Friday, September 24, 2010

Albums2010 #27: Zoso

Don't you just love albums that don't have a bad song on them? It's such a great experience just knowing you can hit play and just sit back and let the music device you're using do the rest for you. Not many bands can do that, but with Led Zeppelin IV (also known as Zoso or merely Unititled) Led Zeppelin manages to do just that and the results pretty much rock my face off. If you have to own a Led Zeppelin album, this is the album to buy. If you're looking for a prime example of a band at the height of its creative powers, this is perfect. In short, if you love rock n'roll and don't own this album, you're missing a major piece of the puzzle.

Before we get to the music (because I know all true Zep fans have been waiting for this for years) I had to ask: what the heck do those symbols mean? I'd never thought about it a lot before skimming Wikipedia (The Font of All Knowledge) to look for some basic background information about this album and found an explanation for all four. (OK, so all SERIOUS Zep fans probably know this already, but I didn't and found it pretty damn interesting. So don't hate, ok?)

The ZoSo Symbol: This was Jimmy Page's and a symbol of his own design. What it means is apparently a mystery, though there's an argument that it's been a symbol of Saturn since about 1557.

The Triquetra: The three pronged triangle looking thinger over a circle was John Paul Jones' choice, taken from Rudolf Koch's Book of Signs it's meant to represent a person with confidence and competence.

The Three Rings: John Bonham went with three interlocking rings, which represents the triad of Mother, Father and Child- but also happened to be the logo for Ballatine Beer.

The Quill In The Circle: Robert Plant's symbol was also of his own design, supposedly based off of the lost Mu Civilization. (What's the Mu Civilization, you ask? Well apparently there was another continent floating in the Pacific at one point that vanished into the mists of antiquity and presumably, the ocean.)

As always kids, keep in mind for these album reviews, they're fairly non-academic and random, so when I get information off of Wikipedia, there's a decent chance that I could be completely full of crap. But now that you know what the heck those funky symbols are about, let's get to the meat of the album: the music.

To be honest, there's really not a bad track on here and I can't think of a song on the album that's too obscure not to be recognized by anyone who has happened to listen to a radio station in the past three decades. The tunes and titles should be familiar to most: Black Dog, Rock N'Roll, The Battle of Evermore, Stairway To Heaven, Misty Mountain Hop, Four Sticks, Going to California and When The Levee Breaks- all Zeppelin (and rock) classics and all excellent songs to listen too. How musicians of any talent manage to produce an album where they bat 1000, literally, is beyond me. I would have thought that the sheer law of probability would have decreed at least one dud or 'controversial' song that fans would argue about the quality of for years to come, but no- Zeppelin managed to produce pure solid gold with this album, and that's a rare feat worth recognizing.

What do I like? Well, first and foremost, you have to love Zeppelin's references to Lord of The Rings (see: Misty Mountain Hop, Battle Of Evermore on this album and randomly in Ramble On presumably on another album.) It's fun, it's neat and I like to think it gives lovers of high epic fantasy a certain amount of street cred with everyone. After all, if one of the greatest rock bands in the world likes Lord of The Rings, how does that make you uncool? The Battle of Evermore is probably one of my favorite Zep songs which has Plant's howling lyrics on fine display. Just plain awesome stuff.

Another standout: Four Sticks- you want to hear John Bonham make a case for being the best drummer of all time? Listen to this song- the intensity and speed of the underlying percussion part make this song tight, taut and generally awesome. I'm honestly surprised I haven't seen on the silver screen as part of a car chase or fight scene or something like that. (Though reportedly, Zeppelin tends to be picky about which songs, if any, it gives away to movies and things of that nature.)

And finally, one of my all time favorite Zeppelin songs, EVER: When The Levee Breaks. Wow, do I love this song- it's just awesome. Well, you know I keep using that word a lot, so I'll try to think of something else to describe it.... wait, no, I can't. It's big, bombastic and bluesey. The perfect combination for Led Zeppelin, this album and my general musical taste. If you've never heard this song, I can honestly say that you're missing out on rock n'roll as we know it. Remedy the situation ASAP, kids, because this song- and more generally, this album are not something you want to miss out on.

What didn't I like? Well, there's not a bad note to be had, but I will risk the electronic lynch mob and wrath of Zeppelin worshippers everywhere by saying that I find 'Stairway To Heaven' to be one of the weaker tracks on this album. If you're going to have a 7 minute song, it needs to be better than this. Don't get me wrong: melancholy works with this album, you just have to listen to 'Going to California' to hear that, but 'Stairway' is an exercise in dreariness that get's more lovin' than it should. A bad song? Not at all. But Zeppelin at it's greatest? I beg to differ.

Overall: Screw everything I've ever said about must own albums. If could only afford to buy one CD, I'd highly reccomend this one.

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