Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Led Zeppelin: Led Zeppelin IV [Atlantic, 1971]
More even than "Rock and Roll," which led me into the rest of the record (whose real title, as all adepts know, is signified by runes no Underwood can reproduce) months after I'd stupidly dismissed it, or "Stairway to Heaven," the platinum-plated album cut, I think the triumph here is "When the Levee Breaks." As if by sorcery, the quasi-parodic overstatement and oddly cerebral mood of Led Zep's blues recastings is at once transcended (that is, this really sounds like a blues), and apotheosized (that is, it has the grandeur of a symphonic crescendo) while John Bonham, as ham-handed as ever, pounds out a contrapuntal tattoo of heavy rhythm. As always, the band's medievalisms have their limits, but this is the definitive Led Zeppelin and hence heavy metal album. It proves that both are--or can be--very much a part of "Rock and Roll." A