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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heavy Metal Funk shows where the band was at, March 14, 2001
This review is from: Presence (Audio CD)
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.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 20, 2010 12:01:14 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 20, 2010 12:02:54 PM PDT
Mark Foster says:
excellent review, great encapsulation of all the bad stuff Zep were tackling. I've always loved Tea For One but wow it's such a bummer of a blues.

Posted on Aug 15, 2012 8:16:14 AM PDT
It's curious just how similar our minds are on this album. Only difference is that I really like Candy Store Rock. It's such an unusual song, for any other band and for Zep, and it also embodies the spirit of the old music that moved them to be rockers. Awesome tune.

Posted on Nov 7, 2013 10:14:03 AM PST
The Lion says:
Thanks for providing an intelligent and well-written review of this severely overlooked album. I remember that initially it wasn't well received, but over the years it has emerged as the last definitive statement from the mighty Zeppelin. Rock on, brother!

Posted on Jan 20, 2015 3:53:01 PM PST
Simple Man says:
That's funny, Tea For One actually acts like an antidepressant on my body. It instantly relaxes me every time I play it (which is often). One of my favorite blues tunes of all time, although it's a bit unfair to classify it strictly as blues. I don't know what to call it, but it's ridiculously good.
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