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Under a Zeppelin's shadow
by Thanos Kalamidas
2006-11-09 10:25:41
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Led Zeppelin IV
Led Zeppelin
Warner, 1961

Very few groups are still going strong twenty-six years after their last release, while a huge Zeppelin shadow is cast all over the rock scene, even today. Led Zeppelin were formed in 1968 from the former Yardbird Jimmy Page (guitar), who was joined by Robert Plant (vocals, harmonica), John Bonham (drums) and John Paul Jones (Bass, keyboards, mandolin); they are the ones who gave a meaning to heavy metal and rock!

Led Zeppelin as a unit, managed to combine the unique guitar playing of Page with the hobbit dreamer Plant, the rhythmic Jones with the one and only Bonham. Bonham was unique in many ways, until him, a drummer in a rock band was the one who just kept the rhythm. He was an individual instrument that produced the sound of Led Zeppelin; it was the first time in rock and roll where a drummer was actually making music, proving that a drummer could be a forward musician in a rock band.

The most important part that Led Zeppelin had in music history was that they were the last band of the 1960s and the first of the 1970 to start a new era altogether; this inspired music in many ways. Led Zeppelin had to compete with The Beatles' 'Abbey Road', The Rolling Stones' 'Let it Bleed' and Simon & Garfunkel's 'Bridge Over Troubled Water', which are all works that point towards the end of a music era in pop music. Led Zeppelin was there to move music on to a new path, with their sensitivity, complex, grasping, beautiful, dangerous and often political music; twenty-six years after their messages and the sound is still contemporary.

And that was only the beginning. Because on November 8th, 1971, came the apocalyptic fourth album! This is where rock went where nobody had ever gone before and it still hasn't reached 35 years later - Led Zeppelin walked up the stairway to heaven!

The fourth album didn't have a name, but it had four symbols representing each member of the group. It was the battle of Evermore. All the Tolkien fantasies of Robert Plant became reality here.

ovi_zeppelin01_400The album opens with the song "Black Dog", apparently about a dog that used to be around the recording studio. It has a clear metal rock sound with Robert Plants' voice reaching unbelievable heights, while John Bonham drums straight to the heart and Jimmy Page and Jones lead their guitars on a crazy carousel that takes you round and round. The song is the epitome of hard rock and heavy metal together.

The drums start the second song of the album in a rock and roll rhythm, a classic opening for all the Led Zeppelin concerts since. It's "Rock and Roll" the Led Zeppelin way. The song spins for over three and a half minutes, speeding you inside the monster called rock and roll…a tribute to their 1950's rock and roll roots.

On "The Battle of Evermore", a guest vocalist joins Led Zeppelin for the first time. Robert Plant is joined by Sandy Denny and you can almost feel the Hobbits fighting a battle in Middle Earth straight from The Lord of the Rings. John Paul Jones' mandolin ties the feeling of the medieval era and it is an introduction for the next one…"Stairway to Heaven".

I don't know what to say about this song. This is rock; the rock that I love. For me, the song cast Led Zeppelin into the pantheon of the music masters. It vibrates every single sell of my inner being. I still haven't met anybody who has learned guitar and hasn't spent hours over the intro of this masterpiece. Jimmy Page's guitar, in an acoustic mood, accompanies Robert Plant for the first part of the song. Robert Plant's voice echoes the sound of the forest and then Bonham and Jones join in the same acoustic mood making you wonder how far they can climb this musical stairway.

You can feel the wind blow, you can feel the whispers of the elves and it comes to the third part of the song where the metal sound of Jimmy Page's guitar flies you to heaven; definitely to a different dimension. Robert Plant's voice goes up the road following the lady he pictures clearly in front of your eyes, Bonham counts the steps, Jones counts the heartbeats and Jimmy Page is there screaming in desperation. The song ends with Robert Plant looking at the stairway leaving him behind. A masterpiece!

After "Stairway to Heaven", I always found that I needed some time to recover and that is somehow unfair to the song that follows, "Misty Mountain Hop". This is another tribute to The Lord of the Rings, but this time it is more metal than "The Battle of Evermore". It features them all in a chorus praying for the ultimate victory, while again Jimmy Page's guitar leads.

Heavy drums open the next song, "Four Sticks" and Robert Plant's voice is there looking for air. The guitar and the bass twisting round and round, and the four instruments join suddenly, because in this song there are four instruments: guitar, bass, drums and vocals. Robert Plant's voice has become a new instrument that forces you to its own rhythm, while Bonham's drum forces you to follow with the guitars following the drums.

ovi_zeppelin02_400"Going to California" is the way of Led Zeppelin to experiment in other ways. Robert Plant's voice disappearing behind the mandolin and the slow country-blues feeling of nostalgia for any place, not necessary California, perhaps a place that you have dreamed of is strong. It's a song that puts you back into your inner self. And that's until the final song comes.

"When the Levee Breaks" is classic blues opening with a harmonica. The root of rock is the blues. Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe McCoy composed the original blues song, Led Zeppelin made it fly into their own dimensions. Plant's voice replaces the tears of the harmonica, while Page's guitar comes to accompany it with a metal sound, Bonham with Jones to follow. The total Led Zeppelin playing the blues, total harmony. And that makes a perfect ending for an album you naturally want to immediately play on again.

Led Zeppelin has always been my favorite rock band, but the record commonly known as 'Led Zeppelin IV' has always been my favorite album and thirty-five years later the Zeppelin shadow still leads my rock listening.

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