Led Zeppelin

Black Dog

Composed by Jimmy Page / John Paul Jones / Robert Plant

Song Review by

The leadoff track on Led Zeppelin's 1971 fourth album, "Black Dog," immediately kicks the band's undisputed masterpiece into high gear with a shower of fireworks from Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. Yet there's also a intricate complexity to the song that's easy to miss between all the power riffs and blues belting. The rhythmic accents between Page's guitar work and John Bonham's drumming never fall into a neat, straight-ahead pattern, playing around the beat instead of falling squarely on top of it every time. Page's long phrases ascend, descend, and pause at different intervals of time in different sections of the song; in fact, there are one or two spots where it sounds like he's nearly tripped over himself and has to rush a bit to catch up to the beat. Besides Page's busy riffing, the other crucial element of "Black Dog" is its stop-start structure. Plant leads off the song by belting out an unaccompanied, echoing blues couplet, and when he's finished, the band kicks in behind him, running through the main riff and then dying back down so that Plant can sing the next two lines. Page tacks some variations onto the main riff at a couple of points during the song, and there's also a different section built around power chords that marks the only part of the song in which Plant sings over full-band accompaniment. Page ends the song with a fiery solo over this riff while Plant moans and wails in the background. The sense of band interplay, the novel tradeoff structure, and the raucously heavy riffs all help make "Black Dog" a convincing demonstration of why Led Zeppelin was arguably the greatest hard rock band of all time.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Led Zeppelin IV 1971 Atlantic 4:55
No Image 1973 Soul Essence Music
No Image 1973 Trademark Of Official Quality
The Song Remains the Same 1976 Warner Home Video
No Image 1979 Raven
No Image 1980 Monomatapa
Led Zeppelin [Box Set] 1990 Atlantic 4:55
Led Zeppelin Remasters 1992 Atlantic UK 4:55
Complete Studio Recordings 1993 Atlantic 4:54
BBC Sessions 1997 Atlantic 5:18
No Image 1998 Diagrams of Led Zeppelin 5:43
Early Days: The Best of Led Zeppelin, Vol. 1 1999 Atlantic
Early Days & Latter Days: Vol. 1 & 2 2002 Warner Bros.
Led Zeppelin [DVD Box Set] 2003 Atlantic
Mothership 2007 Rhino Atlantic 4:55
Definitive Collection Mini LP 2008 Rhino 4:57
Complete Rock Case Studies 2009 Regeneration Music / Classic Rock Legends 11:27
Celebration Day 2012 Atlantic / Rhino Atlantic 5:53
The Complete BBC Sessions 2016 Atlantic / Rhino
The Complete Led Zeppelin Collection Rhino / Rhino Atlantic 4:55
blue highlight denotes editor's pick