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Led Zeppelin - 1976 Presence



ARTIST: Led Zeppelin
ALBUM: Presence
LABEL: Swansong
SERIAL: SS 8416
YEAR: 1976
CD REISSUE: 1994, Swanong, 92439-2 (remastered)

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

LINEUP: Robert Plant - vocals * Jimmy Page - guitar * John Paul Jones - bass * John Bonham - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Achilles Last Stand * 02 For Your Life * 03 Royal Orleans * 04 Nobodys Fault But Mine * 05 Candy Store Rock * 06 Hots On For Nowhere * 07 Tea For One

WEBLINKS: www.ledzeppelin.com


Background
It wouldn't be overly superlative to suggest Led Zeppelin were the biggest act on the planet during the 70's. Everything they did turned to gold (and multi-platinum) despite their much heralded excesses and it seemed nothing could slow down the machine that had conquered all in their wake, especially in North America. However a major cog in the wheel threw the band into disarray in August 1975 when Robert Plant was involved in a terrible car accident, causing the cancellation of a U.S. tour in support of the mighty 'Physical Graffiti'. This spurred Plant and Jimmy Page into action and rather than face inactivity they churned out the tracks for this album rather hurriedly by Zeppelin standards. Much has been made of the recording of 'Presence', which Plant undertook in a wheelchair, severely debilitating his vocals. The whole recording process took only 18 days according to legend, which still seems amazing even some 38 years later. When released, the album wasn't embraced like past efforts and sold less than any album before it. Plenty of speculation has been provided as to why, but maybe it was just a little too heavy for those weaned on the varied albums of Zeppelin's immediate past. Whatever the case it's aged well, despite the criticism and terrible album cover, which probably put a lot of people off at the time.


The Songs
There can be little doubt that the sprawling ten minute rampage of 'Achilles Last Stand' is Zeppelin's definitive metal moment, although they would probably balk at the mention of 'heavy metal' itself. This is where the 'galloping' term is redefined, Page and Jones rumbling along relentlessly with one of Bonham's last essential showings behind the kit. It's almost pointless trying to comprehend how many bands used this as a starting point and it's so polished and beyond its time that it could have been recorded last week for all we know. Managing to achieve that timeless feel is something only legends are capable of and it's almost ludicrous how pathetic 'In Through The Out Door' sounds by comparison. Page's riffs are solid throughout and 'For Your Life' is hard rock perfection, sometimes overlooked but easily on par with the best of 'Physical Graffiti'. Clocking in at less than three minutes is the upbeat and cocky 'Royal Orleans' which could be a leftover from 'Houses of the Holy' due to the riffs which recall 'The Crunge'. It's proof of the albums simplicity, with no tricks up its sleeve or experimental deviations. 'Nobody's Fault But Mine' is another classic and one of the bands best of the decade, containing Plant's best vocals on the album and yet more bruising riffs from Page, who owns this album completely.

The explosiveness of the rhythm section and harmonica solo are awe inspiring, a clinic from the masters. The 50's styled rock and roll of 'Candy Store Rock' lacks inspiration overall, despite being a relatively brief and harmless romp. It doesn't go anywhere and sounds akin to a 'Led Zeppelin III' track. Supposedly it was written in an hour which is believable. The cornball riffs of 'Hots On For Nowhere' give AC/DC a run for their money and this is another underrated track, moving at a nifty pace with the pounding drums of Bonham moving things along nicely. The nine minute blues sprawl of 'Tea For One' harkens back to the early days of the first two albums, with Plant's passionate wailing and Page's tortured riffs and solos ending the album on an epic note. It's impossible not to think of 'Since I've Been Loving You' but that was probably the intent.


In Summary
The album went to number one upon release immediately but wasn't received well critically, not that most Zeppelin albums were by the pretentious critics of the day who balked at their style of hard rock for some reason. It's held up as a solid offering by Zeppelin and stands alongside their more famed albums, even if its profile is somewhat lacking to this day. I'd take it over 'Houses Of The Holy' for consistency and some of its appeal is because it hasn't been ruined by endless radio play over the years. It's a pure hard rock album and displays none of the acoustic pandering that highlighted their most successful work. For whatever reason that appeals to me far more than 'IV' ever has.


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This article has been tagged
Tags: Led Zeppelin 
 
Comments
#1 | Eric on November 23 2014 20:28:10
It's one of the creepier Hipgnosis sleeves. Musically I always preferred 'III' but to each his own.
#2 | sabace on December 05 2016 20:11:58
this is my fave Zeppelin lp primarily because of Achille's last stand an amazing track!
 
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