Led Zeppelin
Presence


3.5
great

Review

by Bron-Yr-Aur USER (39 Reviews)
June 6th, 2006 | 16 replies


Release Date: 1976 | Tracklist


1975 was a pivotal year for Led Zeppelin. Having just released the most ambitious album of the groupsí twelve-year career in the double album Physical Graffiti, the band had once again asserted themselves as the biggest act in rock and roll. After a North American tour in which they continued to break attendance records among others, and a quick performance at Earlsí Court in the United Kingdom, the band was forced into a life of tax exile, an emblem of the pitfalls of making too much money. Shortly after, tragedy struck on the Greek island of Rhodes when Robert Plantsí car collided with a tree, which severely injured himself, along with his wife and family. After months of painful recuperation, the band felt ready to write and record what would become their most under-appreciated album, 1976ís Presence.


Presence is a famous album, but not in the sense that most others with the name Led Zeppelin on the cover are. Widely known as the only Zeppelin album ever to find a home in your local music storesí bargain bin, many people recognize it as the beginning of a downward spiral for the group, one which would continue until the groupsí abandonment in 1980. Upon first listen, itís difficult to understand how the album could have garnered such negative publicity. Achilles Last Stand plays like an epic biography of the group itself, with Jimmyís ferocious riffing and harmonizing and Bonhamís frantic, pounding drums. The song exceeds the ten-minute mark, and yet somehow never loses its focus while simultaneously keeping a tight hold on mine. To a first time listener, this song could signal Zeppelin being stronger than ever. The problem for the album lies in its depth. While Zeppelin is famous for incorporating beautiful folk pieces in with the more vivacious blues-rock anthems, this album contains no acoustic songs, nor any keyboard work from John Paul Jones. While this lack of depth can be frustrating, it fits mysteriously well with the theme of the album; that epic, frantic, down-but-not-out vibe. Another contributing factor to the albumsí negative image is the sheer dullness of some of the tracks. Allow me to elaborate.


In years prior, Zeppelin had been known for releasing exciting rock tracks, and extraordinary acoustic ones. While they had also earned a reputation for, shall we say, stretching things (an example of this being Dazed and Confused live, which routinely would stretch and snap the forty minute mark), the overall reputation that had been built was one of excitement, delivery, and competence. As the band began their musical evolution on albums such as 1973ís Houses of the Holy and the aforementioned Physical Graffiti, the experimentation was kept fresh and stimulating, worthy of the Zeppelin title. While Presence is arguably a straight-forward rock and roll record, the group seems to be pushing the boundaries of the title ďrock and roll", and seeing what they can come up with. An example of this would be For Your Life. While boasting some fairly contagious verses and bridges, etcetera, the song tends to get a bit tedious at times, no matter how exhilarating the chromatic run is.


The reputation of titan blues jammers had also been attached to the bandsí name, and for proof you can look no further than Tea For One. While containing an over-dubbed, harmonious guitar introduction, the song quickly shifts into a slow, minor blues jam, painfully similar to 1970ís Since Iíve Been Loving You. While the fact that the group had released such a similar song six years earlier does detract from the originality factor, the song still has fantastic playing by all members of the band, and the emotion presented is far more dire than its Led Zeppelin III counter-part, probably as a result of the many trials and endeavors the band had faced in recent times. The song is a masterpiece of slow blues, no matter how grating it can become. By contrast, Nobodyís Fault But Mine is a masterpiece of warped blues. The riff is one of the heaviest Zeppelin would ever record, and the twisted harmonica playing by Plant signals that, wheelchair or not, the man still knew exactly what he was doing.


By 1976, punk rock was in full swing. Bands like The Clash and The Sex Pistols offered a new outlet for the angst they felt, one that didnít require god-like musicianship. This appealed to many young people in the wake of the still fresh-in-mind Vietnam War, and the infamous Watergate Scandal. Perhaps most endearing of all about the new genre was that nearly anybody could play it. You didnít have to be a formally trained musician or a natural at the guitar to become a punk rock idol. This obviously did not bode well for Led Zeppelin. Songs like Candy Store Rock, which are songs that many fans of the band donít particularly care for anyway, were marked as outdated, and began to garner even more negative publicity for the band that only three years before had spoken so coherently for the teenage masses. The key to the albumsí success at this point was that the band was already timeless. Even though the album didnít contain any Stairway to Heaven or any inkling of Kashmir, Zeppelin had earned themselves enough credit to take quite a few mis-steps and still be revered as a seminal band.


While the album has many flaws musically, one thing that can be noted is its near-perfect production. The songs (especially Achilles Last Stand) sound like an all-out assault on the listener. Indeed, it has been noted that Mr. Jimmy Page was an obsessed perfectionist when it came to producing. It has also been noted that the one time he left the studio completely satisfied was during the recording of this very album. While many of the songs could be labeled as over-dramatic or something of that ilk, there are still a few simple songs that get the job done. For example, Royal Orleans. The song itself is about John Paul Jones, who accidentally set fire to a hotel bed while hitting a joint with a drag queen. Lyrical examples? Indeed.


A man I know, went down to Louisiana,
had himself a bad, bad fight
And when the sun peeked through
John Cameron with Suzanna,
He kissed the whiskers, left & right
Whiskers!


If this isnít revealing enough, perhaps this will quench your thirst?


Now, now, now, fright subsides
Out at a hotel in the quarter, our friends check in to pass the night
Now love gets hot, but fire preceded water
Poor whiskers set the room alight.
Whiskers!


While the song is a straight-forward rock song with a twinge of rockabilly, it does boast an interesting, very uncharacteristic solo form Jimmy. The songsí title was derived from the hotel where the alleged ďwhisker kissing" took place.



There are many Led Zeppelin albums Iíd recommend over Presence. But the fact remains that this album accomplished what needed to be accomplished. It proved that, for better or worse, Led Zeppelin was still vital in the high-staked game that is the Rock music industry. Musically, there are far more interesting and superior albums, but the fact remains that not one of them has a more interesting or troublesome story as Presence. While Robert eventually recovered from his injuries, the pain he felt is still alive in these recordings; a snapshot in time. The record remains vital not only in the fact that it provides some good music, but also in the fact that it did prove that, in a world full of anarchy, and with London calling, rock music was still imperative. And it still is.


3.5/5


Pros

Some great songs
Excellent Production
Perfect representation of the times

Cons

Can become bland
Some songs drag on
No acoustics and/or keyboards


From Me To You

Achilles Last Stand
Royal Orleans
Nobodyís Fault But Mine
Tea For One



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Comments:Add a Comment 
metallicaman8
June 6th 2006


4677 Comments


Nice review, buddy. If i knew how to that thumbs up emotion thingy I would put it in.

masada
June 6th 2006


2733 Comments


"Achilles Last Stand" is basically better than their whole catalogue.

Jawaharal
June 6th 2006


1832 Comments


It really is. Its such a beastly good song.

south_of_heaven 11
June 6th 2006


5433 Comments


Nice review mate. I only own LZ 1 - LZ 4, and I think I might just stay with those for the time being.

Bron-Yr-Aur
June 6th 2006


4405 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks people. :thumb: This Message Edited On 06.06.06

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
June 6th 2006


16088 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Meh album, strong review. Achilles is the only halfway decent song on here.

YDload
June 6th 2006


1207 Comments


"Achilles' Last Stand" is the best Zep song ever, but I don't think the album is quite as consistent.

JohnXDoesn't
June 6th 2006


1279 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Very nice and informative review. I think you and I have gone back and forth a little about this album before. And you know I'm no Zep hater, but this album to my ears is just dismal. Short, rehashed, maybe three good songs. Hardly an album at all. This is my old rating and I'm sticking to it. Your review is very persuasive, but nothing can turn me on this album. Meh.....This Message Edited On 06.06.06

Mathias HIMSELF
June 6th 2006


161 Comments


great review, ill definately check this out.

BludgeonySteve
June 6th 2006


558 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Their worst album (if you don't coutn coda). However, it does have one of their best songs.

madanthony
June 6th 2006


25 Comments


I've only heard achilles last stand and Nobody's fault but Mine and they both kicked ass so I'll probably pick this up after I get Physical grafiti.

Bron-Yr-Aur
June 6th 2006


4405 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5


Their worst album (if you don't coutn coda). However, it does have one of their best songs.


This may very well be true. Thankfully, it still isn't that bad. I really like Coda, though.


Bron-Yr-Aur
June 6th 2006


4405 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

check itThis Message Edited On 06.06.06

BludgeonySteve
June 7th 2006


558 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Zeppelin's worst is still pretty good.

Bron-Yr-Aur
June 22nd 2006


4405 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Most of the time, anyway. "I'm Gonna Crawl" was a boring song.

kygermo
September 25th 2008


994 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This review is amazing!



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