2. "Rock and Roll"--A hardcore rockabilly song. Not a favorite of mine, but a solid Zeppelin song.
3. "The Battle of Evermore"--This one is acoustically pretty and features the vocals of folk singer* Sandy Denny. Plant is the main vocalist with Denny as the "town crier". Apparently this is based on Scottish lore, but seriously, Lord of the Rings, anyone? Ring wraiths are mentioned.
4. "Stairway to Heaven"--The quintessential rock song. The length, variety of instruments, and quickening tempo all make it an epic. I'll be honest though, it takes about 4 minutes (halfway through) to really warm up for me with the addition of drums. Then at about 5:30, it gets into the section that's most enjoyable for me: Page's guitar solo, harder percussion, a new melody, and roaring Plant vocals make it the most exciting part of the song.
5. "Misty Mountain Hop"--Pretty sure it's about smoking pot in a park. Pretty cool harmony combining vocals, guitar, and electric piano. Very cool riff throughout.
6."Four Sticks"--A raw, aboriginal sound. The drums are hard and continuous (played with 4 sticks by John Bonham), the guitar riff keeps you on edge, and the rhythm is complex and erratic, kind of like a harder "Misty Mountain Hop". Also, Plant's vocals sound like they're distorted to a higher pitch in this song, which adds to the sense of crazy.
7. "Going to California"--This is one of my favorite Led Zeppelin songs. It's soft and acoustic, featuring several plucked string instruments (courtesy of Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones). The bridge has more passionate and forced vocals from Robert Plant, which is really the only edge in this song. I describe a lot of songs this way, but this is definitely a driving around with the windows down kind of song.
8. "When the Levee Breaks"--Based on a 1929 song of the same name, this is a soulful and powerful blues song. The guitar riff and drums keep it rock and roll, as does a key change into a major key signature a few times throughout. For how instrumental the song is, it's surprisingly engaging. The melody, key changes, and harmonica keep things melodic, which always hold my interest.
Overall Assessment: What a random mix of songs: hard rock, folk, rockabilly, acoustic, blues. As an overall album, it's probably a work of contrast rather than a cohesive idea, but it somehow works. Maybe not my favorite album, but consistently good, with the last two songs being some of my favorite Led Zeppelin songs.
*I love the combination of Robert Plant and folk music: check out his work with Alison Krauss.