116 of 125 people found the following review helpful
on March 16, 2000
When Robert Plant and his family sustained serious injuries in a car accident on the Greek island of Rhoads in August 1975, the future of Led Zeppelin was immediately thrown into question. To further complicate matters, the band was spending a year of non-residency outside of Britain due to said countrys tax laws. Unable to tour, and unable to live with their families, the band decided to record a new album, "Presence". Recorded and mixed in just 18 days in Munich, West Germany, the results are striking and easily Led Zeppelins most personal album.
The epic "Achilles' Last Stand" catches Zeppelin at their most powerful and desperate as Jimmy Page builds track upon track of harmonized guitars while the rest of the band thunder maniacally behind him and Plant. It is certainly a task to follow this piece, and sure enough, the other songs don't quite measure up to "Achilles'". The rest of the album is mid-tempo guitar rock inspired by Plants frame of mind post-accident. "For Your Life" is depressing song about drug abuse which contains another fine Page solo. "Royal Orleans" is a short, compact funk-rock piece which supposedly cronicles John Paul Jones' misadventures with a drag queen in New Orleans 2 years previous. "Nobodys Fault But Mine" is a pounding blues-rock song with the Jones-John Bonham rhythm section caught in fine form, making the stop-start riffs sound easy. Pages lead is again worth mentioning. "Candy Store Rock" is a throw-away old-time Elvis-esque rock-and-roll piece which finds Page doing his best Jimmy Burton/Scotty Moore impersonation. "Hots On For Nowhere" is one of Zeppelins minor league masterpieces which has a swagger and a hacked off Robert Plant taking shots at his friends. Pages solo again is excellent, with plenty of Strat abuse as he pounds his whammy bar. "Tea For One", which closes the album, is often compared to "Since I've Been Loving You". It is a slow minor blues which has yet another classic Page solo and a desponant Plant lamenting his seperation from his wife and family.
"Presence" is arguably Jimmy Pages best work as a guitarist. The quality of his rhythm and lead work easily surpasses his work on the rest of the Zeppelin canon. "Achilles' Last Stand" alone is worth the price of the album, but the remaining six tracks also have plenty to offer. It is a personal album which may not immediately hit you hard, but over time will become a favorite.
68 of 76 people found the following review helpful
It's hard to be objective with Presence when comparing it to the releases that came before it. How does one top "IV," "Houses of the Holy," and the sprawling "Physical Graffiti?" Also, this disk was recorded at a time when the band was suffering a bit from its lifestyle and Robert Plant was recovering from a serious auto accident.
What they do is take a back to basics approach, performing as a band with guitars, bass, drums and Plant's vocals. No acoustic guitars or keyboards, just hard rocking Led Zeppelin. While this is effective, there is a noticeable lack of the dynamics of earlier releases and the eclectic variety that made Led Zeppelin be able to pull off a hard rock tune with mandolins.
The two key tracks on Presence are "Achilles Last Stand" and "Nobody's Fault But Mine."
"Achilles" has a galloping triplet bassline, some of Bonham's best drumming, and layers of Page guitar lines. It's an epic cross of "Immigrant Song" and "Song Remains the Song."
"Nobody's Fault But Mine" begins with a classic Page guitar lick, drenched in effects and gradually building in volume, then mimicked by Plant's vocals. The bass/drum rhythms are tricky here, with lots of stop/start mechanics. Plant's performance is memorable, with such gems as "m-m-m-monkey on my back" or "no-no-no-no-no-nooooo...nobody's fault but mine" plus the return of the harmonica.
"For Your Life" is okay, but kind of a castoff from Physical Graffiti. "Royal Orleans" has some cool funk rhythms. "Candy Store Rock" was a single issue from this release, but I don't think it stands up against their other, more superior work.
"Tea For One" closes things out with a return to the blues.
Some may have thought that Led Zeppelin was burned out, but they would make an excellent return with "In Through the Out Door" followed by their greatest band tragedy.
117 of 136 people found the following review helpful
on July 21, 2006
Presence was the last, and my least favourite, of the great Led Zeppelin albums, viz. I'm not including Outdoor (more like Outhouse!) or CODA.
Presence was always inaccessible to me for some intangible reason and I rarely played it. I had read interviews with Page years later where he was bemused that no one liked Presence, as he personally liked it.
Following the recent 30th anniversary of the release of Presence, there were a number of music magazine articles I read saying the usual deal about what an under rated & over looked album Presence was.
Being a big fan of Led Zeppelin (especially Page's guitar playing & production) and given they aren't making any new Zeppelin albums, I decided I should "study" Presence more closely.
After revisting it and living with it for a few weeks I realised that a number of the filler tracks were quite good and Tea for One was a hidden gem of blues/rock guitar playing - a kind of latter day Since I've Been Loving You. I also came to the conclusion that the tracks were badly sequenced on the album contributing to its inaccessibility.
My solution has been to notionally resequence Presence, as below, and I personally play the album in that order. It's become a completely different (new!) album to me and I have unlocked the sequence of its success!
4. Nobody's Fault But Mine
6. Hots On For Nowhere
7. Tea For One
3. Royal Orleans
2. For Your Life
5. Candy Store Rock
1. Achilles Last Stand
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Presence is the most underrated album in the Led Zeppelin catalog. Released after the sprawling double album that was Physical Graffiti, Presence contains only seven tracks. The album was recorded while Robert Plant was on the mend from an almost fatal car crash and the songs are heavier on the instrumentation side to compensate for Mr. Plant's physical condition. The album offers a chance for Jimmy Page to really stretch the limits of his guitar playing and the album contains some his most intricate and interesting work. "Achilles' Last Stand" opens the album and it is an absolutely amazing track. Stretching out over ten minutes, the song is an epic display of the band's musical prowess. "Nobody's Fault But Mine" has a ringing guitar and thunderous drum playing from John Bonham. "Candy Store Rock" has an old time rock and roll feel with Mr. Plant sneering on it like the King himself. "Hots On For Nowhere" is fun and loose song that rambles joyfully along. "Tea For One" is a slow blues dirge that ends the album on a sobering note. Presence was yet another number one album for the band.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
It wouldn't be fair to say “Presence” is one of my favorite Zeppelin albums because, really, all of them are. They each have their own unique...well, presence, I suppose. Today (July 31, 2015) marks the release of the deluxe editions of Zep's final three albums, “Presence,” “In Through the Out Door,” and “Coda.” “Presence” probably has the least amount of bonus material so far, but I think I know why, which I'll get to in a second.
First, the album itself. I think of “Presence” as a really fun Led Zeppelin album. They had been quite ambitious on III, IV, Houses of the Holy, and Physical Graffiti, and while Presence in surely not without ambition, it was more of a straightforward rock affair than the few before it. Even the ten-minute epic opener, “Achilles Last Stand,” sees the band just rocking out through most of the track. “Presence” is far from one-dimensional, with plenty of delicate moments, plenty of sonic highs and lows, but you feel like Zeppelin is merrily jamming away from one song to the next. “Nobody's Fault but Mine,” “For Your Life,” “Tea for One,”....all superb, classic stuff.
As for the extras in the deluxe edition, they may be scant, but I'm betting that's because Jimmy Page knew he had two gems waiting in the wings. For the most part, the companion discs have offered instrumental versions of album songs, some alternative takes, and the occasional hidden treasure. “Presence” boasts an exquisite, previously unreleased instrumental song, “10 Ribs and All/Carrot Pod Pod (Pod).” Yes, that's the actual title, and don't ask, because I have no clue. All I know is it's a beautiful piece that starts off with some elegant piano, but slowly morphs into a mellow jam. Absolutely love it. Then, there's a version of “Royal Orleans” with some truly strange alternate vocals. I don't know who does them, but it sounds like a parody of an old blues singer and Rick James or somebody. It's spectacularly entertaining, and really gives the song a different vibe even though it's the same musically.
This deluxe edition might be short on extras, but the two I mentioned blew me away, and the re-master sounds great, as have all of the previous ones. Page has done a fantastic job bringing the Zeppelin classics into the modern day. Bravo, Jimmy.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on July 1, 2000
Presence is my favorite Led Zeppelin album, but like many other hard core Led Zeppelin fans, it did not start out like that. Many people choose the first albums like I, II, III, and IV. Also Physical Graffitti. But they grow to like the more unfamous Led Zeppelin material. In Presence, Led Zeppelin seems to me to have a bit of a different style. Achilles Last Stand is pretty much everyone's favorite track, but not mine. Despite the great guitar and drums in that song, my favorite by far is Hots On For Nowhere. Many people listen to the first 30 seconds and don't like it, but if you listen to the whole song i gauruntee you'll love it. It's a little bluesy with great vocals. Kind of a mean song of Robert Plant talking about his friends but Jimmy Page plays excellent guitar in it. Other songs like Tea For One and Nobody's Fault But Mine are sure to make you happy. Presence is not sold in many stores and not a whole lot of people know about it unless they are huge Zeppelin fans. This angered me because I think that Presence is a great album and every song on it is electric and there are no keyboards. Not that i don't like acoustic and keyboards but I think that this for Zeppelin was great. I would reccomend this album to anyone who likes any classic rock.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on April 3, 2002
Jimmy Page has repeatedly said on many interviews over the years that that he was very fond of Presence, the seventh studio release from Led Zeppelin. He was especially pleased with the intricate guitar work; the layering of guitars on Achilles Last Stand where as many as twelve guitars are playing at once. Jimmy likes Presence very much and Jimmy is right.
Led Zeppelin's Presence does not attain the commercial notarity as the fourth album or Physical Grafitti, but perhaps better than any Zeppelin release crystalizes what makes this band so incredible. Presence is tight, creative, instense, emotional, and thoughtful. It is the kind of album that a younger, raw Led Zeppelin could not have recorded. While it packs just as much punch as Zep II or the fourth album, it is deeper and more complicated than any other release. Any good garage band can muster up a cover version of Rock and Roll, Ramble On, or even Whole Lotta Love, but have them try to play Achilles Last Stand or Hots on For Nowhere and they will likely run for cover.
While Zep has always played the blues as good or if not better than any rock and roll band, Tea For One may be their best blues song ever.
John Lennon said "give peace a chance." This long time Zep fan says the same thing about Presence. Give it a chance. Give it time. Some albums are like fine wine. They get better over time and mature with age. Presence does this. It is a superb album.
In June 1977 I saw Noboby's Fault But Mine performed live and it completely blew away the crowd of 70,000. Presence, more so than any Zep album blows me away to this very day.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on November 10, 2005
Presence (1976.), Led Zeppelin's seventh studio album
When people consider Led Zeppelin's great albums, the list more than often contains Led Zeppelin I, II and IV or Physical Graffiti. Presence, the 1976 offering from the band rarely gets a mention alongside these classics. Hastily recorded in the aftermath of the huge success of the double album, Physical Graffiti, Presence has become one of the band's more criticised and sometimes forgotten works. However, is this a fairly passed judgment on Led Zeppelin's Presence?
In my opinion, this is easily Led Zeppelin's most unfairly attacked album and it deserves far more praise than it has been given. It never ceases to amaze me why this album is given such a bad press by most people; they describe 'Presence' as the album were Led Zeppelin lost their touch or they just brandish it as incoherant rubbish. All I can gather from this is that these people haven't listened to the work enough or are just one of the old 'so called' Led Zeppelin fans. 'Presence' is a great hard rock record, displaying some of the band's best jams. It is unique in the respect that it features no keyboard or effects; all the sound you hear is vocal, bass, guitar and drums. However, I think this is no bad thing at all. The fact that the band took a calculated step back after Physical Graffiti and tried something not too overambitous is where Presence really succeeds. The song styles are simpler in many respects but at the same time they are driven by very powerful performances from the band members. Afterall, this is Jimmy Page's favourite Led Zeppelin record and you can clearly see why he enjoys this one; his guitar playing is dynamic and inspired throughout. Furthermore, this album features some killer tracks. 'Achilles Last Stand', perhaps the band's greatest epic, features on this album, as does the fan favourite 'Nobody's Fault But Mine'. The album may have been rushed together, recorded in limited time in Germany but to be honest, the music is first rate and deserves five stars all the way. Even more remarkable is Plant's vocal performance on the album; at the time of recording, he was recovering from a car accident and had to actually sing some parts laid down. His vocals are as compelling as ever though.
Led Zeppelin kick off their hard-rocking seventh album with one of their finest tracks. 'Achilles Last Stand' stands as one of the bands most powerful epics. In fact, this 10 minute track alone is worth the price of admission, led by its unwavering groove, a particularly haunting Plant vocal, and several show stopping give and take segments between Page and Bonham. During these thrilling exchanges, Bonham's volcanic drum fills interlock with Page's wailing guitar parts, seizing several moments of tension that build to the bursting point. This awesome opening track is followed by 'For Your Life'. This is classic Zeppelin, and for me another one of their best songs. I can never tire of this song; the strutting riffs from Page's guitar make this song memorable. Plant gives a vintage performance on the vocals, sounding out lyrics about drug taking. Next up though is perhaps the weakest song on the album; still 'Royal Orleans' ain't that bad a song. Plant gives a lyrical take on one night stands, a classic rock n' roll song theme however the melodic backing of the track and the riffs are a bit repetitive. However, at 3 minutes, this weaker track hardly detracts from the albums overall rating.
Then we come to the second half of the album. Robert Plant, whose voice has grown rougher over the years, gives a compelling, stuttered vocal performance on 'Nobody's Fault But Mine', an excellent, hard rocking song. This one is a fan favourite. The song also makes a welcome return of the harmonica to Led Zeppelin's music. 'Candy Store Rock' follows, with some catchy guitar play from Page that has a very 1950's rock n' roll sound to it. 'Hots On For Nowhere' follows and keeps the blood pumping on the album. Many have passed this song off as filler however, I think it's a great song. It's upbeat, has masterful stop-start riffs and some great harmonisation sections, with a 'la, la, la' chorus with funky backbeats. To finish the album is a welcome return to the blues by Led Zeppelin. 'Tea For One' is in a similar vein to 'Since I've Bin Loving You' from LZ III. A little long and drawn out, nevertheless, Plant gives a resounding vocal performance and Page's guitar virtuousity shines through.
All in all, 'Presence' measures up to be a damned good album. True, this album isn't revolutionary, it isn't experimental but the sheer quality of the hard rock songs on the album makes the work a winner. As a seasoned Led Zeppelin fan, 'Presence' has over time become one of the band's works that I listen to more; I would even on some days, place this album in the league of some of the band's earlier work. 'Presence' is a sadly underrated classic album from the great band and many seem to ignore it. My advice is to not start a Led Zeppelin collection with this album, but certainly to obtain it once you really start getting into the band's music. This is Led Zeppelin's last classic album and it deserves some RESPECT!
MY RATING: 9/10
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on March 14, 2001
The lead singer did not know if he would ever walk properly again. The drummer is heavily addicted to painkillers. The guitarist has developed a heroin habit. The band is trying to follow-up their hugely successful (and which made them more famous than they had ever been previously) "Physical Graffiti". Plus, the band members have spent most of the past year away from their homes and families due to tax reasons.
It was among this chaos that Led Zeppelin entered a basement studio during the cold Munich winter to record "Presence"; they only had three weeks to record it to get out in time for the Rolling Stones to record their "Black and Blue" album (why they put this pressure upon themselves is beyond me--didn't matter anyway ... Page ran out of time and Mick Jagger gave him an additional two days. Page took one of the days to lay down the guitar overdubs for "Achilles Last Stand", the next day for all the other songs' solos!
"Achilles Last Stand" is a Zeppelin classic. The title pokes fun at Plant's leg condition. The song starts out with a swirling, tightly-strung, echoing guitar as a prelude to the eruption of the band coming in full strength, a chugging, funky bass line from John Paul Jones, great guitar work from Page, and one of Bonham's greatest drumming songs (the others possibly being "When the Levee Breaks" and "In My Time of Dying").
"For Your Life" chronicles drug use amongst the band's acquaintances, be it house guests (one death from overdose at Page's house) or Los Angeles groupies (who, Plant noticed, did not look so well from their cocaine addictions as he'd seen them last, and that they seemed to live their lives just waiting for Zep's return). Plant snarls. Bonham tries to put a hole in his bass drum, Jimmy plays some great tremolo work on a Stratocaster which he hardly used in Zep recordings. One of my favorites on the album.
"Royal Orleans" is rumored to be about a bed fire in New Orleans Jonesy had after he passed out with a lit joint and upon waking up saw whiskers growing from the "woman" he thought he was partying with. Plant jokes that one should not be with a woman that talks like Barry White. This is break-neck speed-funk which has progressed leaps and bounds from when the band first tried their hand at James Brown funk with "The Crunge". Bonzo has a nice little drum thing going on two-thirds through the song. A fun tune.
"Nobody's Fault But Mine" highlights some blistering, almost-spastic harmonica work from Plant. Also some very hard-hitting drumming from John Bonham. Reminds me a little of "Black Dog" with the vocalization, but a good tune nonetheless.
"Candy Store Rock" pays homage to the band's love of rockabilly music which they all grew up on. Plant does his best Elvis impersonation. I hear the only acoustic guitar on the entire album playing some rhythm here. A decent song.
"Hots On For Nowhere" is one of the most underrated Zep songs of all-time. You'll be hearing the "la la, la, luh-la, yeah" part in your head for days. My favorite tune on the album.
"Tea For One" starts out with a fast intro, but suddenly halts to one of the most depressed blues you'll ever hear. A band in pain. If they had cut maybe four minutes or so out of this one it would have gotten a lot more airplay and more recognition. Still, when you're in a dark, dark mood, this one covers you.
This album is not easy to digest for the casual Zep listener--it is not the hippy-dippy stuff the band usually put out. On "Presence" the band gives no quarter.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on April 8, 2015
This is a Very GOOD album (3 1/2 stars), but falls just short of being a classic for me, so I was trying to figure out WHY I didn't quite like this one as much as the others, and I think I figured out 3 reasons:
A) PLANT'S AVERAGE VOCALS: Robert does a decent job here, but sings in a safe middle range, nothing really exciting. I know he was confined to a wheelchair during this recording but his voice HAD permanently changed by this time - gone were the thrilling days when this Rock God could make the hairs on your arm stand up!! It doesn't help that he throws in some lifeless "yeah's", "ah ah ah's", "la la la's", and "oh oh oh's" to fill space.
B) PAGE'S DULL PRODUCTION: Jimmy goes crazy with guitar overdubs creating an 'Army of Guitars' which sounds like a cool idea (worked better on 'Graffiti'), but in fact flattens the music here making it sound dull & plodding. The songs all have the same tone with little variety. Such massive overdubbing wasn't really necessary as they already had a HUGE/HEAVY sound! Some of these songs could get away with it ('Achilles', 'Fault', 'Tea') but the others' styles practically BEGGED for a lighter production. Imagine if those songs ('Candy', 'Royal', 'Hots') had gotten the 'Houses of the Holy' treatment... they'd have space to ACTUALLY swing, shuffle, or groove! Instead they sound rather dull, heavy & lifeless. The light bongos on 'Royal' are wasted & sound out of place buried under the dense guitars.
C) RUSHED RECORDING: This album was recorded in some 17 days... and it shows. There's some really great material here but some tracks are a little too long & repetitive ('Achilles', 'Fault', 'Tea'), and others a bit under-developed ('Life', 'Candy', 'Hots'). Why they felt the need to rush this one when: a) They didn't have enough studio time to properly record; b) Plant was recovering from a serious accident (wheelchair bound!); c) & They'd just scored a HUGE hit with 'Graffiti', is beyond me!
There's actually a fair bit of diversity here (buried under all that guitar layering). If not for that point alone, I'd have given it a solid 4 and considered it their 7th classic in a row. Anyway this IS still a good record - ALMOST Great... so contrary to what others suggest, I would actually encourage Zep newbies to START with this album! It has an intriguing back-story & shows off plenty of their signature qualities (still better than most other bands' best efforts - even with an injured Plant & a heroin-addicted Page). It's enough to hook you (especially 'Achilles' & 'Fault'), THEN, any album you listen to afterwards might just BLOW YOUR MIND! It's fun to later on discover their FULL range & power! That's better than starting with their more ambitious stuff, & then being underwhelmed with this one (& not really appreciating it).
* A (minor) change that often makes me enjoy an album more is altering it's playing sequence (some albums aren't sequenced very well - this one wasn't bad though). I liked putting the longer, more serious/ epic tracks on side 1, and the lighter, fun songs together on side 2, with the exception of the long bluesy 'Tea' to change the pace & close it out. This sequence seems to flow nicely & highlights the album's diversity a bit better without being too random or scattershot. I enjoyed the fun songs together (like a bit of a party instead of one off by itself)... hmm almost makes me wanna give it another 1/2 star now:
1) Achilles Last Stand
2) For Your Life
3) Nobody's Fault But Mine
4) Candy Store Rock
5) Royal Orleans
6) Hots On For Nowhere
7) Tea For One