Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin IV


Lug 26 2011, 20:02

We lost another female blues singer to the demons that she dredged from her soul so that she could sing them to us. Magnified and Sanctified is God's great name. Amy Winehouse followed in the tradition of Bessie Smith and Janis Joplin, but male blues greats mostly have better longevity.

In the 1950s recordings by the early blues greats were seen as almost worthless by white America. Consequently they arrived in British ports as ballast on returning cargo ships, where they reached a new audience in the British youth and gave rise to great bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. (This is almost an exact mirror of the way that the unwanted old prints by artists like, Hiroshige, Utamoro and Hokusai, were similarly used as ballast, and in the ports of France reached the eyes of many young artists, including Gaugin, Van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec).

The British blend of blues and pop became the 'British Invasion' of the US charts. However, there were also great British bands that stayed true to their Blues roots. One such band was The Yardbirds. When it finally broke up in 1968, Jimmy Page got left with the contractual obligations to play gigs and make recordings. Led Zepellin were the band that he assembled to fill that obligation.

Many bands have an eponymous début album. The Pretenders managed two. But only Peter Gabriel and Led Zeppelin had the presumption to release four. This was the only one that I bought for myself as a teenager (although I bought it shortly before the release of The Song Remains The Same). It was hugely influential; I have heard so many bad amateur covers. In Rod Argent's music shop in Denmark Strret anyone attempting Stairway to Heaven would be fined!

The band form a kind of pinch point in popular culture, bringing together a heretofore disparate rang of influences, which I will discuss below. They then influenced a huge range of rock and folk genres; in particular heavy metal and hard rock arose by changing the proportions of these musical ingredients.

As noted above the first ingredient is the blues. Reverence for the blues is not only evident in the music but is alluded to in Lyrics and titles. For example Black Dog (top) is the euphemism that President Lincoln used to describe his depression. The track is instructive because the voice and instruments follow the traditional call and return pattern of, eg, Muddy Waters Mannish Boy

However, the Black Dog riffs are much more complex and melodic than Muddy Waters' simple rhythm. They take other influences from classical music also, so they are of harmonic as well as melodic influence. It is a song of contrasts contrasting the relative quiet of unaccompanied voice against frenetic instrumentation from bass drum to high hat.

Not all the albums themes appear in this one song. Another influence is Tolkein (as filtered through the hippy sensibilities of the time). This gives rise to folk music and Eastern musical influences. It gives rise to earnest album art featuring four pseudo-mystical logos. But it also gives rise to a literacy in the lyrics- the use of allusion and other poetic devices,

Unfortunately none of it streams on last.fm :(


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