Led Zeppelin’s peak: How else do you describe an LP on which side one opens with “Black Dog” and closes with “Stairway to Heaven”? In between resides “Rock and Roll” (a song that became a concert staple, and for good reason) and “The Battle of Evermore,” one of the band’s most beautiful creations. Led Zeppelin IV is not just Led Zeppelin’s finest album but one of rock’s all-time best LPs. The group’s movement towards acoustic and British folk reaches its apex here, and this considering the quartet had only started releasing albums two years prior.
Where Led Zeppelin III searches around for ways of integrating new threads into the band’s heavier style, Led Zeppelin IV gets it just right. The untitled fourth album, known as Led Zeppelin IV, hasn’t a speck of writing on the cover—not even the spine—and only the inner sleeve contains liner notes. The latter disclose that the female vocal on “The Battle of Evermore” arrives via the incomparable Sandy Denny.
Perhaps because of the record’s greater emphasis on acoustic music, the bass does not seem to be as enhanced on the newer version as much as it is on Atlantic’s 2014 reissues of the band’s three earlier albums. The newer pressing still suffers in comparison to earlier masterings, but the differences aren’t as obvious. The high end on the reissue seems recessed compared to the U.K. plum-label original and the vocals lose some texture, seeming a bit bleached by comparison. That said, overall cost, accessibility, and quality should make the 2014 edition palatable to most analog lovers.
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