A deservedly revered album of heavy riffing, highly colourful guitar work, rock vocal acrobatics and plain great tunes. The first half is practically faultlessly good stuff. Starting off with "Black Dog", which has some remnants of the cock-rock innuendo that littered LZ II, but more importantly a blazing good riff. The 12-bar of the self-assuredly-titled "Rock and Roll" is not that far from Status Quo, but infinitely more exciting. These two back-to-back rockers are followed by a nice contrast, some glittering curtains of guitars and mandolins on "Battle of Evermore". "Stairway To Heaven" is supposed to be one of the most over-played classic rock songs ever, but it doesn't seem that way to me, perhaps because I don't work in a guitar shop. It's practically obscure compared to Bohemian Rhapsody! OK, the lyrics are a ham-fisted morality tale, but they're told with a great broad arch of music and several fine tunes. If I did have a guitar shop you'd be welcome to test the instruments on it.
The second half kicks off at a decent pace with some more thumping good riffing on "Misty Mountain Hop". Hippiness is still rife here, as it was on LZ II - more than one song mentions flowers in hair, but thankfully there's no more Tolkien wibble! "Going to California" isn't that interesting as a piece of acoustic hippy fluff. On the other hand the traditional smoky blues of "When the Levee Breaks" makes a good listen. The only one they could have left off is "Four Sticks". It plays the same four notes quite a lot, but not much else.
February 12, 2004