Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 2. 8th March 1972
Led Zeppelin Atlantic/HMV
Led Zeppelin Atlantic/HMV
Its been close to a year now since our ears were blessed with a new package of Led Zeppelin's distinctive sound. Continual engineering errors have delayed the completion of their fourth album, the one with the unpronounceable name. They began recording as early as December 1970 Happily, though expectedly, this record is as good as its immediate predecessor, but it is also a decided departure from the dominating-heavy-rock with emphasis on lead guitar and the unique voice of Robert Plant, to a larger role for rhythm and bass with more modulated singing. On tracks such as The Battle of Evermore and Stairway to Heaven Plant's voice is certainly sweeter, even gentle in parts. There seems to be strong influence in the album, from the romantic-epic ballad style of Fairpoint Convention and especially Fotheringay. Whether this is a result of Sandy Denny's presence on The Battle of Evermore track, or whether it has resulted in her presence, its impossible to say. But anyway she is there, and I for one am delighted to hear her duelling it with Plant.
There are 8 tracks in all, beginning with Black Dog, which is in traditional Zeppelin style with difficult lead guitar riffs and breaks in the music as Plant sings each rhyming couplet, much the way is goes in Dazed and Confused and You Shock Me, though perhaps not as memorable as these latter two songs, Black Dog is still an excellent track.
Then Zeppelin go womb-hunting with a rock 'n roll number entitled Rock 'n Roll - what else? The result is a pleasant, beat-ey track that sounds like a cross between Chuck Berry and early Beatles, with the Zepp. flavouring that Plant always imparts. It seems that many groups, having established themselves in one great idiom, then turn to airing several styles on the one album. Ten Years After, with their Watt album are another example of this. And in the case of both T.Y.A. and Led Zeppelin perform an old Memphis Minnie/ Kansas Joan McCoy song, (though with their own arrangement), called When the Levee Breaks - they do it well too.
Following Rock 'n Roll comes The Battle of Evermore, yet another song springing, I would guess, the Tolkien-like legend-myth-fairy story base. As mentioned, Sandy Denny sings in this one, and Jimmy Page mandolines away a solid accompanying melody. Stairway to Heaven is next; its quite a plaintive song emphasized by acoustic guitar - the lyrics (written by Plant) are the essential part of this track - they are printed on the dust cover so make of them what you will. Misty Mountain Hop, first track on Side Two reverts to a heavier sound and this is maintained into Four Sticks so-called simply because John Bonham used 4 drumsticks at once. Going to California is another acoustic number. It reminds me of Ralph McTell and the lonely minstrel image, and it reveals the range of Led Zeppelin in comparison to such one-track heavy groups as Grand Funk Railroad,
This seems an exploratory album with fun numbers like Rock 'n Roll thrown in. Though it doesn't have the impact the Zeppelin 1 and 2 had, tho' it doesn't stun you like Whole Lotto Love still does, this is an excellent record and is certainly worth emptying the wallet: It is not so long since Led Zeppelin was in some danger of breaking up. This has now passed and Zepp. is more cohesive than ever. Also, there is a large amount of material on tape, so another album can be expected reasonably soon.