Zep Reissues: Presence!

Presence is without doubt the heaviest item in the Zeppelin canon. After that absolute monster of a double LP was released, Led Zeppelin found itself in turmoil, with a deadline that seemed impossible to Jimmy Page. This led him to use heroin and stay awake for multiple days in a row, making this the most hard-hitting and urgent album that the band had created up to that point, commendably, rather than giving it an air of sluggishness. Plant was slowly recovering from a car accident and delivered most of his vocals in a wheelchair. Normally, all this combined would create a recipe for a stinky broth of an album, but Presence features some of the band’s best songs, with John Bonham and John Paul Jones being at their most dynamic and tight, despite the former’s alcohol habit, most notably on Achilles Last Stand and if any song could be judged as a definite influence on the later british metal bands of the 1980’s (Crudas Priest, Iron ”House-Maid”-en, etc), it would be this, with its brilliant Highway Star-esque chugging riff and the desperate scream of the guitar solo. I bought the single-disc remaster for reasons stated in the previous review of In Through the Out Door, which does a nice job of reproducing the presentation of the original vinyl album with a small booklet of photos from the time. The sound is uniformly excellent, as per usual.

If the era of ‘Led Zeppelin III to Physical Graffiti’ was the Zep’s time of true eclecticism and diversity, Presence marks a return to the pure hard rock that made Led Zeppelin II so seminal, with the addition of a vaguely sinister shade to the songs, characteristic of later heavy metal music. Often this one-dimensionality can be refreshing and other times boring, but it stands as one of the finest representations of that particular side of Led Zeppelin’s elemental sound, as well as being rather funky at various points. Songs such as Candy Store Rock and Tea for One somewhat smack of a lack of ideas, as the latter clearly just recycles the doom-laden blues of Since I’ve Been Lovin’ You, but simultaneously functions as an atmospheric closing number. As you can tell, it’s quite difficult to make one’s mind up. Presence is like marmite.

Best Song: For Your Life

Goof: ‘Oh, baby baby’ repeated 24 times in one song. Also, (specific to this reissue) an essay or some proper information about the making of the album would have been a nice addition.

8 Hipgnosis inner sleeves out of 10

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