Artist(s): Led Zeppelin
Release Date: 11/08/1971
Edited Version Available: Yes
Parental Advisory: No
Other Choices: Fly Like an Eagle, Who's Next, The Best of Eric Clapton: 20th Century Masters (Millennium Collection), Back in Black
Common Sense Says: "Stairway" and more classics on Led Zep masterpiece.
Common Sense Rates It:
Parents need to know
Parents need to know that Britain's Led Zeppelin pioneered the hard-rock genre, and Led Zeppelin IV contains several of the band's most memorable classics: "Stairway to Heaven," "Rock and Roll," "Going to California," "When the Levee Breaks," and "Black Dog." There's some raunchiness here, but it's confined to opening track "Black Dog," which includes sexy metaphors and Robert Plant's moaning, grunting, and screeching. Other than that, there's nothing really problematical, though younger kids may find this music a bit intense.
- Families can talk about the influence of this album: how many versions of "Stairway to Heaven," serious and otherwise, have you heard?
- What do you know about guitarist Jimmy Page's work before and after Led Zeppelin? Do you have any favorites?
- Quite a few of the songs here are classics, but their styles are very different -- which do you prefer? Do you think they still sound good today?
What's the story?
This album, untitled but commonly referred to as Led Zeppelin IV, finds the band at the absolute top of its powers at the beginning of the '70s. Legendary guitarist Jimmy Page, vocalist Robert Plant, bassist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham whip up a stunning, hypnotic brew, starting in the gutter with the sexed-up "Black Dog," checking out the "Stairway to Heaven," "Going to California," and winding down into the pounding rain that's going to break the levee and bring the flood down on them all.
Is it any good?
This is generally regarded as Led Zeppelin's best album, with topnotch songwriting, playing, and vocals in a range of styles, from blistering hard rock to wistfully sentimental ballad to smoldering blues. Not to mention their definitive classic, "Stairway to Heaven," the most requested song of all time on FM radio. Even the less famous tracks are interesting: the epic "The Battle of Evermore," featuring as guest vocalist Fairport Convention's Sandy Denny, shows Led Zep vocalist Robert Plant's fascination with Celtic history and mythology.
The Good Stuff
Messages: Some of the bluesier lyrics come from a dark, if pragmatic, place, especially in "When the Levee Breaks": "Cryin' won't help you, prayin' won't do you no good / Now, cryin' won't help you, prayin' won't do you no good / When the levee breaks, mama, you got to move." Possibly because Robert Plant wrote most of the lyrics here and was a serious student of Celtic folklore and mysticism at the time, a positive, upbeat quality often comes through even in fairly dire moments. While "Stairway to Heaven" is open to interpretation, it starts out cynical and snarky and ends up with hope of a happy resolution; even "Black Dog" leaves its dazed but wiser hero with the realization: "Need a girl to hold my hand / Won't tell me no lies / Make me a happy man."
Role Models: The narrator of several songs, particularly "Going to California," shows good judgment in recognizing when he's in a bad situation and seeking out a better one. Led Zeppelin pioneered the hard-rock genre and lifestyle, and were prone to its excesses; drummer John Bonham died in 1980 after drinking heavily. On the other hand, singer and lyricist Robert Plant has remained vital and relevant for more than four decades, enjoying a solo career, a successful partnership with Led Zep guitarist Jimmy Page, and a brilliant collaboration with bluegrass artist Alison Krauss. Their album, Raising Sand, won the Grammy for Album of the Year in 2009.
What to watch out for
Violence "The Battle of Evermore," which is about a cosmic conflict, involves swords, bows and arrows, and other weaponry, in poetic, non-gory terms.
Sex: Opening track "Black Dog" starts out "Hey, hey, mama, said the way you move / gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove / Oh, oh, child, said the way you swing / gonna make you burn, gonna make you sting / Hey, hey, baby, when you walk that way / watch your honey drip, I can't keep away" and includes a lot of sex-simulating grunting and moaning.
Language: Not an issue
Consumerism: Not an issue
Drinking, drugs & smoking: The singer of "Going to California" is fleeing "a woman unkind (who) smoked my stuff and drank all my wine."