The bell was soon to toll. The year: 1979. For Led Zeppelin, the end was Nye, and perhaps on itsí way sooner than expected. Critics and fans alike had been counting Zeppelin out, then in, and out again for the last three years a result of the ďZeppelin curse", which claimed itsí victims in a car crash the Plantsí had, a deadly infection that took the life of Karac Plant (Robertís son), and ultimately perpetuated the death of John Bonham. While this ďcurse" is certainly ridiculed by the three remaining members, one could argue that there was something out to get Zeppelin, especially if you take into account the fact that the first two incidents alone put the band in two separate and indefinite hiatus(s). While still a tremendously revered outfit, the bandsí previous release, Presence
, was met with an overall lukewarm reception, much in the vain of Metallicaís Load
. By the time their final offering as a group was released, the band had a lifespan of little more than nine months left. As the times changed, so did the music, and soon the top twenty was infested with synthesized pop and the painful Rod Stewart anthem, Do Ya Think Iím Sexy
. The question was more than likely mulled over. If Led Zeppelin returns, how will they sound? What will they do?
Return they did, and the sound was different.
In Through the Out Door
debuted at number one on the charts, illustrating the power the name of the band still commanded. Instead of adapting their previous blues-rock prowess, the band opted to continue their evolution as musicians, a term that causes many music fans to spurt into fits of terror. Instead of songs like Kashmir
, which was the epitome of musical experimentation done correctly, you found yourself with songs like South Bound Suarez
. While the former of which is epic in every sense of the word, the latter possesses a charm that is conspicuously absent in a lot of other material. After careful deliberation, Iíve decided to attribute this charm to the dominance of John Paul Jones on the album, a presence which would for better or worse define itsí distinctive sound. You see, by 1976, Jimmy Page was dabbling in drugs (to say the least). While this should come as no surprise to anyone who knows anything about the band, the particular drug he was dabbling in was heroin, an illicit substance which has gotten the better of countless rock stars, from John Lennon to John Frusciante. By the time the album was ready to be written and recorded, Page (as well as Bonham, though this obviously didnít affect the songwriting process) was a full-blown smack addict, and as such carried much less weight around the studio than he used to, and subsequently, he handed over the reigns to John Paul. So, how does Jonesy do?
While one could gather the impression that Zeppelin has chosen to remain a more rock based outfit from the stomping, almost defiant In The Evening
, it is very clear that songs like Fool In the Rain
are not written by the same band that released the devious tune The Lemon Song
ten years prior. While upbeat piano playing and a jaw-dropping groove are the high-points, Page tastefully makes his way through the song, providing harmonized fills until itís time to take an impressive solo. Likewise, Hot Dog
is like nothing the band had ever done before. Unfortunately, it would not go over near as well as itís predecessor. While itís easy to establish a love-hate relationship with the song (which is the choice I opted for), itís far easier to simply dismiss it as garbage and move on. The reason for this near-blasphemous statement is that the idea of Zeppelin tackling a country romp complete with boogie-piano and a female vocal accompaniment might be simply more than many can bear. Go on, hate it. No one will think any less of you.
While light-hearted pop is most certainly in order, the band has still not completely abandoned their former selves. Indeed, songs such as Caraseloumbra
are positively epic, and one canít help but get the feeling that youíre on some sort of epic mission when Jimmy and John Paul combine twelve-string with synthesizer for a harmony of volcanic proportions. In fact, thatís pretty much the defining sound of the album. Take one catchy synth hook, add unto it some tasteful guitar pieces, provide a fantastic drum accompaniment and let Plant do the rest. Speaking of Mr. Plant, you may be curious as to whether or not heís in form on this, the finale of the Zeppelin legacy (with Coda
being just what the title suggests). While the voice that permeates through your speakers and into your eardrums is not the same voice that once told you of a lady in-the-know, for the most part (with Hot Dog
being the only real exception), Robertís voice just seems more matured. Older, wiser, but still capable of belting out the refrain from Heartbreaker
if any young punks wanted to throw down the gauntlet.
Karac Plant was at the tender age of five when he became suddenly ill with an unidentified viral infection. Robert Plant, who was touring at the time, didnít find out about his boysí sudden and unexpected demise until the ambulance, which arrived late anyway, had already left. Once the news hit, the tabloids had another field day with the aforementioned ďZeppelin Curse", and the band that was Led Zeppelin for all intents and purposes ceased to be. Upon their miraculous revival some two years later, Robert presented John Paul Jones with some lyrics he had written. Jonesy sat down at his synthesizer and the song All My Love
was born. There are quite a few perplexing things about the song, and quite a few Zeppelin firsts with it, as well. A short list is as follows:
Marks the first time Page didnít receive a writing credit.
Marks the last time Robert would ever collaborate with John Paul Jones
Jimmy was said to have hated the song, finding it far too poppy.
Despite all the nostalgia and/or curiosity these points create, nothing changes the fact that the song is a work of pure genius. From the simple yet appropriate guitar fills to the forceful, pounding bridge, not a single thing is out of place in this, Robertís dedication to his departed offspring.
If you listen to Iím Gonna Crawl
enough, you might hear more than the pseudo-blues that is more than apparent at first. If you truly focus, you might forget the fact that the song can drag on for what seems like an eternity. If you adamantly put your mind to it, you can almost hear it. The sound of a legend dying. The last breath of life from the mighty Zeppelin may appear to be a disappointing one at first, but upon repeated listening, it can become hard to disconnect yourself from the ultimate nostalgia offered in the slow, blues epic. And as it makes it exit, so does the mighty Led Zeppelin.
The album is far from the best Zeppelin album. Nevertheless, it is just as vital to their catalogue and prodigious career as their mind-blowing debut that made itsí way onto the rock charts some eleven years prior. While the album signals the death of the powerful Zeppelin, you can take comfort in the fact that most legends are meant to die, and as such, so creates their legacy.
That lovely nostalgia
Fool In the Rain
Not for the average fan