Stairway to Heaven is still legendary but what about the rest of Led Zeppelin IV fifty years later?

Stairway rules! Now going on half a century, it’s still a classic. Whenever you hear the song, it’s hard to turn it off. There have been plenty of times when I’ve parked the car and listened to the last five minutes or so before leaving. The tune has so many layers to it that you could find something new in every listen….even if you’ve heard it hundreds of times.

Plus, there have been many new versions of Stairway that helps keep it fresh. Remember the moving version by Heart at the Kennedy Center Honors. I recently found an excellent version fronted by Mary J. Blige. Two years ago I saw Jason Bonham’s (the son of Zeppelin drummer, John) band play it, along with many other songs from the Zeppelin catalog. All of them fine covers. All of them helping to keep the tune relevant.

Okay…okay…enough about Stairway to Heaven. We all agree that it’s one of the greatest rock songs of all time, if not the greatest. It’s been like this for fifty years and I’m sure if we revisit it in another fifty years, we’ll feel the same way.

However, what about the album that the song is on? Led Zeppelin IV was considered an instant classic when it was released in 1971. How is it holding up half a century later? The original reviews for the album were outstanding. Phrases used included “powerhouse album” and “a masterpiece of masterpiece of heavy rock.” Would those words still be appropriately used in 2021?

When you first check out the track list for the album, you realize that you can hear almost all of the eight songs regularly on whatever streaming outlet you’re using to listen to music these days. All of them are familiar. They’re all comfortable. It’s like being with an old friend. And it starts with the first lyrics in the first song:

Hey hey mama said the way you move
Gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove

That’s the start of “Black Dog” and while you don’t hear it nearly as often as Stairway, it’s on enough not to miss it. And every time you hear it, you know you’re going to sing along with Robert Plant. Hell, you probably were singing as you read the above words, weren’t you?

That’s followed by another classic sing-along “Rock and Roll.” If you don’t believe, how about this?

It’s been a long time since I rock and rolled
It’s been a long time since I did the stroll

See?! I told you you’d be singing along.

But, it’s way more than only the catchy lyrics. It’s easy to get lost in the Jimmy Page guitar and the pounding drum beats of Bonham. Has there been anyone who hits those drums with more force than John Bonham? NO! No one! Not Keith Moon. Not Neil Peart. NO ONE! The sound pounds through your body and it’s captures you.

The other song that has always intrigued me “Going to California.” You wouldn’t think that a band like Led Zeppelin would be penning a love sonnet to Joni Mitchell, but you have it here. I’ve always loved this song. It’s my winter tune when I lament leaving the warmth of Southern California for the cold, snowy Midwest. Yeah, I always think of California “with an achin’ in my heart.”

Honestly, I was a little surprised I enjoyed listening to Led Zeppelin IV as much as I did. My taste in the band has always leaned towards their first two albums, but, I admit that I was all-in from those first Robert Plant urgings. Sing it with me one more time. You know you want to and you’ll always want to join in.

Hey hey mama said the way you move
Gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove

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