Led Zeppelin – Presence (review)

Led Zeppelin – Presence (remastered) (Atlantic) review

Zep’s most underrated album

Containing no hits, Presence is probably Led Zeppelin’s least-appreciated record. Only the ominous “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” even gets played on Classic Rock radio these days. Which means this record still sounds fresh. Presence has just been remastered with an entire disc of bonus material.

The album begins with the chugging “Achilles Last Stand,” a 10-minute epic, featuring some fine Robert Plant wailing and John Bonham’s march-like drumming. “For Your Life” showcases some searing Jimmy Page fretwork. On “Candy Store Rock” the band pays homage to the classic Elvis Sun recordings.

Presence is the only Zeppelin album to not feature keyboards or acoustic guitars. Those facts are really where the shortcomings are. Page dominates the album with his reinvigorated guitar work, yet there is a sameness to much of the tracks. Robert Plant is definitely the weak link here, having recently been involved in an auto accident – he recorded much of his vocal parts from a wheel chair. Many of his singing seems disconnected. “Hots On For Nowhere” has a catchy melody, but Plant’s vocals are unintelligible. “Tea For One” is decent, but it sounds like Zep repeating themselves – a rewrite of “Since I’ve Been Loving You.”

Like all the other bonus discs, the additional material on Presence has mostly subtle differences from the released versions. The one exception is the phenomenal “10 Ribs & All/Carrot Pod Pod,” an extremely melodic, piano-based instrumental. This would’ve made a fine addition to the LP had they been able to complete it with vocals.

Presence is really an album for fans who are tired of hearing the same Zeppelin songs on the radio over and over. For anyone that digs Jimmy Page’s playing, this is also an excellent showcase of his talents. —Tony Peters