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Post by The_Wall_91 on Wed Jun 26, 2019 6:15 pm

Since I have an enjoyment of music and not much to do when I have nothing much to do outside of work, I have decided to give my opinions on music albums. I will talk about the background of the record, give an opinion on the record, give it some pros and cons depending on the record, and I will rate it on a 5-star system with 5 being perfect and 1 being no so perfect. I am going to try and make this an once-a-week thing to let everyone digest the opinions I have. Feel free to give your input on the album and also feel free to make suggestions for albums you want me to review.

Before you give some albums you want me to listen to, I have 2 rules...

1. I am not going to review a Greatest Hits record. Pretty much, every song on a greatest hits record is going to be a hit and it will be pretty pointless to go over it and just say every song is great.

2. I am not going to review albums in the country and rap genre. I despise both of these genres and do not consider either to be music. Techno also falls in to this category of I'm not going to review. I would not be able to put my bias aside and be fair for these albums.

With that out of the way, lets get to the first edition of Tony's Album Reviews...

Artist/Band: Alice in Chains
Album: Jar of Flies
Release Date: January 25th, 1994
Run Time: 30:49
Songs: 7

Background:
Jar of Flies is not exactly considered to be an album, but an EP...which is basically a really short album. By 1994, lead singer Layne Staley was a busy man, having not toured with Alice in Chains since 1993 and having formed the supergroup Mad Season with members from Pearl Jam and Screaming Trees. Jar of Flies along with 1995's Alice in Chains were recorded by the band while they were taking a break from touring. Alice in Chains would not reunite for a tour until they performed on MTV Unplugged in 1996, considered by many to be the best Unplugged performance in the show's history.

Alice in Chains were well known for the grunge style but their 2 EP's in the 90's showed that the band was more than just a 1 trick pony. Jar of Flies is also the first album not featuring Alice in Chains' original bassist Mike Starr after he was fired from the band. Starr was replaced by Mike Inez, who is still with the band today. That is enough background, let's dive in to the album.

Song 1: Rotten Apple

The album starts with the longest song on the entire album, Rotten Apple. Rotten Apple introduces the world to new bassist Mike Inez with a bassline that would make any grunge fan proud. The intro hears a very dark bassline eventually introducing a talkbox heavy guitar part from Jerry Cantrell. After a few seconds, we finally get introduced to an acoustic guitar part also played by Cantrell and the very distinct drumming style of Sean Kinney. Alice in Chains' signature vocal harmony between Staley and Cantrell takes over and takes you through until the solo. Cantrell plays a very distortion heavy solo that could be mistaken as a darker David Gilmour solo. This song does a tremendous job of having loud and quiet parts mesh in harmony along with the atmosphere the guitars bring in. The song eventually returns to one more verse of Staley and Cantrell's harmony before going in to a second guitar solo that eventually fades out with the distinct bassline.

Song 2: Nutshell

Nutshell starts similarly to Rotten Apple just with the acoustic guitar first and the bassline second. The acoustic guitar brings a very somber tone to the song which is made infinitely greater by the lyrics and vocal performance by Staley. Nutshell only has 2 verses but it is separated by two distinct guitar parts alongside a female choir that is similar to a church choir. After the second verse, Cantrell finishes the song with a beautiful guitar solo accompanied by the choir singers, a deep bassline by Inez, and a drum part by Kinney that is very similar to a ballad which this song really is. Nutshell is considered to be one of the most recognizable songs Alice in Chains released becoming a staple in their current setlists. This song also opened their 1996 MTV Unplugged show.

Song 3: I Stay Away

In my opinion, this is the most creative song on the whole record. One of two songs on the album that came with a music video, I Stay Away enters with a not so easy guitar riff. After the riff is played once, a violin section and an acoustic guitar come in with the electric guitar staying involved for the whole song. The vocals, drums, and bass enter at the same time making this song sound like it was recorded in an opera house or theatre. As the chorus begins, Staley's screams of "I Stay Away" lead to a breathtaking solo performed by Cantrell. When the solo finishes, the chorus runs again. The difference at the end of the 2nd chorus is "I Stay Away" is said in multiple ways, 4 to be exact, and leads to the end of the song with a note hold before going to silence. If you ever get the chance to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, the dolls used in the music video are on display.

Song 4: No Excuses

No Excuses starts with a drum riff by Sean Kinney before introducing the acoustic guitar and distinct bassline. This song separates itself from the rest of the album by being the only song the features a full vocal harmony by Staley and Cantrell. The harmony of the song brings a sense of comradery between Staley and Cantrell which makes this song more emotional knowing the state of Staley's health diminishing in the coming years before his eventual passing in 2002. This song also features a guitar solo which, in my opinion, is the best solo on the album. As the song nears it end, the instruments begin to disappear if you listen closely. The vocals go first, the drums go next, and the bassline and guitar end the song together.

Song 5: Whale & Wasp

Whale & Wasp is the only song that does not feature vocals, bass, or drums. This is primarily Cantrell's song to showoff his ability on the six-string with 3 separate guitars. 2 of the guitars are electric and are played together while the acoustic guitar plays a completely different part. This song is the shortest on the album by a fair margin and there is just not much to it except the guitar playing.

Song 6: Don't Follow

In my college English class, I did a presentation on this song which hardly anyone cared for outside of 3 people including the professor and myself. What makes this song great is that as each verse goes, the song changes with it. The first verse is just Cantrell singing while playing the guitar riff on an acoustic guitar. The second verse adds a harmonica. The break between the second and third verse adds the bass and drums. The third verse brings everything together but Staley sings it and does a masterful job of it. The song comes full circle at the end by finishing with just Cantrell's voice and the acoustic guitar.

Song 7: Swing on This

The final song on the album makes a full circle for the entire album as this begins with a bassline like Rotten Apple does. This song is very similar and frankly a tribute to the early blues scene with the simple bassline and drums. What makes this song unique compared to the early blues scene is the Alice in Chains vocals and guitars during the verses and chorus. Cantrell plays a very Stevie Ray Vaughn solo to close out the song. The album closes with the bandmates just joking around and talking before it eventually dissolves to silence.

Pros:
Every song is unique with no dull spots
The added violins and choir sections were very strong and get their spotlight alongside the band
The heavy blues influence and high emotion stays prevalent throughout the album

Cons:
Rotten Apple drags on slightly but it is not significant

Star Rating: 4.8 out of 5 Stars

This album is arguably the best in the Alice in Chains catalog and it deserves the high praise it gets. Their is not much to hate about the album and it is a jewel on the grunge era. The emotionally charged album does not disappoint and is highly recommended to anyone looking for something that can make you cry and blow you away with the great musicianship and vocal performances.

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Post by The_Wall_91 on Wed Jul 03, 2019 2:35 pm

It is Wreckord Wednesday...I should trademark that, and it is time for me to review another album. For this edition, we dive in to the depths of heavy metal and pull out an album from a well known band but is oddly overlooked in their catalog.

Artist/Band: Judas Priest
Album: Defenders of the Faith
Release Date: January 4th, 1984 (Two remasters released in 2001 and 2015)
Run Time: 39:43
Songs: 10

Background:
Coming off the heels of 1982's Screaming for Vengeance, metal gods Judas Priest entered the studio to record their 9th studio album in late 1983. Judas Priest were on top of the metal world, and arguably the music world, and had the opportunity to keep their crown when they released Defenders of the Faith. Oddly enough, this album got lost in the music world in 1984 with the rise of MTV, hair metal, and thrash metal. Unfortunately, in today's world, this album is also somewhat lost considering the success of songs like "You've Got Another Thing Comin'" and "Breaking the Law" that were released prior to this album.

With that out of the way, lets look at whether or not this album really deserved the fate it received.

Song 1: Freewheel Burning

The album starts out fast and furious with the first single released, Freewheel Burning. The intro guitar riff reminds me of Painkiller from their 1990 album of the same name and, in hindsight, really set the stage for their dabble in to speed metal. This song features breathtaking high notes by lead vocalist Rob Halford but that is nothing new if you are a fan of Judas Priest. The twin guitar attack led by Glenn Tipton and KK Downing masterfully introduces Priest fans to speed metal. The drums played by Dave Holland easily cut through the vocals and screaming guitars. The bass, played by Ian Hill, makes the guitars sound even heavier and full with how it is played. The trademark Priest solos begin early with Tipton leading the charge. The end features a long, volume changing scream by Halford before Holland's drums close the song. This song has a very anthem heavy feel for a speed metal song, I wonder if that theme stays throughout the whole album.

Song 2: Jawbreaker

The speed metal slows down slightly but the power remains with Jawbreaker. For those of you thinking this is about the candy, wrong thread. This song is pretty straightforward in terms of how it is written but that is not a bad thing. The guitar riff is very catchy and the solo is very distortion heavy. On side 1, this song is the shortest of the group but their is much crammed in to this song.

Song 3: Rock Hard Ride Free

The simple guitar intro eventually turns in to a small guitar solo before kicking in the bass and drums. In terms of pop rock, this song could easily be the one that radio stations could play because of the great guitar work, anthem like lyrics, and the feel of this first being performed at a concert. This song has an easy sing-along chorus and Halford gives a shoutout to the listeners to sing with the band. This song also features a tremendous solo that for a guitarist looking to impress people, may want to give this a listen.

Song 4: The Sentinel

Priest returns to the speed metal genre with this track but also throw in progressive elements with The Sentinel. The added touches included in this song are a drum line that could easily be mistaken for a military signal, a robotic back up vocal to go with Halford, and the best vocal performance on the album by Halford. The guitar solo is traded between Downing and Halford before they both come together to finish the solo, a trademark of the Priest sound. In the closing of the song, Halford seems to get farther and farther from the mic but still manages to pull off the high-pitch screams with ease.

Song 5: Love Bites

This song is another that glimpses in to what the future could hold for Priest. This song has a very similar feel to many of the songs on 1986's Turbo. The very dark intro overshadows what, in my opinion, is a really lackluster song. The drums feel too much like a hair metal act and the guitars are not very impressive compared to other songs. In terms of production, there are many vocal elements but they just don't make up enough for this to be a favorable song. This is another single to showcase the album but I feel it should have been The Sentinel or Rock Hard Ride Free.

Song 6: Eat Me Alive

This is another song that peers in to the future of Priest in the speed metal genre. Another song with a trading guitar solo between Tipton and Downing. Compared to other songs, Halford's vocal performance does not showcase his range but is very gritty, a nice change. The drums played by Holland are very good and cut through the guitars and vocals with relative ease. The sudden cutoff at the end of the song is also a nice touch. The PMRC, however, was not a huge fan of this song as this appeared at number 3 on Tipper Gore's Filthy Fifteen.

Song 7: Some Heads Are Gonna Roll

The second single released, I can easily see why it was released as a single. Similar to Rock Hard Ride Free in terms of anthem feel, this song could be considered one of the best depending on your taste of metal. I'm surprised this is not an AC/DC song because it has a very similar feel to them. I really enjoy the simple yet effective guitar work alongside a simple yet effective vocal performance. Sometimes, simplicity works well and this is a good example of it.

Song 8: Night Comes Down

In my opinion, this is the best song on the album. This song lets Hill showcase a fantastic bassline which comes in shortly after the guitars and really takes you away. It is hard to really define what this song is. It feels like a ballad but it does not seem very Judas Priest like but yet, it is a ballad. While their is no love references or feel to it, it feels very inspirational and uplifting. Another great guitar solo coincides with another fantastic vocal performance.

Songs 9 and 10: Heavy Duty and Defenders of the Faith

I lumped these two songs together because they are played nonstop to finish the album. It is very easy to see this an anthem that the band used to finish their tour shows for this album. It is very straightforward song. I see a major influence to Queen's "We Will Rock You" with its very simple drumline. This song differs itself with the guitars and bass being more involved than they were in "We Will Rock You." The added crowd noise and simple lyrics make this song really enjoyable and will easily make you sing-along and part of the band.

Pros:
Amazing performances by each member of the band
The anthem nature of some songs works well
The range of metal played between hair, heavy, and speed metal is impressive

Cons:
"Love Bites" is not great and did not deserve to be a single
The album feels top heavy with most of the great songs to start and not many to finish

Star Rating: 4.1 out of 5 Stars

Personally, I think why this album gets overlooked is because the timing of it. Having to follow up British Steel and Screaming for Vengeance was a huge ask and having two follow ups, Turbo and Ram it Down, be rather lackluster does not help. Not many songs really stick out compared to the rest which is not a bad thing but I think not having that huge standout did not help. I enjoyed this album and look forward to more from Judas Priest in the future.

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Post by The_Wall_91 on Wed Jul 10, 2019 2:43 pm

It is Wreckord Wednesday and it is time for another album review. For the 3rd edition of Tony's Album Reviews, we stay in the 21st century and go with a band with a cult-like following to explore their complexity and creativity.

Artist/Band: Tool
Album: 10,000 Days
Release Date: April 28th, 2006
Run Time: 1:15:45
Songs: 11

Background:

Tool's creative yet disturbing music minds had gained a reputation among the community that was almost like a cult. The lovable troll attitude of lead singer Maynard James Keenan has been well documented over the years alongside the varied personalities of his fellow Tool band mates, guitarist Adam Jones, bassist Justin Chancellor, and drummer Danny Carey. 10,000 Days is the 4th album released by the group and is the most recent in their discography until their scheduled 2019 album releases as planned on August 30th.

The meaning of 10,000 Days varies depending on who you ask. 10,000 Days is roughly the amount of time the planet Saturn takes to complete an orbit while it is also credited to the length of time Keenan's mom was paralyzed before her eventual passing. Before we get too confused by the nature of meanings, lets dive in to the album...

Song 1: Vicarious

The first single on the album is also the kickoff song for the album. For their 3rd album in a row, Tool had a kickoff song that sets the bar high for the rest of the album (Aenima had "Stinkfist" and Lateralus had "The Grudge"). The song starts with the guitar and bass playing a simple intro riff, at times having the drums enter before swelling up in to the main riff. The vocals eventually enter alongside the bass which continues alongside the drums of Danny Carey. After two verses and a chorus, the darkest portion of the song takes over with the heaviest bass played by Justin Chancellor. The instruments take over for a period of time before the drums, bass, and guitars go in different directions. The guitar part performed by Adam Jones before Maynard James Keenan features a very fast strumming pattern that is rather unusual for the rest of the song. The song eventually builds to the ending before unleashing a furious finish to close the song.

Song 2: Jambi

The guitar intro hits hard right from the start on the 3rd single released from the album. The kick of the bass drum and vocals eventually enter to partner the guitar. The bass eventually comes in as Keenan's vocals dive in to a low quiet. The vocals feature a contrast between Keenan's regular singing voice alongside muffled sections that are a nice touch to the song. The song eventually reaches an unusual guitar solo for Tool which includes a talk box, to my knowledge, the only time a talk box has been used on a Tool solo. For a first time use of a talk box solo by Jones, he does a very impressive job considering he also got advice from fellow guitarist Joe Walsh of The Eagles. The bass gets to feature itself shortly after the guitar solo before the haunting vocals return. The drums throughout the whole song are absolutely amazing and really speaks to the ability of Carey.

Songs 3 and 4: Wings for Marie/10,000 Days (Wings Part 2)

These two songs come together to form the title track. For those of you who believe that 10,000 Days is a reference to Keenan's mother length of paralysis, this is the proof you need. The song starts slowly with a simple bass tone before the guitar enters. The vocals in part 1 are very quiet but the lyrics are easily distinguishable. Part 1 mainly features the quieter side of the band and is very atmospheric before a buildup to a loud section. The drums make their first significant impact in the loud section before quietly going away for the rest of part 1.

Part 2 sees the bass pick up in speed right away after a very heavy reverb drum. The sound effect that comes in shortly after the bass is similar to what you would hear during a storm with thunder and rain. The deep and quiet vocal enters alongside a small drum part. The song eventually builds up to include the guitar before having the band go in to an instrumental break. The solo on part 2 is very typical of an Adam Jones solo with the extended hold of notes. The song eventually brings the volume back down to end the song with Keenan, Chancellor, and Carey closing the track. This two part song style is a trademark of Tool and has been used on several occasions on some of their biggest hits with this being arguably their best example.

Song 5: The Pot

Opening with one of the best vocal intros, the 2nd single from the album eventually attacks with a very catchy bassline. The drums enter shortly after the bass with the guitar swelling up and taking the song to a-whole-nother level. This song is unique to the album because this is the closest song on the album that you would associate to a typical rock song in terms of structure. The verses hear the guitar stay quiet for most of the time until the choruses enter. Another trademark of the Tool sound is the use of multiple unique riffs. The Pot along with others on this album do a spectacular job making each riff mesh together well with the rest of the song. Keenan gives a nod to earlier Tool work by his use of two distinct screams even though they are not as common now as they used to be. The ending scream by Keenan before the rest of the band take over to close off this epic track.

Song 6: Lipan Conjuring

This is just a break in the heavy music featuring a guest performance by Bill McConnell. This break makes a nod to the movie "Warriors" with the lyrics used.

Songs 7 and 8: Lost Keys (Blame Hoffman)/Rosetta Stoned

Another two-part song, part 1 does not have much to it. It has a simple bass and guitar part before introducing a hospital setting. During the hospital section, we are introduced to 2 different voices, a Dr. Watson (voiced by Pete Reidling) and an unnamed nurse (voiced by Camella Grace). The nurse and doctor discuss a patient that is in exam room 3. The nurse and doctor eventually enter exam room 3 to try and get some information about the patient.

The guitar builds up before Maynard's muffled vocals introduce part 2 of the song. The instruments play heavy while Keenan spits out lyrics faster than a cheetah on meth. The vocals stay muffled for most of part 2 but the quick lyrics do not stay for the whole song. The song also references "ET the Extra Terrestrial" in the lyrics but you might miss it if you don't listen close enough. The rest of the band take over for a significant period of time with Keenan chipping in on vocals once in a while. Their is a guitar solo that is similar to what is found in Jambi but hear, just subtract the talk box. Personally, the guitar and drums are best utilized in part 2. The drum and bass section of the break is breathtaking before the band builds up to Keenan's Christ-like return to the song. Their is another amazing scream before the end. This scream is much lower toned compared to The Pot. The drums build up the ending before the vocals close this track.

Songs 9 and 10: Intension and Right in Two

The 3rd and final two-part song begins with the very strange Intension. Intension features the vocals, bass, and percussion. While the guitar is still there, it is not in the spotlight as the other members of the band, at least in the first half. Eventually, the bass, vocals, and drums die down to let the guitar take over with a reverb heavy riff. The bass eventually reenters alongside the guitar. Coming in next is a rather strange sound, it is similar to what you would hear if you think of a CNC machine alongside a robot on dialup. After the instruments die down, there is a small buildup leading in to part 2, Right in Two.

Part 2, Right in Two, begins with another guitar riff leading in to what is my personal favorite song on this album. The vocals enter shortly after. The perspective of the speaker should be made very obvious in the first verse if you have a small knowledge of religion. The lyrics for this song is very perspective and does not focus on a specific target, instead looking at ourselves as humans. Eventually, the bass and drums enter with the guitar and vocals for the second verse. The third verse leads in to the first loud section of the instruments. This loud section leads in to the first break where the drums takeover and steal the song from everyone else. In the middle of the break, the muffled vocals make a return to begin the buildup to the end of the song. The end features a return to the normal vocals before the guitar brings the song to a close.

Song 11: Viginiti Tres

This instrumental closes the album. I feel the song name is a reference to something but my only guess is that it has something to do with 3, unless I completely failed Spanish. This instrumental is really used as a way to catch your breath to return to your normal life.

Pros:
The weather effects in "10,000 Days" added a dark atmosphere to a dark song
The singles released are all fantastic and could easily be switched with other songs
The added references to "Warriors" and "ET the Extra Terrestrial" were nice little touches
Drums were probably the best I have heard on any album

Cons:
Some effects made no sense in what they are or what they were in the song for
I would reorder some songs to make Right in Two make more sense with the title

Star Rating: 4.75 out of 5 Stars

Tool have kept fans waiting on the follow up for 13 years and the hype around this new album is immense. Their cult-like following has made them some of the most interesting and talked about bands since the 1990's. While they have a knack of making people wait, they deliver with fantastic music every time.

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Post by The_Wall_91 on Wed Jul 17, 2019 4:08 pm

It is Wreckord Wednesday once again and for this edition, I have a special treat as we dive in to one of the most influential hard rock bands with one of their greatest albums.

Artist/Band: Led Zeppelin
Album: Led Zeppelin IV
Release Date: November 8th, 1971
Run Time: 42:34
Songs: 8

Background:

After mixed reviews for Led Zeppelin III, the band entered the studio in late 1970 to respond with this album which turned in to a massive success. Lead vocalist Robert Plant, guitarist Jimmy Page, bassist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham had already gained a reputation as one of the world's best bands. They laid down the groundwork for many future bands that followed and this album was pivotal in carving the path. This album has been named the best on several rock album lists so let's dive and see what made Led Zeppelin IV the masterpiece it is.

Song 1: Black Dog

The album starts out with Plant's decade defining vocals before Page, Jones, and Bonham enter to fill in when Plant stops singing. The guitar riff played is not only very catchy but easily slices through the track. The drums, played by arguably the best drummer of all time, all sound like cannons going off which can easily scare off pesky neighbors. This song has a similar structure to how the grunge era sounded having many trades of sound between the quiet of just the vocals and the loud nature of having the whole band play together. This hard hitting track kicks off the album with a fury and continues for the rest of the way.

Song 2: Rock and Roll

The cannon sounds of Bonham's drums start off this track before being joined by the rest of the band. I don't know how but Page has managed to put 2 amazing guitar riffs in back-to-back songs. Plant says, "It's been a long time since I rock-and-rolled" which would have been very hard to believe in 1971. This song is very catchy as Plant repeats multiple words and phrases a bunch of times to add anticipation for the instruments to attack the defenseless ears of listeners.

Song 3: The Battle of Evermore

This song is a change of pace compared to the first two songs. This song I can only describe as like hearing a book coming to life. Plant plays the role of a narrator while guest vocalist from Fairport Convention, Sandy Denny, sings the role of a crying person in the town being focused on. The contrasting nature of Plant and Denny is really impressive and you can easily distinguish between the two throughout the song. The rest of the band takes an acoustic sound for this track and mainly play as support for the narration done by Plant and the beautiful singing by Denny.

Song 4: Stairway to Heaven

...If you don't know this song, you have really missed out. Considered by many as the greatest song of all time, this is progressive rock at perfection with the song building and building towards the amazing guitar solo by Page. There are no words for how good this song is and it is a song that everyone should listen to before they die. I am not going to spoil anymore of it than I already have.

Song 5: Misty Mountain Hop

Side Two of the album also starts off with another great track. Personally, I prefer the start of Side One to this but this is a very close second to Black Dog. This song features a piano performance from Jones which the whole song is focused around. The piano riff could have been easily written by Page but Jones does a masterful job creating a catchy, yet impactful riff. Plant's best vocal performance on the whole album comes right here and it is worth the listen for those of you who know people doing choir or are in a band.

Song 6: Four Sticks

Taking the name of how many drum sticks Bonham used on the track, this album has been played fewer times than the number of sticks used by Bonham. The sheer difficulty and complexity of the song have made Zeppelin only perform it once live. This complexity led to an amazing track, hidden among some of the best songs in the Zeppelin catalog. I easily believe this song is underrated and definitely worth being checked out by all of you Zeppelin fans.

Song 7: Going to California

Another song that is lost in the album, not due to it's own fault, this song is another quieter track. This describes a trip to California while searching for the right person to love. A great song for the broken and lonely hearted, this song can be very relatable even if you have never gone to California...don't look at me, I have never been there. Man, what is it with the depth of this album. It is deeper than the Marianna's Trench and you are still finding amazing tracks littered throughout the whole album.

Song 8: When the Levee Breaks

If it wasn't for Stairway, this song would easily be the best on the album. This song is famous for the controversy surrounding Bonham's kick pattern. Due to the amazing quality of the drums, many fans debate on whether or not Bonham has 1 or 2 kicks. As someone who has seen a local band record this in studio, it is definitely 1 with a ton of reverb coming off the base drum. This 7 minute masterpiece masterfully closes the album leaving the listener breathless and blown away every time.

Pros:
Many Great Hits
Every song is unique and none of them blend together
Stairway and Levee? Almost unfair to listeners to decide

Cons:
None

Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

The first ever perfect rating I have given since I started doing this, Led Zeppelin IV deserves it. Having sold over 37 million copies worldwide since its release in 1971, the impact and legacy of this album is still being felt in the world today. At nearly 50 years old, I can understand why many bands point to this album as the one that got them in to music.

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