IV – Led Zeppelin (1971)
I’ve been on a roll with these decade lists, so I’m marching on (and back). Pull out your leisure suits and bell-bottoms, it’s time for the best albums of the 70s!
At first I wondered if I’d have enough material to compile a strong list of 20 — after all, I was born in 1972 and certainly wasn’t sampling the decade’s music in any meaningful way during my first eight years. Any familiarity I have with 70s music came after the fact — sometimes well after the fact.
And to be sure, there are a whole slew of 70s albums featured on critics’ best-of lists that I’ve never heard.
But still, I was able to compile a short list of 30 albums without blinking an eye, and narrowing it down to 20 was an even harder task than I faced with the 80s and 90s lists.
Kicking things off is an album that would no doubt rank higher if I’d had it in steady rotation over the past 20 years. Led Zeppelin was a high school obsession and I pretty much stopped listening to them the day I received my diploma.
But the band’s fourth album (generally referred to as IV, Runes or ZoSo) deserves to be more than a time capsule. This is the band’s finest hour, showcasing them at their most rocking and most gentle (simultaneously, in the case of ‘Stairway to Heaven’.)
In addition to ‘Stairway,’ this record features the classics ‘Black Dog,’ ‘Rock & Roll,’ ‘Four Sticks,’ ‘Misty Mountain Hop’ and ‘When the Levee Breaks.’ Rounding out the tracklist is the Hobbit-tastic mandolin party ‘The Battle of Evermore,’ the rhythmically complex ‘Four Sticks’ and today’s SOTD, a favorite of mine.
‘Going to California’ is the softest track on the album, all the prettier when contrasted with its muscular neighbors. It’s about Joni Mitchell (she’s the woman who plays guitar and cries and sings… la la la).
Smoked my stuff and drank all my wine.
Made up my mind to make a new start
Going To California with an aching in my heart.
Someone told me there’s a girl out there
With love in her eyes and flowers in her hair.
Took my chances on a big jet plane
Never let them tell you that we’re all the same.
The sea was red and the sky was grey
I wondered how tomorrow could ever follow today.
The mountains and the canyons started to tremble and shake
as the children of the sun began to awake.
Seems that the wrath of the Gods
Got a punch on the nose and it started to flow;
I think I might be sinking.
Throw me a line if I reach it in time
I’ll meet you up there where the path
Runs straight and high.
To find a queen without a king,
They say she plays guitar and cries and sings… la la la la
Ride a white mare in the footsteps of dawn
Tryin’ to find a woman who’s never, never, never been born.
Standing on a hill in my mountain of dreams,
Telling myself it’s not as hard, hard, hard as it seems.