Ah, the big one. I must confess that I am looking forward to the Physical Graffiti reissue in February the most, but I fully realize that IV is the deluxe edition people will probably care the most about — and It doesn’t disappoint. As with the previous three reissues that were released this past June, Jimmy Page himself handles the remastering, and the original album sounds as good as it ever has in the digital era. But as with the first three reissues, the real meat and potatoes of the IV reissue is in the extra disc of material that offers some alternate mixes of the familiar versions. For some of the tracks like “Rock and Roll,” the differences are pretty minor, but given the weight of the material, even slight alterations are thrilling. For example, “Black Dog” unfolds pretty normally, but then when Robert Plant starts screaming “Oh yeah! Oh yeah!,” it sits in the mix in a way that seems entirely different.
The instrumental mandolin/guitar mix of “The Battle of Evermore” is simply stunning, it’s so sweeping and majestic. After hearing the mandolin in full-bodied form, it’s actually a little disappointing to think about how it had to be suppressed a little to make room for Plant’s vocals in the final version. As for “Stairway to Heaven,” it’s barely different from the finished version (it’s not labeled as an alternate mix like the others, so don’t treat it as such), so there is little room for discovery with one of the greatest songs in rock, unfortunately, but it illustrates how closely the finished recording aligned with Page’s vision. The alternate mix of “Misty Mountain Hop” features a much drier drum sound, which makes the whole song sound incredibly loud. It’s a neat effect, but I’m glad it was dialed back for the version we eventually ended up listening to over and over. The alternate mix of “Four Sticks” is likewise a little more chaotic, but is still pretty close to the final mix. (If anything, though, John Bonham’s incredible performance shines through better than ever.)
The instrumental mandolin/guitar mix of “Going to California” is possibly the reissue’s highlight, as like the mix for “The Battle of Evermore,” it’s simply stunning. Without the obnoxious vocal echo that drags down the finished mix somewhat, the song shines like never before; it’s just gorgeous. And finally, the alternate mix for “When the Levee Breaks” is fantastic as well, even if it is close to the finished version. Given that Led Zeppelin IV is the most scrutinized and bestselling Zep album, I suspect this reissue will appeal to many, and will meet their expectations so long as they know what they are getting into. As with the previous Zeppelin reissues, the lack of extra tracks on hand lessen the impact of this release — which is historic, since we had never gotten to hear different mixes ever before — and compared to more generous reissues on the market that offer three to six discs worth of material, this is still pretty thin, all things considered.
[A super deluxe edition was also released, but it didn’t include any additional music. Rather, it combined the CD and vinyl releases of the deluxe edition, included a hi-res download code, and also offered a book with previously unreleased photos.]