April 30, 2015

Led Zeppelin - Presence (1976)

In 1976 Led Zeppelin's studio album empire was waning, but a very polished and dramatic hard rock epic opener that would sound corny with any other lineup masks all of that. For some reason, the ambition on Achilles Last Stand is so massive that the song only becomes even more awesome because of it, kind of like in a 48 Hours or Hard Boiled way. And I rarely admit that something absolutely owns at being over the top, Led Zeppelin just has the technical skill to do it. They could have cut the length down a little, but I mean, it's got to be epic right?

It's shocking that the group followed this arena rock flood with a few run of the mill blues rock cuts, and I'm kind of glad that they did because as tasty as it is, I don't think I could take much more like the opener. I've always found Royal Orleans and Hots On For Nowhere enjoyable, but kind of feel like they were thrown out there which Led Zeppelin--busy with touring and partying--could get away with because again, their musicianship is stunning. Still, the rest of the first half is held up with the invigorating drum licks and restrained drag on For Your Life. The second half is supported by the delightfully funky Candy Store Rock, a song that would probably go better on the second half of Physical Graffiti than here though.

Strategically placed in the middle of the album, Nobody's Fault But Mine is a semi-forgotten Led Zeppelin classic. I'm floored by how Led Zeppelin can successfully bring that level of syncopation and studio effects to a blues standard. Also, Robert Plant jams on the harmonica pretty good for a white dude.

Achilles Last Stand should have been shortened, yeah, but Tea For One? Hell no. The closer is a return to Led Zeppelin's blues roots like For Your Life, but this trudging exhale is the most outwardly depressing blues number I've ever heard. Again, the pace is very dramatic, but Plant's skill at communicating the blues ranks up there with anything John Lee Hooker or Lightnin' Hopkins (though he is hard to compare to the Black American musicians).

Presence is an awesome album I didn't get the disapproval of when I was younger and still don't listening to it years later. No, it's not their best work, but still without a doubt better than the praised bullshit on part two of Physical Graffiti.