We did a massive shootout in 2012 for Zep’s beloved fourth album and this British pressing earned a nearly perfect score with some of the BIGGEST, BOLDEST, HARDEST Rockin’ sound we have ever heard on the album. Without a doubt this is the best sounding IV side two we’ve ever played, with the biggest bottom of them all.
When the Levee Breaks, a problematical track on even the best copies, finally sounds the way you’ve always heard it in your head — relentless and so powerful it’s downright scary.
But the best copies are so good, and so much fun, that it was definitely worth the trouble. Because the best copies ROCK, and it is a positive THRILL to hear this record rock the way it was meant to. If you have big speakers and the power to drive them, your neighbors are going to be very upset with you.
Let’s get right to why this copy is SO DAMN GOOD.
The biggest, boldest, most dynamic, punchiest and liveliest of them all. Zero smear, live-in-your-listening-room presence, with a beautifully extended and amazingly natural and correct top end, nothing could touch this one.
Note that the vocals for the first track are always somewhat edgy on even the best copies. After playing scores and scores of copies, having adjusted the VTA every which way we could, no copy did not have at least some edge on Plant’s vocal. We’re pretty sure by now it’s that way on the tape. Our job is to find the copy that reproduces it as accurately as possible.
It rocks, with punchy bass and tons of energy. A little more top end extension to help open it up a bit and this side one would have been hard to beat too!
The Zep IV You Don’t Know
You probably already know how crappy the average pressing of this album sounds. Some of the copies we played didn’t last two minutes on the table — when we heard harsh highs or wimpy bottom ends, we simply threw the offender in the reject pile and moved on. (If you’re in the market for a terrible copy of this album, we’ve got TONS of ’em. But in all seriousness, we wouldn’t even consider selling a record that sounds as bad as the the losers from this shootout.)
It’s not that this is a bad recording — it’s just a record that is very rarely mastered properly. The cymbal crashes on the average copy are harsh and edgy enough to have you running for the exits. (Or alternately dull, smeary and pointless.) A (mostly) smooth, sweet copy like this will show you a whole new Zep IV, and allow you to play it at the proper volume — LOUD. Invite your friends over to hear the Led Zep magic that they’ve never heard. They will simply not believe it.
You Better Be Ready To Rock…
… because this copy has the ENERGY and WHOMP that will force you to do just that! Like I said above, Zep IV DEMANDS loud volumes, but practically any copy will punish you harshly if you try to play it at anything even approaching live levels. I never met John Bonham, and it’s probably too late now, but I imagine he would feel seriously disrespected if he found out people were playing his music at the polite listening levels audiophiles seem to prefer. The term “hi-fidelity” loses its meaning if the instruments are playing at impossibly low levels. If the instruments could never be heard that way live, where is the fidelity?
When The Levee Breaks (Your Eardrums)
Let’s be upfront about something: When The Levee Breaks is not one of the better sounding tracks on ANY copy of this album. If the cymbals on your copy DON’T get grainy and harsh, especially on the domestic pressings, you probably have an overly smooth copy, and it’s very likely made from a second or third generation tape.
The Classic Records reissue corrects this problem somewhat, but at a cost. They’ve completely robbed the song of all the Zep magic. It’s not as big, not as open, not as rich, not as lively, not as punchy, and so on — but the cymbals are clean. Is that a tradeoff we should accept? If you’re on our site you already know the answer.
Rock and Roll
The Battle of Evermore
Stairway to Heaven
Misty Mountain Hop
Going to California
When the Levee Breaks
Encompassing heavy metal, folk, pure rock & roll, and blues, Led Zeppelin’s untitled fourth album is a monolithic record, defining not only Led Zeppelin but the sound and style of ’70s hard rock. Expanding on the breakthroughs of III, Zeppelin fuse their majestic hard rock with a mystical, rural English folk that gives the record an epic scope.