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Led Zeppelin - Presence CD (album) cover


Led Zeppelin


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3.39 | 590 ratings

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3 stars The downward slope.

There are many reasons why this collection of songs does not work as an album, chief among them the compressed recording schedule. The resultant stripped sound (no keyboards or acoustic guitar, for example) is a far cry from the glorious lushness and bombast of their previous three albums. The compressed schedule also didn't allow them to arrange these songs into something better than the sum of its parts. But, fundamentally, this album fails because of the poor songwriting.

That said, the opener, 'Achilles Last Stand', is almost universally regarded among lovers of progressive rock as LED ZEPPELIN'S most progressive moment. It's a stormer of a track, albeit at a faster tempo than anything since 'Immigrant Song'. Those drum fills exhaust the listener rather than cause his/her blood to bubble. The track is a showcase for PAGE'S guitar work, and was their last to feature a mystical theme. 'For Your Life' sounds like a refugee from 'Physical Graffiti' with more than a whiff of 'The Rover' about it. And the remarkable 'Nobody's Fault But Mine' is as bluesy as you can get, with searing overdubbed guitars and Plant's almost indecipherable lyrics assuring you that LED ZEPPELIN are still able to rock it hard.

But the rest of the album is nondescript. I don't doubt they could have tidied up the rest of these songs had they spent more time in the studio, but I think they'd been there and done that too many times. 'Royal Orleans', in particular, like the excrable 'Hot Dog' off 'In Through the Out Door', could have been dispensed with or replaced by something worthy of being in their canon. And the other songs are simply tepid, the one thing a band like this simply couldn't afford.

The key to this album is to understand LED ZEPPELIN were on their way back to their roots. There are far fewer progressive sensibilities on this album. Still enough moments to consider it an excellent album, but in no way is this a masterpiece.

russellk | 3/5 |


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