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Friday, November 26, 1971

Yes released Fragile: November 26, 1971

Originally posted November 26, 2012.

image from kinemagigz.com

With Fragile, “the band’s breakthrough album,” BE “Yes established themselves as one of the most progressive rock bands on the scene.” PC “Dominated by science-fiction and fantasy elements,” BE the band “raised their innovative brand of music to even dizzier heights.” PC This was largely due to “the recent addition of towering, silver-caped Rick Wakeman,” PC whose “proficiency and classical leanings were the final piece in the jigsaw.” AD His “organ, synthesizers, Mellotrons, and other keyboard exotica added a larger-than-life element,” BE to the group and helping Yes toward “creating the kind of music they’d always had in their minds.” AD

“Ironically, the album was a patchwork job, hastily assembled in order to cover the cost of Wakeman’s array of instruments.” BE In a truly prog-rock kind of move, much of the album served as solo showcases for the band. “A repeating vocal refrain with beautiful harmonies to back it up” AD makes We Have Heaven both a songwriting and vocal showcase for Jon Anderson. AD “It’s a one and a half minute moment of sheer beauty.” AD

“Rick Wakeman fiddles around with a classical theme” AD on Cans and Brahms while drummer Bill Bruford offers his solo writing contribution with Five Per Cent for Nothing. Bassist Chris Squire gets his spotlight with The Fish, an instrumental showcase backed by Anderson’s “nonsense vocal refrains in the background.” AD Finally, Steve Howe gets a solo spot with Mood for a Day, a piece which offers “an exotic and lovely guitar section.” AD

However, the group also “built effectively on the groundwork left by The Yes AlbumBE with some important group efforts. Heart of the Sunrise featured “varied constituents molded together perfectly.” PC It has “a lengthy introduction that builds up with keyboards and bass guitar with Bill Bruford providing solid support underneath. Close to the two minute mark, the guitar starts to prowl over the top of all of this before we enter an impossibly quickly taken section of instrumental music with everyone going full tilt…Three and a half minutes pass before we hear anything from Jon Anderson!...The song switches several times through it’s remaining half but always retains the listener’s interest.” AD

Other group collaborations include the oft-played Long Distance Runaround, “another fine piece of work.” AD On South Side of the Sky, “the bass is groovy as hell [and] the guitar [is] full of inventive riffing…The piano section in the middle with added vocal harmonies provides the beauty…before we go back to the rocking bass and guitar to close.” AD

Roundabout

The album highlight came with the opening Roundabout. It served up “an AM-radio sucker-punch, aimed at all of those other progressive bands who eschewed the notion of hit singles.” BE “Still a standard on classic rock playlists,” PC “the single clicked” BE and “pulled in millions of young kids who’d never heard them before.” BE “and the band was made.” BE “If you are wondering how to introduce Yes to a friend…then just play them this song.” AD

The album also marked Yes’ notable association with artist Roger Dean. He would provide the group with “some of the most famous album artwork of all time.” AD


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Monday, November 8, 1971

Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” was released: November 8, 1971

Originally posted 7/13/2014.

image from noblescribe.com


Led Zeppelin “Stairway to Heaven”


Writer(s): Jimmy Page/Robert Plant (see lyrics here)

Released: 11/8/1971 (album), First charted: 11/24/2007

Peak: 37 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, 10.0 world (includes US and UK)

Radio Airplay (in millions): 3.0 Video Airplay (in millions): 166.0


Review: “Dazed and Confused” was the centerpiece of Led Zeppelin’s early live performances SJ but when they tired of it, the group set about creating another anthem. Little did they know that they would birth the song against which “all epic anthems must measure themselves.” RS500 The song consistently tops classic rock radio best-of lists and with over three million spins, no song has received more airplay in the history of FM radio. KN It has also sold over a million copies of sheet music, averaging 15,000 a year. WK

For all its accomplishments, “Heaven” was never released as a single. Its only chart appearance came in 2007 when it hit #37 on the UK charts, prompted by downloads of the song in conjunction with the release of the Led Zeppelin Mothership compilation. WK Atlantic Records certainly pushed for a single, but the band refused to edit the song down from its eight-minute running time. WK

The song kicks off with “an acoustic intro that sounds positively Elizabethan.” RS500 Robert Plant then vocally leads the listener through a “quasi-medieval story” CR “full of allusions that go nowhere,” CR although he says it is “about a woman who gets everything she wants without reciprocating.” CR It doesn’t matter much wat the song is about when it’s “couched in such a stately tune and performance.” CR Besides, “the song’s enigma is part of its charm.” CR

Guitarist Jimmy Page says the song “crystallized the essence of the band…Every musician wants to do something of lasting quality, something which will hold up for a long time, and I guess we did it with ‘Stairway.’” RS500


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Led Zeppelin IV released: November 8, 1971

Originally posted 11/8/2012.

image from musicaseglevint.blogspot.com


Release date: 8 November 1971
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) Black Dog (12/25/71, #15 US) / Rock and Roll (3/18/72, #47 US) / The Battle of Evermore / Stairway to Heaven (11/24/07, #37 UK) / Misty Mountain Hop / Four Sticks / Going to California / When the Levee Breaks

Sales (in millions): 23.0 US, 1.5 UK, 44.5 world (includes US and UK)

Peak: 2 US, 12 UK

Rating:


Review: While commonly referred to as Led Zeppelin IV, this album was officially untitled. It is also known as the Runes album, the Four Symbols, or Zoso because of the ancient-looking runes on the inner sleeve that substituted for an actual title (and looked like the letters z-o-s-o). Led Zeppelin opted for the untitled approach – even keeping their name off the packaging – in hopes of downplaying the hype which had surrounded previous releases. CRS The occult symbols on the spine of the record were to represent each of the member’s mystical identities. TL The record company thought the move was commercial suicide, but Led Zeppelin won out. CRS Things turned out okay as fans had no difficulty finding the album; “Cashbox noted that this ‘un was a gold disc on its first day of release.” RS

While “the first four Led Zeppelin albums are all air-curdling classics, monolithic slabs of sleazy sweat-riffs and heavy gravity, [this] is their most staggeringly ambitious.” DK It “not only [defined] Led Zeppelin, but the sound and style of ‘70s hard rock.” AMG It “turned them from mere superstars into giant behemoths of the rock world,” AZ1 “an important stylistic template for everything from heavy metal to grunge.” BN

IV “has a grand sense of drama…deepened by Plant’s burgeoning obsession with mythology, religion, and the occult.” AMG The album dipped into an array of styles, including heavy metal, folk, and blues. “Out of eight cuts, there isn’t one that steps on another’s toes, that tries to do too much all at once.” RS On IV Led Zeppelin “achieved the finest balance between bucolic strums and ear-smashing bombast” BN with “Plant’s banshee wails and Jimmy Page’s frenetic guitar playing” AZ1 on “bone-crushing, bluesy riff-slinging” AZ2 rockers like “Black Dog,” “Rock and Roll,” and “Misty Mountain Hop.” In contrast, there are the traditional sounds of “mystical, rural, English folk,” AMG such as in “Going to California” or “The Battle of Evermore.”

Black Dog

“The album explodes…with the lusty Black Dog, a ubiquitous favorite on classic rock stations” RV and an “endlessly inventive [and] complex, multi-layered” AMG song . With a “fast-and-furious” AZ2 “riff and three quarters…Page is the man here.” AD With “tricky time changes--a Zeppelin trademark” AZ2 and “one hell of a rhythm section,” AD the song is “unpredictable.” DBW Then there’s the “utter classic Robert Plant vocal performance” AD with him “boasting about how he’s ‘gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove,’” BN “a sentiment that set the tone for the rest of Zeppelin’s career.” RV

Rock and Roll

The album is full of “touchstones to generations of head-bangers” BN like the “muscular, traditionalist.” AMG “Little Richard-inspired Rock and Roll,” AZ2 which “is as straightforward as the title implies.” DBW “This sonuvabitch moves, with Plant musing vocally on how ‘It’s been a long, lonely lonely time’ since last he rock & rolled, the rhythm section soaring underneath. Page strides up to take a nice lead during the break, one of the all-too-few times he flashes his guitar prowess during the record, and its note-for-note simplicity says a lot for the ways in which he’s come of age over the past couple of years.” RS Coupled with “Black Dog,” the two songs provide an “opening sucker-punch [that] is ludicrously satisfying, a pair of blues mutants all pumped up with insane levels of testosterone.” DK

“Plant’s mysticism comes to a head on the eerie folk ballad The Battle of Evermore.” AMG “Jimmy Page,…drawn to softer textures,… shrewdly enlisted Fairport Convention singer Sandy Denny to duet with Plant…over mandolins riffling around the pulsing folk melody.” BN “Sandy sings perfectly, not trying to be the main event, but still really aiding the haunting beauty of the song.” AD “Page’s hallucinogenic 12-string is the perfect back-drop for her sweetly dramatic voice.” DK

Stairway to Heaven

“Everything…ultimately took a back seat to the album’s (and, ultimately, the band’s) magnum opus--the expertly constructed and deftly executed classic, Stairway to Heaven,” AZ1 “which was never released as a single and thus never appeared on the Billboard charts.” TL “Of all Zeppelin’s songs [this] is the most famous, and not unjustly.” AMG The song was reportedly intended to be a “suitably epic song that would rival the reception and glory of ‘Dazed and Confused’ during live performances.” AD “From its familiar opening chord progression, the song steadily grows in intensity,” HE “gradually transforming itself from a folkish ballad into a rocking anthem.” HE It “build[s] from a simple fingerpicked acoustic guitar to a storming torrent of guitar riffs” AMG and “an explosive, finely-chiseled blues-rock solo.” BN The lyrics reflected the band’s “growing interest in metaphysical imagery” HE “in what has been interpreted as a song of hope, spiritual fulfillment and drug use. Whatever it means, it’s a work of brilliance that finally earned Led Zeppelin the recognition it deservered all along.” RV “Stairway to Heaven” “encapsulates the entire album in one song.” AMG

With “heavy drums, another fabulous riff,” AD “the pounding hippie satire Misty Mountain HopAMG is “another winner, a great vocal performance again.” AD As a slice of “slanted and enchanted acid-metal.” WR “Hop” also shows that “Zep were more than just heavy.” WR

Drummer “John ‘Bonzo’ Bonham earns his nickname with his awe-inspiring performance” RV on “the rolling, apocalyptic Four Sticks.” DK This is yet “another riff monster” AD with “a locked groove of voodoo-boogie.” WR

Then there’s the “group’s best folk song,” AMG the “delicate Going to California,” AD an “acoustic English folke” AZ2 song on which “Page and Plant both sound truly beautiful.” AD It has even been called “the best thing they ever played at a pace below ‘manic.’” TL

Going to California

The album wraps with “the slow-mo boogie avalanche” WR of “the foreboding” AZ1 and “impossibly heavy” DK “unbeaten classic” QM When the Levee Breaks, “the one song truly equal to ‘Stairway.’ AMG With “surprising, almost poisonously bashing drums, vicious slide guitars and electronically affected harmonicas,” GS this “apocalyptic slice of urban blues…is as forceful and frightening as Zeppelin ever got, and its seismic rhythms and layered dynamics illustrate why none of their imitators could ever equal them.” AMG

“Led Zeppelin made other fine albums, but this one remains the core of their canon;” BN it is “the definitive Led Zeppelin recording.” HE “Led Zep have had a lot of imitators…but it takes cuts like this to show that most of them have only picked up the style, lacking any real knowledge of the meat underneath.” RS In fact, “this is the definitive…heavy metal album.” RC


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