By Jillian Deiley
On Nov. 8, 1971, the English rock group, Led Zeppelin, released their fourth studio album, “IV,” on Atlantic records. After 45 years of circulation, the album continues to be a substantial and moving part of the rock and roll world.
The album was a huge commercial, critical and fan success, categorized as their most popular album to date, selling over 37 million copies, according to the “Encyclopedia of Heavy Metal” by Daniel Bukszpan.
“IV” consists of eight tracks, containing four of Led Zeppelin’s most popular singles, like the eight minute epic “Stairway to Heaven,” the rock anthems “Rock and Roll” and “Black dog” and the acoustic naturalist piece “Going to California.”
The album spans the length of 40 minutes and was produced by guitarist, Jimmy Page, but features contributions from Robert Plant (vocalist), John Paul Jones (bassist) and John Bonom (drummer) as well.
Striving for a secretiveness behind the album, the cover art does not feature the band’s name or even an official title to the album.
The inside cover art depicts four Celtic symbols, one to represent each member, but still no album name or the band name is listed. The goal with staying unidentified was to avoid expectation in sound based on their previous albums.
“Led Zeppelin” and “Led Zeppelin II,” their first two albums, were rooted in the blues and combined a hard rock spin bringing Led Zeppelin to the forefront of the hard rock world in the 1970s.
But, when they experimented with other sounds like folk and acoustic tones on “Led Zeppelin III,” critics and fans did not regard the album in the same light as the first two, because it strayed away from their hard rock brand.
The ambition with the fourth album was to avoid the confines of their original sounds and to push critics and fans to focus on the music presented, rather than the band who was presenting it.
Because of the lack of title, the album goes by multiple names like “IV,” “Led Zeppelin IV,” “ZoSo” (which follows the Celtic letters on the inside sleeve) and according to music journalist Eduardo Rivadavia, the album title can also be referred to as “Gandalf Retires in the Countryside.”
This notion stems from the album art, which features an old bearded man carrying a large bundle of sticks.
The initial recording process was at Island Studios in London, and was then relocated to Headly Grange, a popular, secluded studio in East Hampshire. Many bands who recorded at Headly Grange cite the studio as having a relaxing and appealing atmosphere.
In an interview with David Lewis, a Led Zeppelin biographer, Page stated “We needed the sort of facilities where we could have a cup of tea and wander around the garden and go in and do what we had to do. This relaxed, atmospheric environment at Headley Grange also provided other advantages for the band.”
The album was mixed and mastered at Sunset Sound Studios in Los Angeles, California.
Upon its release, the album was an immediate success. According to “The Complete Guide to the Music of Led Zeppelin,” by David Lewis, the album would top UK charts, remaining on the charts for 90 weeks. The album would peak at number two on the U.S charts as well.
It received raving reviews from music critics everywhere. Leny Kaye, a music critic for “Rolling Stone Magazine,” cited the album as the “most consistently good album yet.”
Stephen Thomas Erlewine, a music critic for “AllMusic,” praised the album for its diversity stating that it “encompassed heavy metal, folk, pure rock & roll, and blues.”
Joe Gross, a music critic for “Spin Magazine,” called the album a “monolithic cornerstone.”
Led Zeppelin “IV” continues to be a milestone in not just Led Zeppelin’s cannon, but in Rock and Roll History.
After 45 years in existence, the album continues to resurface in rock music today, and although most hardcore Led Zeppelin fans refuse to name it as their favorite album.for musical uniqueness of course, the album continues to be one of the most influential of all time.
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