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