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100 Albums: "Untitled (IV/Zoso)" by Led Zeppelin

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: Led Zeppelin
Title: untitled
Released: 1971
Genre: classic rock


Is there a more epic album opening than Black Dog? Plant screaming "Hey, Hey, Mama..." and a trio of musicians exploding into that proto-metal riff behind him? There's a reason Led Zeppelin is always included in discussions of who might be the greatest rock band of all time: Plant's bluesy wail, Bonham's impossibly huge drum sound, Page's guitar work--and tone, when people talk about "vintage guitar tone" they're talking about Jimmy Page--and Jones's bass and keys (bassists are the unsung heroes of rock, and Jones's bass work here is low-key phenomenal). They're an iconic band, and this is their most iconic album.

Officially untitled, but commonly referred to as either Zoso or IV, this record is not only their best-selling, but it contains their most well-known song, Stairway To Heaven, also known as the song you're not allowed to play in a guitar store. It includes references to Tolkien and visual elements taken from the occult. Of it's eight tracks, seven of them are absolutely brilliant and one of them is Four Sticks. Which is fine. Perfectly serviceable. Solid little tune. Anyway.

Even if you've never listened to it front-to-back, you've almost certainly heard most of it in commercials or on your dad's radio station. The opening drum line from Rock 'n' Roll is instantly recognizable. I've already mentioned Black Dog, but for fun some time try to count along with the drum line. It's crazy complex the way the guitar and drum interact, but you wouldn't notice unless you're listening for it. Stairway features one of the greatest rock guitar solos of all time and it was completely improvised on the first take. Misty Mountain Hop is delightfully psychedelic. Going To California is haunting. All told, it's one of the great rock records, an influential masterpiece.

Further listening: I mean, take your pick. It's Zeppelin--their entire catalog is rich. So to mix things up, I will recommend some off-beat covers of songs from this album. There's The Lovemongers' take on Battle Of Evermore from the Singles soundtrack, A Perfect Circle's dreamy atmospheric reinterpretation of When The Levee Breaks, or Dread Zeppelin giving Misty Mountain Hop the ska + Elvis treatment.

Comments

Kathy Schrenk said…
Curious why you say Four Sticks is less amazing than, say, MMH or WTLB.

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