Can we talk about why Presence by Led Zeppelin is the best album ever made when you're actually listening to it, but it's easy to forget about when you aren't listening to it?

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Presence is an awesome album - or atleast much of it is. Yes, the guitars the guitars.

Susan Douglas (Susan Douglas), Saturday, 4 February 2006 22:37 (8 years ago) Permalink

I mean, I can't even think of an album that I regularly listen to more than once a month, much less once a week.

Pleasant Plains /// (Pleasant Plains ///), Saturday, 4 February 2006 23:27 (8 years ago) Permalink

Apparently it's Jimmy Page's favourite LZ album. I thought of it as their math-rock album, so the TnG comment makes good sense to me. I don't think the album is start-to-finish great, but I often find myself wanting to hear "For Your Life", and "Achilles Last Stand" is superhuman even by Bonham standards.

Deluxe (Damian), Saturday, 4 February 2006 23:49 (8 years ago) Permalink

Oh god people it's all about Jimmy Page. You have got to have Jimmy Page for your life. It is a must. Everyone needs it. You've got to have it.

Bimble brings a lawn chair to antartica so he can sit and drink silver coff (Bim, Sunday, 5 February 2006 23:15 (8 years ago) Permalink

"Went down to Louisiana"

Bimble brings a lawn chair to antartica so he can sit and drink silver coff (Bim, Sunday, 5 February 2006 23:18 (8 years ago) Permalink

Yeah, I'd say that's quite a bit funkier than the Who ever were.

Bimble brings a lawn chair to antartica so he can sit and drink silver coff (Bim, Sunday, 5 February 2006 23:20 (8 years ago) Permalink

Nobody's Fault But Mine has a special place in my heart forever, to boot.

Bimble brings a lawn chair to antartica so he can sit and drink silver coff (Bim, Sunday, 5 February 2006 23:20 (8 years ago) Permalink

When I was in jail very briefly many years ago, that song was all I heard in my head. Because I knew it wasn't my fault. Hearing that in my head kept me sane.

Bimble brings a lawn chair to antartica so he can sit and drink silver coff (Bim, Sunday, 5 February 2006 23:23 (8 years ago) Permalink

Do you think there are people on this earth who think Led Zeppelin is better than the Beatles? I would like to hear from such folks.

Bimble brings a lawn chair to antartica so he can sit and drink silver coff (Bim, Sunday, 5 February 2006 23:27 (8 years ago) Permalink

I don't think it's that uncommon a view in North America. Most people might not frame it that way since the two bands are very different.

OK, you guys convinced me to listen to this and hear it a little differently. I could sort of see the math rock thing and this helped me to notice the interesting ways that all the repeated riffs interlock. Like some kind of weird math rock/James Brown hybrid or something. And, yeah, there's a lot happening in all the layered guitar sounds if you listen for it. Are those wild crashing-out-of-tune drops (e.g. in "For Your Life") just done purely with whammy bar? Particularly "Tea for One" has a staggering amount of detail in all the different guitar tones that are layered and drop in and out - it's the "guitar orchestration" thing that really blows me away about Page. And the soloing on that track is pretty great too. I still don't think it's their best album but there is a lot there.

Sundar (sundar), Monday, 6 February 2006 03:16 (8 years ago) Permalink

Led Zeppelin > Beatles > Jesus

Dr. Gene Scott (shinybeast), Monday, 6 February 2006 03:18 (8 years ago) Permalink

"Royal Orleans" and "Hots on for Nowhere" (which is very good) invented the Red Hot Chili Peppers…

the whole rekkid is great…

veronica moser (veronica moser), Monday, 6 February 2006 04:43 (8 years ago) Permalink

there have been a number of periods in my life when I thought this was the best Zeppelin record .. and maybe only one or two of those did I think I was being cheeky or "provocative" by saying so ... right now, though, yeah I'm inclined to go w/ IV. It is just such an astounding record on so many levels. But I still deeply deeply love Presence. It's got Bonham's best overall start-to-finish performance of any of there records. It's got that crazy gnarly crack-headed Page solo on "Hots On For Nowhere"; "Hots On For Nowhere" being totally one of my favorite Zep cuts -- Love the false ending. It only makes me wish that REAL ending was also a FALSE ending because I want the song to keep going on... "Royal Orleans" with that Meters influence ... dudes always listened to tons of funk, but on PRESENCE they were *all about* the funk... "Candy Store Rock" rocks and love the album-closing "Tea For One" -- that's the kind of atmosphere that the copiests and lesser metal group just could not capture.

Stormy Davis (diamond), Monday, 6 February 2006 05:03 (8 years ago) Permalink

yeah, zep iv is the best, or zep ii. i know some people who've gotten into zeppelin after childhood, but so many more who've always been into them, not a single one who ever says zep ii, zep iv, or physival grafitti isn't their favorite. presence and on seem to be the ones that people loosening up from just listening to punk like the most. no one who's serious about zeppelinm, meaning into them since birth, prefers this

slavoj zizek, Monday, 6 February 2006 05:30 (8 years ago) Permalink

I am playing Presence right now in worship of this thread.

sleeve (sleeve), Monday, 6 February 2006 05:34 (8 years ago) Permalink

also it was the first Zep record to not have an acoustic guitar anywhere on it

Stormy Davis (diamond), Monday, 6 February 2006 05:43 (8 years ago) Permalink

That's probably one reason I'll never consider it their best, actually.

TBH I picked on "Hots On for Nowhere" upthread just because it was the one track I couldn't remember by looking at the track list. It's actually a good track, I realized when listening.

Sundar (sundar), Monday, 6 February 2006 16:48 (8 years ago) Permalink

Just put the album on for a straight-through listen to try and answer the question. It definitely doesn't register as the best album ever made while I'm listening to it, but I get the idea. I think what it boils down to is that the performances are great and they are recorded beautifully, but that the songs themselves are by Zep standards fairly unfocused and uninteresting. I mean, there are great moments throughout, but I can't even tell you how a single song goes right after it's over, let alone when I'm done listening to the album. This is a record where it's really really all about sound and texture, with the funk excursions I guess filling in for where they usually have a taught uptempo rocker to stick in your mind.

I'm not sure I understood anything in that discussion of liking Zeppelin "from birth," but the part that struck me as especially interesting, counterintuitive, and inexplicable, was the notion that Presence is appealing to those coming at Zeppelin from a punk background. Really? To me this is Zep at their most proggy and dinosaurian - I mean, there are, what, two ten-minute songs on this thing? Oof.

Anyone else really wish they'd built a song out of that really great tense intro to "Tea For One?" I always get all excited before I realize that it's just going to lead into yet another plodding blooze thing where Page fiddles around and Plant moans some pointless crap...

The highlight for me has to be "Royal Orleans," a song I never even knew by name until this more attentive, ILM-geared listen...

Doctor Casino (Doctor Casino), Monday, 6 February 2006 17:08 (8 years ago) Permalink

also it was the first Zep record to not have an acoustic guitar anywhere on it
-- Stormy Davis (electrifyingmoj...), February 6th, 2006.


There's an acoustic guitar in Candy Store Rock, but it barely registers without headphones.

Brooker Buckingham (Brooker B), Monday, 6 February 2006 17:40 (8 years ago) Permalink

I think what it boils down to is that the performances are great and they are recorded beautifully, but that the songs themselves are by Zep standards fairly unfocused and uninteresting.

I think this might nail it (with the exception of ALS of course). But maybe I'll change my mind if I listen more.

Yeah, people I know who come to LZ from punk or indie usually take to II or stuff like "Immigrant Song" in my experience. The only people I've known (and most are from this board) who really love Presence have been obsessive longtime fans.

Sundar (sundar), Monday, 6 February 2006 19:10 (8 years ago) Permalink

I'm not particularly obsessive about Zeppelin, but have never understood why this record is short-shrifted, myself. "Tea For One" never did anything for me and "Achilles..." always seemed like a much much feebler (and much much longer) rewrite of "The Immigrant Song," but the three songs referenced in the first post kick so much ass.

No, it's not the "best" Zeppelin record but I'll stack "Royal Orleans" and "Hots On For Nowhere" against anything, pretty much.

Dark Horse, Monday, 6 February 2006 19:24 (8 years ago) Permalink

"Hots on for Nowhere" is easily one of Zep's best 10 songs.

darin (darin), Monday, 6 February 2006 21:55 (8 years ago) Permalink

When I did my Zep POX, I started from the premise of Presence + 3, then looked at the rest of the catalogue for songs strong enough to knock any of Presence's songs out. (My POX was 3 out of 10 Presence... before I managed to whittle it down, it was 5 out of 15 Presence.)

truck-patch pixel farmer (my crop froze in the field) (Rock Hardy), Monday, 6 February 2006 22:09 (8 years ago) Permalink

6 months pass...
In the current Zep cover story in Rolling Stone, Mikal Gilmore wrote --

"Presence conveyed the sense of a band up against bad odds, fighting back. The opening two tracks, "Achilles Last Stand" (about the car accident) and "For Your Life" (about hell and drugs and terror, and about how life inside the band may have been developing), featured the best solos Page would ever play -- abstract, desperate, raging. "Presence was pure anxiety and emotion," Page said later. "We didn't know if we'd ever be able to play in the same way again. It might have been a very dramatic change, if the worst had happened to Robert. Presence is our best in terms of uninterrupted emotion."

Over the years, Presence hasn't sold as well as most of the band's catalog. It's more or less the forgotten album, its feelings are too hard, too intense and probably too insular to stay close to or very long. In effect, Led Zeppelin accomplished something akin to Eric Clapton's achievement on Derek and the Dominos' Layla: They forged the spirit and purpose of blues into a new form, without relying on blues scales and structures. Presence is clearly singular in Led Zeppelin's body of work, and it's likely the best album the band ever made.

"It was really like a cry of survival," Plant said. "There won't be another album like it, put it like that. It was a cry from the depths, the only thing that we could do."

---------

When I read that, I figured Gilmore was on crack and was just playing up the melodrama. Guess you had to be there to feel the intensity, because I don't remember any of the songs. I don't remember them being horrible, but just didn't leave an impression. But there are at least a couple people here who might agree with Gilmore to an extent.

I think with the exception of II, all the Zeppelin albums are inconsistent. I never understood what anyone saw in Physical Graffiti aside from "Kashmir" and "Houses of the Holy." So I'm open to hearing Presence again and entertaining the possibility that it's, like, their, um, fifth best. I'll pick up a used copy tomorrow.

Fastnbulbous (Fastnbulbous), Thursday, 10 August 2006 03:36 (7 years ago) Permalink

Great thread. Why "Presence" figures so largely in my Zeppelin love is because I found out about it after I was sure that I had purchased their entire catalogue, including Coda. I was a kid who obsessed over Zeppelin, so when I stumbled across it in a music store, i thought it was some type of obscene joke.

"Achilles Last Stand" is absolutely incredible...my friends and i used to listen to that song for hours. "Tea For One," in my opinion, seems like a b-side to "Since I've Been Loving You," but a b-side that is just as enjoyable as the a-side.

Presence in its entirety would not be a good introductory album, but it is one of my top 5 Zep albums.

Think i'll give it a listen. It's been long enough.

J. Grizzle (trainsmoke), Thursday, 10 August 2006 03:53 (7 years ago) Permalink

I'm giving it a relisten now, and it's just fantastic. Many OTM upthread about the awesomeness of the guitar work.

Andrew (enneff), Thursday, 10 August 2006 05:06 (7 years ago) Permalink

I pulled this out last night and remain fascinated. It's like a dirty secret. One of those things that I understand often happens with television - where you're not supposed to be fascinated but you are anyway. Can't you just imagine someone in jail singing "Nobody's Fault But Mine"? Anyway I didn't quite get through the whole album without changing it to something else so I'm determined to get to Tea For One today and make up for that properly, because I remember Tea For One being especially good.

Kiss My Grits! (Bimble...), Saturday, 12 August 2006 14:24 (7 years ago) Permalink

It was 1976 the year for punk, folks. Yep. And they hadn't even done In Through The Out Door yet. Wow.

Kiss My Grits! (Bimble...), Saturday, 12 August 2006 14:27 (7 years ago) Permalink

And were they trying to do disco towards the end of For Your Life? I guess 1976 was the year for disco too. What was the year for disco? Fuck if I know for sure. I don't mind the song at all, though. I like disco when it's good, which isn't always.

If anyone here is old enough to actually remember this record when it came out in 1976 and can comment on the overall musical milieu it was born into, I'd love to hear about it.

Kiss My Grits! (Bimble...), Saturday, 12 August 2006 14:38 (7 years ago) Permalink

5 years pass...

i like their later period albums. prefer the vocals to plant in his supposed peak. he sounds like hes not trying so hard on presence. just relaxed. more like himself. and the riffs are still great. theres just an easier going charm about this era of led zep, you know theyre not trying so hard, have less to prove etc, but rather than = lazy, theres something appealing about them just doing what they do.

titchy (titchyschneiderMk2), Saturday, 27 August 2011 12:05 (2 years ago) Permalink

Surprised Bonham doesn't get more mention here. To me his drumming is on fire on this rek. That said, it's pretty much the case on everything. I love the guy to death.

senomar, Sunday, 28 August 2011 18:59 (2 years ago) Permalink

When I did my Zep POX, I started from the premise of Presence + 3, then looked at the rest of the catalogue for songs strong enough to knock any of Presence's songs out. (My POX was 3 out of 10 Presence... before I managed to whittle it down, it was 5 out of 15 Presence.)

― truck-patch pixel farmer (my crop froze in the field) (Rock Hardy),

Took me a minute to decipher my own post there. But yeah, this is the absolute biznis, always will be to me.

Halal Spaceboy (WmC), Sunday, 28 August 2011 19:05 (2 years ago) Permalink

8 months pass...

bringing this back up to the top for Sunday morning readers...

Here he is with the classic "Poème Électronique." Good track (Marcello Carlin), Sunday, 6 May 2012 08:14 (2 years ago) Permalink

it's brilliant stuff, Marcello. Thank you for that. Still a huge fan of this, probably 3rd fave Zep record.. Bonham is so phenomenal on this, the whole thing does have that "room sound" that puts me in mind of what Albini strives for

Stormy Davis, Sunday, 6 May 2012 08:35 (2 years ago) Permalink

also, as massive a Zep geek I am, did not know that bit about the Stones coming in for 'Black and Blue'!

Stormy Davis, Sunday, 6 May 2012 08:36 (2 years ago) Permalink

seriously fantastic piece, Marcello

cosi fan whitford (underrated aerosmith bootlegs I have owned), Sunday, 6 May 2012 09:06 (2 years ago) Permalink

This isn't even LZ's best album but it's good enough for me.

Moka, Sunday, 6 May 2012 09:35 (2 years ago) Permalink

Great post -- thanks! Very evocative -- I was instantly listening along in my head as you described sections.

improvised explosive advice (WmC), Sunday, 6 May 2012 14:19 (2 years ago) Permalink

As i said on twitter, an amazing piece of writing Marcello. kudos.

EZ Snappin, Sunday, 6 May 2012 14:21 (2 years ago) Permalink

dude, marcello, A+. for real. and i hate everything and everybody! makes me want to work harder.

scott seward, Sunday, 6 May 2012 16:06 (2 years ago) Permalink

Presence is going on the turntable now.

Trip Maker, Sunday, 6 May 2012 16:06 (2 years ago) Permalink

Damn, that was a great piece.

Mule, Sunday, 6 May 2012 20:17 (2 years ago) Permalink

that was great

(could do without the 'if you aren't feeling _____, you aren't really listening' tho)

mookieproof, Sunday, 6 May 2012 22:44 (2 years ago) Permalink


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