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Led Zeppelin - Presence CD (album) cover


Led Zeppelin


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3.39 | 589 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Nobody's fault at all

If it is possible for a Led Zeppelin album to be under appreciated, then "Presence" is the one deserving of that description. The album was recorded in pretty adverse circumstances. Robert Plant was recovering from a serious car crash (which prevented the band from touring). Jimmy Page was starting to use drugs, and John Bonham was succumbing to alcohol. The album was written while Plant was recovering, and recorded in less than 3 weeks, Plant singing from a wheelchair.

While many of the band's albums have strong prog tendencies, "Presence" is arguably their most progressive, especially from a prog metal point of view. The opening "Achilles' last stand" is a 10 minute monster, with a thundering rhythm section and some of Page's finest guitar work. The track is heavy with a capital H, but supremely melodic, a sort of cross between "Kashmir" and "Trampled underfoot"!

"For your life" is "Custard pie" part 2, the staccato nature of the back beat having the same distinctive feel. "Royal Orleans" is the only band composition on the album, all the other songs being Plant/Page songs. The lyrics tell the sordid tale of an allegedly true incident in a hotel in a New Orleans hotel involving a transvestite. It is though the weakest song on the album.

Side two opens with the stunning orchestrated guitars of Page, introducing one of Led Zeppelin's finest blues covers "Nobody's fault but mine". Much of the song is taken directly from Blind Willie Johnston's song of the same name, who in true Led Zeppelin tradition remains unaccredited. Once again, the guitar work is pure prog metal, with Plant's harmonica solo being reminiscent of "When the levee breaks". "Candy store rock" is "Custard Pie" part 3(!), the slightly echoed vocals and Elvis impersonation giving a retro feel to an otherwise disposable song.

"Hots on for nowhere" contains one of Plants most acidic lyrics, bizarrely set to a jaunty, offbeat theme. The closing "Tea for one" continues with Plant's rather depressive lyrics; entirely understandable given the circumstances. The song is a 9 minute, apparently original, blues with hints of "The lemon song" and "Since I've been loving you". Once again, it is Page's guitar work which is by far the most striking feature.

As you may have noticed, not one of the tracks here finds the band in their folk/acoustic mode, as I said this is a heavy album. For me, "Presence" sits easily at the top table of Led Zeppelin albums. Maybe what went before led to unrealistic expectations of the band, for this is one of their most powerful and enjoyable statements.

Unusually, the album title is taken from the sleeve illustration (not the other way round). The "Hipgnosis" designed photo of a normal family sitting round a table with an undefined object floating in the middle is both striking and original.

Easy Livin | 4/5 |


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