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Music Review: Led Zeppelin – Presence

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Robert Plant was involved in a serious auto accident in Greece during 1975 which put a crimp in Led Zeppelin’s touring and recording plans. Presence was finally released March 31, 1976.

It was a more modest affair than their last studio album, the long, sprawling and brilliant Physical Graffiti. In a way it was less ambitious as it contained no acoustic tracks or keyboards. Still, even an average Led Zeppelin album was better than 95% of the rock that was being produced during the mid-seventies. It’s amazing to think it was one of their least commercially successful releases yet still reached the number one position on the United States album charts while selling three million copies.

The album only contained seven tracks. The best of the lot was the 10-minute lead track, “Achilles Last Stand.” John Bonham’s powerful drumming and Jones’ use of an eight-string bass provided a solid rhythm foundation. Jimmy Page then overdubbed his guitar parts more than a dozen times. The song became a staple of their concert act and the various ways Page played the guitar parts were always an adventure. “For Your Life” contains a classic Robert Plant vocal delivered while he was still laid up in a wheel chair. John Paul Jones, a transvestite, New Orleans, and a hotel fire are part of the lyrics of “Royal Orleans.”

The second side of the original vinyl release begins with “Nobody’s Fault But Mine.” The writing credit was given to Page and Plant but grew out of Blind Willie Johnson’s “It’s Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” which he released during the late 1920’s. Zeppelin’s version features modified lyrics plus they transform it from a traditional blues piece to a building rock/blues classic. “Candy Store Rock” has a fifties rockabilly feel as Plant tries to channel Elvis Presley. “Hots On For Nowhere” is my least favorite track as it just loosely rolls along. “Tea For One” is a nice slow blues outing. This nine minute track evolves as it progresses and features some nice interplay between Bonham and Page.

Presence has aged well over the years. It may not reach the consistent heights of the group’s previous studio albums but does contain some solid and at times excellent rock that one would expect from them. It is still well worth a listen now and then.

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About David Bowling

  • “How anyone can listen to such drivel is beyond me.”

    Yes, it is beyond you. You are on the outside, in the rain, while the party is going on inside. Enjoy your alone time.

    Nice review, DB. While “Presence” is not my favorite Led Zep album (“Vol. III”,”Vol. IV”, and “Physical Graffiti” are my favorites), it certainly has much to commend it, particularly “Nobody’s Fault”, “Achilles Last Stand”, and “Tea For One”. And you are certainly right, an average Zep album is better than 95% of the rock out there.

  • Dyrkness

    “I never liked music so how anyone can listen to music is beyond me.”

    And yet you read a music review!!! LOL

  • Dude

    I never liked music so how anyone can listen to music is beyond me.

  • uncleebbie

    BQ- ‘I never liked Led Zeppelin’ so from your very first preconceived impression you base your opinion for all future works. Forget his work with Alison kraus for instance with nary a shout to be heard, or with the honeydrippers doing 50’s 60’s crooning. I will give you the benefit of a second impression although my first impression of your review is that it is just drivel, beyond me.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Robert Plant was basically a ‘shouter’and not a singer.

    You cannot be serious.

  • Brian Quinn

    How anyone can listen to such drivel is beyond me. I never liked Led Zeppelin as I feel they were just a group of boys who played really loud and loud does not equate with quality or talent.Robert Plant was basically a ‘shouter’and not a singer. Very similar to Roger Daltrey of the Who. Never could understand the appeal of such music.