Led Zeppelin – Coda (review)

Led Zeppelin – Coda (remastered) (Atlantic) review

The band’s leftovers album gets a big shot in the arm

Of all the Led Zeppelin remasters, Coda benefits the most from the bonus material, featuring not one, but TWO extra discs of unreleased tracks. The original album came out in 1982, long after the band’s demise and was meant as a clearinghouse for everything that was still left in the can.

Their furious take on Ben E. King’s “We’re Gonna Groove” dates from their early concert days, while Bonham’s insistent percussion propels the acoustic “Poor Tom,” an outtake from Led Zeppelin III. A blistering, soundcheck recording of “I Can’t Quit You Babe” actually outdoes the original, studio recording from their debut.

But it’s the three tracks that were omitted from In Through the Out Door which really rock – “Ozone Baby,” “Darlene” and “Wearing and Tearing” are harder-edged than anything the band had done in years, lacking any of the dated keyboards that dominated their previous record. Had these been included on In Through the Out Door, it would have greatly improved that LP.

With two discs of bonus material, there’s a surprising amount of decent tracks here. The alternate mix of “We’re Gonna Groove” is actually an improvement over the released version. Then, there’s a completely unreleased song, “Sugar Mama,” which dates from sessions for their debut album. This furious rocker sounds similar in feel to “The Immigrant Song” – it’s one of the best finds of this entire remaster series – and it’s buried on disc two of Coda! An instrumental mix of “Poor Tom” gives you a better appreciation of the off-kilter drumming style of Bonham – although a drums-only “Fool in the Rain” would’ve been even nicer. Other standouts include a loud-as-hell take on “Bring it On Home,” and “St. Tristan’s Sword,” an instrumental outtake from Led Zeppelin III, which contains some smokin’ Page guitar.

Coda also wraps up other loose ends, collecting “Hey Hey What Can I Do,” “Traveling Riverside Blues,” and “Baby Come on Home” – all tracks that have appeared on previous box sets.

Because Coda was not conceived as a proper album, it doesn’t stand up to the band’s other work. However, there’s still plenty of great moments for any die hard fan. If you want to learn about Zeppelin, this isn’t the place to start. But, real Zep heads will love all the bonus material. —Tony Peters