Welcome to the 7th installment of my Led Zeppelin studio album reviews! These are tandem reviews with my amazing wife, Sarah who is posting her own reviews over at Caught Me Gaming. So be sure to check out her write up on Presence right here!
As for me, I can sum up Presence like this:
Unimpressive overall. I really like three of the tracks though.
As a Led Zeppelin Album: 2/5
Compared to the Rest: 3.5/5
One of my favourite things to do with a Zep album is to follow along with John Paul Jones’ bass. On Zep’s previous albums there has always seemed to be a song that he would quietly dominate on the bass. Like his improvisation in The Lemon Song or his locked in groove in How Many More Times.
I don’t mean to pick on the guy as he is not THE problem with this album, but I think his mostly rote playing is a reflection of the entire product. He has a nice tone on the album’s 10-plus minute opener, Achilles Last Stand, but it is disappointing how he mostly sticks to following the melody. Maybe he was uninspired as he finds the tune to be as bland and overlong as I do.
For Your Life is a fully serviceable track but a bit boring. John Paul does not deviate from melody again, even when the tune breaks into its more funky moments.
The band goes full funk for Royal Orleans. This song has felt like filler to me in the past but I really got into its groove this time. This is the first time the band sounds jovial and it is a fun track to listen to.
Then we get to Nobody’s Fault But Mine. I adore this one! Yes, it is yet another blues number where they completely ignore the original artist. Blind Willie Johnson is the target this time:
It would have been a well-disguised cover if it were not for Plant completely lifting the lyrics. Instrumentally, the entire band kills it. Page’s bluesy riff must have had guitarists everywhere looking for phase pedals. Drummer, Bonham is locked in and John Paul plays it a bit simplistic but his driving groove fits.
Zep explores rockabilly with Candy Store Rock but they don’t nail it as well as funk. I give them props for trying something different here though. John Paul’s bass still doesn’t have much to say.
It wouldn’t surprise me to discover that Hots On For Nowhere is a leftover from the Houses of the Holy sessions. This is the hidden gem! Bonham drives this one hard and the variations on the main riff throughout the track lifts ones spirit.
Finally, the closer Tea For One has one huge tease of an opening. The band sounds like they’re gearing up for for a classic Zep groove… then it switches gears to Since I’ve Been Loving You, Part II: The Quest for More Money. Well a least they are lifting from themselves now! Since I’ve Been Loving You has some stand-out moments. It’s a tune that sticks with you. I dare anyone to remember what they just listened to after hearing all 9 and half minutes of Tea For One. John Paul is completely checked out for it.
This was Zep’s 7th studio album in 7 years, and the previous was a double. The follow up for Presence didn’t make a… presence until three years later. So, if they were not beginning to feel burnt out by this point, Presence still sound as if they were.