My takes on Led Zeppelin I, Led Zeppelin II, Led Zeppelin III, Led Zeppelin IV, Houses of the Holy, and Physical Graffiti.
I'm back, baby dolls! This time with Zeppelin's 7th studio recording, Presence. They recorded and mixed this album quickly and shortly after Robert Plant was in a serious car accident, making it a unique album in their repertoire.
1. "Achilles Last Stand" - They start off the album with this 10 and half minute epic. The militaristic drums and building bass of John Bonham and John Paul Jones line give the song its power. At about 4 minutes, Jimmy Page starts into the best part of the song where he gives powerful and resonant guitar solo. The only downfall for me is the vocal line, which lacks an interesting melody, although contains classically cryptic Led Zeppelin lyrics.
2. "For Your Life" - Like most of the songs on this album, this really shows off Page's guitar chops. It has a vague sort of riff that feels like a shadow of earlier ones, but the bridge* is lovely with it's fast work in unison to the bass. Plus, we get to hear Plant snort in mockery to the rampant cocaine use in LA at the time.
3. "Royal Orleans" - This is a kind of funny story told/sung about a transvestite and setting fire to a hotel room set to a funky beat. I don't really have much to say about this song because honestly it's kind of boring. Kind of riffy, kind of sung, kind of interesting ideas, kind of boring.
4. "Nobody's Fault but Mine" - Based on a traditional blues song "It's Nobody's Fault but Mine," this song achieves some of the power and drive that "When the Levee Breaks" does. Much of that has to do with Plant's harmonica playing, which is stronger than a lot of his vocals on the album (poor guy had to sing from a wheelchair). With a solid beat established once again by Bonham and Jones, and sweet solos by Page, it's a hard rock pleasure.
5. "Candy Store Rock" - Taking another walk down doo-wop lane, this song is a fun reimagining of 50s rock. Plant's vocals are echoey, the percussion is softer (although still more than just keeping the beat), and Page mostly keeps a swing-y feel to the song rather than a huge solo.
6. "Hots On for Nowhere" - This song is a lot of fun. The nonsense-word chorus and light drum and guitar work add to the levity of the song. In fact, it sounds more like Aerosmith than anything else, and I mean that in a good way.
7. "Tea for One" - The band itself admits that this is "Since I've Been Loving You Redux," but that's not a bad thing. It's bluesy and lonely and gives Plant something to work with vocally.
Overall assessment: It's not an easy or particularly enjoyable listen, but there's some good stuff here. Unfortunately, the good stuff seems more like cast offs from earlier days.
*And it kind of sounds like Pearl Jam or something. I can't figure out where I've heard a similar interlude. Listen at about 2:30