Posts Tagged ‘ Jimmy Page ’

Album of the Week 19-2017: Led Zeppelin – Presence


For some reason, ‘Presence’ turned out to be Led Zeppelin’s slowest selling studio album. Maybe because its sounds significantly more stripped down than ‘Houses Of The Holy’ and ‘Physical Graffiti’, but ultimately, I prefer it even to some of the band’s classic albums. The record shows Led Zeppelin reconnecting with its roots, attempting to capture the essence of what made them so good in the first place. And succeeding at it surprisingly well. ‘Presence’ is a muscular hard rock record with excellent songwriting and an unusually strong emphasis on Zeppelin’s brilliant rhythm section. It is simply everything I’d want from them.

‘Presence’ was written and recorded during a tumultuous time for Led Zeppelin. Singer Robert Plant was seriously injured due to a car accident and the recordings had to be rushed due to the studio being booked by The Rolling Stones, which may be why the album isn’t loaded with extra touches like its two predecessors were. Instead, it focuses on the power within band and has the distinct live feel that made the debut so exciting seven years prior as a result. Drummer John Bonham and bassist John Paul Jones sound bigger than ever and the compositions truly focus on the band’s strengths.

The album is bookended by two of the best songs the band has ever recorded. ‘Achilles Last Stand’ is probably the most carefully arranged song on the album and basically feels like proto-heavy metal, due to its propulsive, galloping rhythm and Jimmy Page’s almost orchestral-sounding, layered guitar work. It feels significantly shorter than just over ten minutes. The other masterpiece is ‘Tea For One’, which – after a misleading intro – is essentially a minimalistic slow blues, into which Page’s sparse riffs inject a dark, almost doomy vibe. It’s number one on my list of Zeppelin songs that don’t get the love they deserve.

While those two tracks take up almost half of the album’s running time, they are hardly the only enjoyable songs on the record. The band’s adaptation of Blind Willie Johnson’s gospel blues song ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’ quickly became a live staple, which is easily justified by its drive and strong build-up. ‘For Your Life’ has a spontaneity that brings back memories of the self-titled debut, though with a cleaner production and the sleazy, dirty fifties groove of ‘Candy Store Rock’ makes the song a true hidden gem. The other two songs are just good, but figuring that this is Led Zeppelin, “just good” is still far above average.

Although ‘Presence’ never enjoyed the same classic status, it is every bit as good and consistent as ‘Led Zeppelin IV’ was. In the end, the most important reason why I prefer ‘Physical Graffiti’ to this is really that it has twice as much Led Zeppelin. On ‘Presence’, the band strikes a better balance between spontaneous jams and meticulously arranged songs than they have done before or since. I can understand why it’s somewhat lost between the sprawling majesty its predecessor and the confusing experimentalism of its follow-up, but the fact is that this is the band’s final masterpiece and a treat to fans of Zeppelin’s trademark rock sound.

Recommended tracks: ‘Achilles Last Stand’, ‘Tea For One’, ‘Candy Store Rock’

Album of the Week 37-2016: Led Zeppelin – Presence


Led Zeppelin’s untitled fourth album is generally considered their best work, along their two-disc magnum opus ‘Physical Graffiti’ and possibly the rawness of their debut. Opinions on their seventh studio album ‘Presence’ are a little more divided, but I personally consider it the last of their perfect albums. It’s a relatively heavy affair, which may have been disappointing to those who enjoyed the sprawling nature of ‘Houses Of The Holy’ and ‘Physical Graffiti’, but if you view the album for what it is – an excellent bluesy Hardrock record – it’s thoroughly enjoyable. And a lot more influential than you might think.

‘Presence’ came together in a time of turmoil for Led Zeppelin. The band was more popular than ever – they even outsold the Stones – but the touring machine had stopped because of the injuries Robert Plant sustained from a serious car crash in Greece. He allegedly recorded the entire album from a wheelchair. Maybe the touring hiatus saved the rest of the band some energy, because this is easily their most “live” sounding record. The songs are relatively simple in terms of arrangement, but that’s also where quite a lot of the album’s propulsive spirit stems from; Jimmy Page’s riffs and John Bonhams drums are all over the place.

As a Heavy Metal fan, there’s no way I couldn’t enjoy opener ‘Achilles Last Stand’ (sic). It’s simply impossible. Its galloping rhythm predates Iron Maiden’s debut album by a few years, but it’s consistently strong and works wonders in terms of dynamics. The other book end is another long song and it’s one of Led Zeppelin’s most underrated masterpieces: ‘Tea For One’ starts out with an uptempo Rock feel, but quickly transforms into a slow, brooding, minimalistic blues with excellent riff work and a mindblowing vocal performance even by Plant standards. It’s like a darker, riffier brother to ‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’ and should have been valued as least as much as that one.

The shorter songs are every bit as impressive. The band’s take on the traditional gospel song ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’ is really their own thing and one of the few songs they took to the stage from this record. ‘For Your Life’ has an irresistible start-stop feel, which almost makes it feel heavier than it actually is. ‘Candy Store Rock’ is one of those forgotten classics of which I really like the restrained, yet powerful rhythm and the fifties R&B licks courtesy of Page. ‘Royal Orleans’ is another one of those unconventional, yet recognizable songs. I think they were shooting for something Funky here. They didn’t quite succeed, but the results are great nonetheless.

While it’s hard, if not impossible, to overstate Led Zeppelin’s brilliance and lasting influence, I feel that music fans generally attach themselves to a limited number of their albums, while really, each and every one of their first seven records is just about perfect. ‘Presence’ is definitely the first one I’d suggest someone who leans towards Hardrock. Sure, some of the songs need some time to sink in, but it’s always been that way with Led Zeppelin. In hindsight, maybe the forced touring hiatus was a blessing in disguise. Whatever the reason, ‘Presence’ should be heard by anyone who loves good Rock music.

Recommended tracks: ‘Achilles Last Stand’, ‘Tea For One’, ‘Candy Store Rock’

Album of the Week 22-2014: Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti


Explaining why ‘Physical Graffiti’ is my favorite out of all the amazing albums that Led Zeppelin recorded is quite easy. First of all, there’s the quantitative argument: it’s a double album, so there’s twice as much Zeppelin to enjoy. But even when you look at the quality of the material, it’s hard to love any Led Zeppelin album more than this one, though I can certainly see where the people who prefer ‘Led Zeppelin IV’ come from. On these two records, Zeppelin cultivates the wild experimentalism of ‘Houses Of The Holy’ without abandoning their heavy Blues roots.

Of course, everyone who knows their Rock music is familiar with the orchestral eastern mysticism of the downright amazing ‘Kashmir’, if only because it is quite likely the most imitated song in music history. The monolithic Blues of the 11-minute ‘In My Time Of Dying’ and the metallic Funk of ‘Trampled Under Foot’ quickly found their way into the regular live set of the British quartet, but there is so much more to enjoy here. Though the recording history of the album – where the band recorded more than an album’s worth of material and decided to include songs from earlier sessions – may suggest an odds and sods record, the consistency of the material is unbelievable.

While the first disc contains the most familiar material, taking a dive into the second one will prove just as rewarding. It’s where the obscure classics are hiding. For instance, not many people know ‘The Wanton Song’, but the contrast between Jimmy Page’s root note-octave riff, the awesome solo section and the melodic Leslie speaker driven riffs makes it irresistable. The epic ‘In The Light’, which is lead alternately by John Paul Jones’ synthesizer and Page’s enormous riff, brings together the best sections The Doors and Black Sabbath never dared to record and the beautifully complex ‘Ten Years Gone’ captures romanticism and melancholy in a way unheard of at the time.

Like many of the greatest bands in music history, Led Zeppelin was bigger than the sum of its parts. The thing is that even the sum of Zep’s members was already bigger than any other band at the time. The incomparable Robert Plant has the unique talent to conjure up more emotions than the words of the songs are stating and John Bonham’s only contender to the drumming throne at the time was Deep Purple’s Ian Paice. His power and performance in ‘Kashmir’ have yet to be matched. Page may have been a tad sloppy, but that gave his music its life. His ideas speak for themselves. Jones’ compositions on the album prove that he is the secret weapon to the group’s depth.

Though each and every one of the band’s first seven albums is as close to perfection as music can possibly get, ‘Physical Graffiti’ to me is just that little bit extra. It’s true that part of that is the album’s length, but that wouldn’t make much sense if the actual material didn’t back up the duration of the record. What Led Zeppelin gives the listener here is almost an hour and a half of the best material they could capture on vinyl a the time and every last minute of it is incredible. This is one of those albums that needs to be heard to be believed.

Recommended tracks: ‘Kashmir’, ‘Ten Years Gone’, ‘The Wanton Song’, ‘In My Time Of Dying’

Album of the Week 46-2012: Led Zeppelin – Celebration Day


Magical. That’s what it must have been like if you were at the O2 Arena in London on December 10th 2007, when the three surviving members of Led Zeppelin teamed up the the late John Bonham’s son Jason on drums for a one night only reunion show. Being the Led Zeppelin addict I am – I still think there’s nothing higher attainable musically than Zep – I of course entered the lottery for tickets. Didn’t win any, but this is almost as good. I don’t think I’ve ever looked forward to any release as much as this one. I counted down the days. But it was worth it: ‘Celebration Day’ shows a powerful, inspired performance by the best Rock band ever.

Most of the songs have been tuned down half a step to easier facilitate Robert Plant’s voice. It’s obvious from the first second of opening track ‘Good Times Bad Times’. Since Plant has a history of not playing Zeppelin stuff the way it has been released throughout his consistently amazing solo carreer, I don’t mind these little changes. And let’s not forget that the human voice does lower with age. And while Plant’s voice has inevitably aged, he handles this material incredibly well, albeit somewhat less over-the-top than on the originals. This causes him to sound like a reflecting old man rather than a young romantic on the eternal classic ‘Stairway To Heaven’. The subdued performance of the band backs him up there, adding a whole new dimension to an extremely familiar song.

Jason Bonham actually does a great job replacing his father. He has a powerful style that resembles his father’s and therefore makes him the only justified drummer. Just listen to him punishing his kit during a breathtaking version of ‘Kashmir’ – actually played in its original tuning, since it’s in an open D tuning – or ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’ (also featuring a mean blues harp courtesy of Plant) and you’ll have no doubt that it’s a Bonham playing. He also shares vocals with Plant on a strong rendition of ‘Misty Mountain Hop’ and does that well.

Pleasantly surprising is that the setlist for the night didn’t only focus on the obvious choices as ‘Stairway To Heaven’, ‘Black Dog’, ‘Rock And Roll’ and ‘Whole Lotta Love’. In fact, with ‘Ramble On’ and ‘For Your Life’, the band played two amazing tracks from their back catalog live for the first time. Especially the latter is executed incredibly well. Unsurprisingly, half of ‘Led Zeppelin IV’ is included, but traditional blues tributes ‘In My Time Of Dying’ and ‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’ are the songs that the band seems most comfortable with. And let’s not forget my favorite Led Zeppelin song ‘No Quarter’, a psychedelic masterpiece that is just as good as the studio version from the moment John Paul Jones kicks in with the dreamy fuzz piano part. I wasn’t there, but it was a near-divine experience this way anyway. Also, playing ‘Dazed And Confused’ even slower than it was recorded almost sends it into Black Sabbath territory. Awesome!

Critics will always find something to attack on these performances. Jimmy Page is still a sloppy guitarist, but I have always felt that that was what gave his playing and the songs their breath of life. And of course, it doesn’t sound exactly like it did in the seventies, but it would have missed the point if it did. The bottom line is that these guys can still create magical music together. And judging from the looks on their faces, they were having a lot of fun doing it.

Any fan of Rock music should own this piece of history. Period. And if you haven’t gotten it yet, be sure to get a version with the bonus dvd, as it features the entire show as it was done during the production rehearsal. A performance that is filmed with only one camera and that is overal somewhat looser, but no less enjoyable. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to put on the dvd again, because one can never have enough Led Zeppelin.

Recommended track: ‘No Quarter’, ‘Kashmir’, ‘Stairway To Heaven’, ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’