Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Led Zeppelin - Presence (1976)

Nobody's fault but mine....

  

Released on 31 March 1976

Running time 44.19

After the previous year's double album behemoth in Physical Graffiti, Led Zeppelin returned relatively soon after the difficult period following Robert Plant's serious car accident (he sung his vocals in a wheelchair). For many, the seven track album that ensued, minus keyboards and most acoustic guitars, was underwhelming, particularly in the contemporary music media. By now they were all jumping on the punk bandwagon. Time, however, has proved to be a healer, and it now gets a far more favourable retrospective re-assessment. Yes, it was frantically arranged, conceived and recorded, but sometimes that leads to an ad hoc, edgy, raw and almost live feeling. That, to a certain extent was the case here.

The cover and accompanying inner sleeve pictures, were odd, though, I have to say. Quite what they were supposed to symbolise with regard to the music is unclear.

TRACK LISTING

1. Achilles' Last Stand
2. For Your Life
3. Royal Orleans
4. Nobody's Fault But Mine
5. Candy Store Rock
6. Hots On For Nowhere
7. Tea For One                                           

The ten minute opener, Achilles' Last Stand quickly kicks into a rumbling drum and guitar-driven pot boiler of a chugging rocker. With punk's short sharp reaction to bands like Led Zeppelin just starting to make itself heard, this sort of thing would not have gone down well with the ground-breakers at the time. There were many rock fans, though, who still stuck with their favourites and still loved it. You have to say that it is a robust, substantial, confident monster of a track. This was a band who had nothing to prove. Incidentally, this track, along with Nobody's Fault But Mine were the only two numbers to be performed live by the band at the time. For Your Life was, of course, given a surprising outing on 2007's reunion live album, Celebration Day.

John Bonham keeps up the rolling pace throughout Achilles, so much so, that, although the rhythm doesn't change much, you never tire of it. Great stuff from one of rock's most powerful drummers. Another huge drum sound can be found on the thumping For Your Life. This was a slower pace industrial strength rocker with an impressive vocal and great big chunky lead guitar riffs. This stripped down, "back to basics" rock sound certainly does the business here. Personally, I much prefer this album to Houses Of The Holy, for example.


After two such gigantic tracks, the sub-three minutes of the vaguely funky rock of Royal Orleans comes as something of a surprise. It is a good track, though, with some killer guitar on it and it is good to hear them doing something shorter and punchier. Back to some classic bluesy Zeppelin next with the buzzy, slide guitar, muscular riffing and simply monumental drums of Nobody's Fault But Mine. Now, I was a huge fan of punk and threw myself right into it all at the time, but I cannot deny the sheer, pulsating, piledriving rock power of this. Nor would I ever want to. Great rock is great rock. Check out the bit where the Plant's harmonica solo comes in. Led Zeppelin at their absolute best. This was possibly their last truly great song, although others ran it close.

Candy Store Rock was another short-ish number in that chunky semi-funk style they used on Trampled Underfoot. It is a bit Bo Diddley/early rock 'n' roll-esque and it is most enjoyable. Hots On For Nowhere also has a quirky, staccato rhythm to it and some searing Jimmy Page guitar. Just when I am thinking that there there hasn't been too much Zeppelin blues on the album, along comes the nine-minute plus closer in Tea For One. It is a slow burning but potent blues with some powerful guitar and another surprisingly effortless vocal, considering Plants restrictions.

I really ought to have paid the album more attention over the years, because it is a really good one, and unfairly maligned.

B+

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