Led Zeppelin were, without any shadow of a doubt, the biggest Rock band in the world in 1975. They had just released their multi-million selling fifth album “Physical Graffiti”, a double at that, and had toured this planet (and possibly others) to sell out audiences.
A new world tour was being organized to ram home their dominance and music legacy when out of the blue, disaster struck. Robert Plant, the band’s lead singer and talisman, was seriously injured in a car accident whilst on holiday in the Greek isles, which of course terminated all plans for a tour.
Plant remembers being moved immediately after the accident in great pain to a small Greek hospital where the level of sanitation left a little to be desired. Whilst trying to sweep all the cockroaches off his bed, he noticed he was sharing a room with a drunken American sailor who kept on breaking into the song “Ocean” off Led Zeppelin’s “Houses of the Holy” album.
Page returned to England to convalesce and whilst he was recovering, band-mate Jimmy Page started to put some ideas together so that once Page was ready to resume singing duties the band would still be one step ahead of the game. The result was “Presence”, which became known to many fans as the Jimmy Page guitar album. Without wishing to detract from the fine efforts of the other band members, every song here is simply dominated by Page’s guitar.
Led Zeppelin took up residence in Musicland Studios in Munich after just a month of rehearsals – they only had eighteen days to record the album as the Rolling Stones had already booked the studio for their “Black’n’Blue” album. Plant had to sing the whole album from a wheelchair and because of the time restrictions Page at one point had to stay up for two continuous days to complete the guitar overdubs.
With all this adversity could the album live up to expectations? Of course it could. We are talking about Led Zeppelin here – the super-heroes of the Rock world.
Stick this offering in your music player, press the “play” button and as soon as “Achilles Last Stand” comes bursting out of your speakers you know that normal service has been resumed. This opening track would of course go on to become a concert standard and crowd favorite. In fact the album is bookended by two epic tracks, the album closing with the amazing “Tea for One”. Both these songs clock in at the nearly ten-minute mark each and are simply sublime. There’s plenty of overdubbed guitar, but then if you’re a Jimmy Page fan what more could you possibly want?
“For Your Life” is a track where Plant returns to his sex god image and succeeds like he has never been away, while “Royal Orleans” goes more back to the “Led Zeppelin 3” feel. “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” is an incredible hard rocker of a song that most bands would give their souls for – and make a complete career out of. On this song the band gels beautifully.
“Candy Store Rock” is a rockabilly number brought up to date and “Hots On For Nowhere” gives the audience a chance to let their hair down, the time keeping here is staggering.
All in all “Presence” was a raging success and of course the album went to number one across the world. The album has since been remixed and restored by Jimmy Page, which has given it a whole new crispness. There is also an extra CD of interesting rehearsal tapes and ideas. The extras are definitely worth listening to, but nowhere near as much as the original product.
Album Rating: 5 Stars.
Achilles Last Stand
For Your Life
Nobody’s Fault But Mine
Candy Store Rock
Hots On For Nowhere
Tea For One
Two Ones Are One (Achilles Last Stand – Reference Take)
For Your Life (Reference Take)
Royal Orleans (Reference Take)
10 Ribs & All / Carrot Pod Pod (Reference Mix)
Hots On For Nowhere (Reference Mix)
Jimmy Page – guitar and producer
Robert Plant – vocals
John Paul Jones – bass guitar and keyboards
John Bonham – drums