Ozzy Osbourne picks his favourite Led Zeppelin album

Looking back on the 1960s, it seems as if everyone was drunk on flower power. Compared to the dawn of rock and roll, which was all about playing mindless party music for the masses, the biggest artists in the world were now willing to take chances on what rock and roll could be outside of a catchy tune. While psychedelia was one side of the conversation, Led Zeppelin ushered in a new era for what rock could be.

Though Zeppelin would tell most interviewers that they were mining their old record collections, their interpretations of artists like Willie Dixon and Muddy Waters provided the first taste of hard rock for thousands of rock fans. Change was in the air, and a young Ozzy Osbourne was paying attention once Led Zeppelin came along.

When discussing Zeppelin in History of Rock and Roll, Osbourne recalled how knocked out he was by the group’s debut effort, saying, “I remember listening to the first Zeppelin album. It was like such a great breath of fresh air for somebody doing something acceptable, but yet so different”. While the debut provided the skeleton for their sound, Zeppelin was about to innovate their music in ways no one had ever seen.

Pulling from influences from folk, blues, classical music, and Eastern culture, every song on their self-titled album saga presented a new facet of what they could do. When they weren’t mixing blues traditions on ‘Whole Lotta Love’, they were playing slow acoustic tracks that would fit right in with the singer-songwriters of the day, like ‘Tangerine’ and ‘Thank You’.

Since the critics never saw the appeal in Led Zeppelin then, the band figured they would play around with that concept for their fourth record. After being hailed as nothing but a fad, Zeppelin’s fourth record was released without a title or any type of promotion, only to become one of the most celebrated albums in rock history with songs like ‘Black Dog’ and ‘Stairway to Heaven’.

Though Osbourne had already begun his trajectory with Black Sabbath by the time the album hit shelves, he still considers it the band’s best, telling Rolling Stone, “I’ve always been a huge Led Zeppelin fan. All of their studio albums are classics. But this is one of my all-time favourites”. Considering where Sabbath was at the beginning of their career, Zeppelin’s fourth album practically served as the ultimate example of what could be done when stretching out songs beyond their usual length.

Whereas most rock songs were meant to be fairly compact, Zeppelin eschewed typical pop formulas for their songs, building their audience on the strength of their albums from front to back. Working from a similar mindset, Sabbath would take their sound in a darker direction, crafting tunes like ‘Iron Man’ that caught people’s ears more for their spooky undercurrents than any traditional pop hook.

Though Sabbath drew many comparisons to Zeppelin at the time, both bands would remain friends throughout the years, with Zeppelin drummer John Bonham even asking if he could perform with Sabbath on the song ‘Supernaut’ off Vol. 4. Sabbath may have been many fans’ first exposure to heavier fare in rock music, but Led Zeppelin IV is still ground zero for anyone looking to go beyond traditional pop-rock.

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