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Led Zeppelin - Presence CD (album) cover

PRESENCE

Led Zeppelin

 

Prog Related

3.38 | 437 ratings

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The Whistler
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Well, by 1976, the world didn't need no Led Zeppelin anymore. After all, they had...I dunno, the Ramones or some crap like that. Oh, and, no I haven't heard any Ramones, and, yes, I am biased. But, what can ya do? I don't listen to music after '75, house rules.

Now, I must admit, I like this album a bit more than when I first got it (and to think, this was my very first Zep purchase! No wonder I don't like 'em as much as I'm supposed to). Still, Presence is pretty much the lads deciding that even ole Physical Graffiti was too diverse for their tastes. So, what else can ya do, but take the "old" formula and strip it as bare as you can. No keyboards here, and no real deviations from the "classic" sound than tossing in some danceable rhythms. Now, I'm all for the formula, but could we at LEAST have some decent tunes to strap 'em too?

If you like your Led to be overlong, pseudo-mystical, and somewhat Sabbath-esuqe what with crunchy guitar and riff-festivities, then buddy, do I know the track for you! Because that statement pretty much sums up "Achilles Last Stand" (shouldn't that be "Achilles' Last Stand?" Oh well). Anyway, that interior riff is pretty sweet, and Page's soloing can be equally sweet, especially when it's backed by the start 'n stop martial drumming in the middle. Plant's pretty dorky though (but sit tight; love the coda).

Ah, "For Your Life," NOW we're talking. Fantastic descending blues riffs, Plant hangs up his elf hat for some meaningful howling. Perhaps the dips in the middle of the song are a bit much, but still. Used to be my favorite number on the album. Dig those guitar noises.

Wait, "Royal Orleans" is only three minutes long? Surely you are mistaken sir; that irritating start 'n stop riff must go on for an hour. But "Nobody's Fault But Mine's" opening riff is wonderfully acid sharp (riff, riff, riff...told ya this one was Sabbathy...or, at least, lacking interesting Page solos). And, hey, as if to prove my bracketed point, in addition to a decent Page solo, we get a harmonica solo too! Pretty solid one at that. Plant also manages to sound sufficiently crazed for the vocals.

Oh, but what's this? "Candy Store Rock" is just plain laughable. The band trying to funk out? Plant's twice as jerky as before, Page sounds like he has no idea what he's doing. Best latch onto Bonzo's percussion. Oh good...ANOTHER start 'n stop riff attached to a, overlong, so-so melody. "Hots on for Nowhere" just DRAGS along. Is it toe tappin'? At first. Is it memorable? Not really. Too bad too, as there's some interesting guitar in the middle.

Well, this album wouldn't get a solid three from me was it not for one thing: the closer. End the record on "Hots," and the album dies. But, despite the somewhat "dirty" intro, "Tea For One" evolves into the most emotional tune on the album, and the best song too. Does it sound like "Since I've Been Loving You?" Of course, but it IS another lingering slow paced blues. Besides, it's way better, much more musically and lyrically mature. Hell, it's practically epic. The lazy soloing fits the song perfectly, the dry instrumentation is fantastic (told ya they did blooz best!), and Plant is a human being! I actually CARE about him! Eerie, no?

So what's wrong with this album? It's not really length of a tune that seems to matter; "Tea For One," now that I've gotten used to it, sometimes doesn't seem long enough, while "Achilles Last Stand" often leaves me checking my watch after a while. I guess it's that "Tea" is epic, whereas "Achilles" pretends to be?

Still, it's not length that hurts the album; it's APPARENT length. This has got to be one of the most monotonous albums I've ever heard. And that's coming from Zep Leppelin, who used to be able to play the same mystical blooz song twelve times in a row and fool me into thinking I was hearing an entire record. The instrumentation doesn't help. Where's the experimentation? Hell, where's J. P. Jones? I'd settle for a bass that I can actually distinguish from all those dirty guitar tones (especially considering that when I CAN make it out, it's played pretty dern well).

Nope. Led Zep had lost it. P'raphs they'd lost it a while ago, but recent efforts had proved that trying to diversify weren't the most successful, and this one proves that falling back to basics didn't seem like the best of ideas either. Of course, who can blame 'em? The band was riddled with Page's addiction, Plant's wheelchair, Bonzo's failing liver, and Jones' NEED for synthesizers. God knows where they could have gone right at this point.

But any fan of progressive blues needs this album, if only for "Tea For One." Try to focus on the sweet before the sour (it's almost dead evenly laced), and you'll find an okay record.

The Whistler | 3/5 |

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