The Tragic Years Which Saw Led Zeppelin Make Their Presence Known

Daily Mail (London), July 31, 2015 | Go to article overview

The Tragic Years Which Saw Led Zeppelin Make Their Presence Known


Byline: Adrian Thrills

LED ZEPPELIN: Presence/In Through The Out Door/Coda (Atlantic) Verdict: Backs to the wall brilliance

****

THEY were the hellraising quartet whose bluesy riffs towered above the classic rock era. But even Led Zeppelin -- imperious in the first half of the Seventies -- found the second part of the decade hard going.

As this latest batch of reissues reminds us however, they were a potent force even when their backs were against the wall. The hunger for gems from the golden years of rock remains strong, and these albums, available individually and buttressed with previously unreleased songs, confirm Zeppelin's pedigree. For new converts, the original LPs have been re-mastered by guitarist Jimmy Page. For the more committed fans, reasonably-priced 'deluxe' editions combine the original tracks with the unheard songs and new mixes.

For real aficionados, there are three 'super deluxe' box sets. By the time of 1976's Presence, Zeppelin were the biggest band in the world. And, in contrast to the previous year's dazzlingly diverse Physical Graffiti, the album saw a return to hard-rocking roots. Made in 18 days, with producer Page working 20-hour shifts, it still sounds spontaneous today.

This was down partly to circumstance. A car crash on the island of Rhodes had left singer Robert Plant wheelchairbound, and his vocals are less commanding than on other albums. But, with Page's scintillating guitar even more to the fore, Presence packs a punch.

OPENING track Achilles Last Stand is ten minutes long, but gallops by in a blur. An echo of Zep's first two albums, its energy was a harbinger of the wave of younger rock bands, led by Iron Maiden and Def Leppard, that would shortly follow.

With Page's guitars drenched in special effects, the album was hardly lacking in innovation, even though it was largely a back-to-basics affair: Candy Store Rock was in thrall to Elvis, while the slow blues number Tea For One was about homesickness on the band's long US tours. …

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