Presence (Deluxe Edition) – Led Zeppelin
The bands 7th album Presence was the fastest album Led Zeppelin had churned out since their debut album back in 1969. 6 of the 7 tracks on the album was written by Page & Plant and a lot of the writing for the album was done during the time of Robert Plant’s recuperating period from a car crash he had on the Greek island Rhodes in the previous year, forcing the band to cancel their tour that year.
Although the album Presence did quite well by hitting the number one spot in the album charts in the UK and America. It was another one of those albums that created mixed reviews from its fans and critics upon its release.
Even though the album eventually went on to go 3 times platinum in America with sales of over 3 million copies in that country it alone. It was perhaps one of their poorest selling albums in relation to the albums that came before it.
The Packaging & Artwork…
Just like all the packaging that these Deluxe Editions come with, they do a grand job at replicating the original vinyl album with it being constructed out of cardboard in the form of a Digipak. Though because they have in fact inverted the front cover and put it on the back. None of them have the original backs of the vinyl album. They have also done the same thing with the booklet too.
Speaking of the booklet once again we get 14 pages of pictures and only 2 pages of information which contain the album linear notes. It even has a couple of pictures of the obelisk and shadows can be seen casting all over it :)))))))). So much for Storm Thorgerson’s idea :))))))). They are not very informative and give you no information about the time they made the album.
Furthermore these Digipaks have been made on the cheap and even the see through sticker that contains the albums track list information printed in white on the back of the cover, comes away with the cellophane when you open it on the biggest majority of them. So you either end up trying to stick it back on yourself without putting creases in it, or just throw it in the bin.
To be honest it made no sense having such a sticker with their last album Physical Graffiti because the cut out windows are on the reverse of the album as well as the front. But I had a lot of trouble with this one and ended up throwing mine in the bin.
Personally I think whoever came up with the idea of inverting the front cover and putting it on the back, and accompanying it with a see through plastic sticker with white writing printed on it. Was not very clever at all, and needed to go back to the drawing board in designing the package.
The albums cover design was done by Hipgnosis and designed by George Hardie. The object on the table is what Storm Thorgerson describes as being an obelisk which is an object that has no mouldings and no shadow. It’s supposed to represent the force of the presence of the band. It looks more like one of those stupid Oscar Awards to me, and is totally ridiculous to say the least :)))))).
Jimmy Page seen the band having a force of a “presence” whilst they was making the album. He seen the Obelisk or the Object as something that could transmit a power or presence into whoever was around them, simply by placing your hand on the top of the object and touching somebody else as shown in the picture below.
Page described the album cover as being quite tongue and cheek and a sort of joke on Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001 A Space Odyssey.
The boating marina in the background was an artificial marina that was set up inside Earls Court in London at one of the boating shows they put on their back in 1975. The photograph of the back cover was taken during a summer break in a classroom at London’s Westminster School. The designer George Hardie was married to one of the teaching staff there.
Both Hardie and Hipgnosis were nominated for a Grammy Award for the best album package a year later in 1977. To be honest I have no idea how it got nominated in the first place, and to me it just looks totally boring :)))))))).
Led Zeppelin Presence (2 CD Deluxe Edition) Review…
The newly released remastered Deluxe Edition of Presence was released on the 31st July 2015. Has with all these new editions you have the choice of either purchasing the album as a digital download, a single or double LP or CD and if you want it all there is the more expensive box set that comes with other goodies thrown in too boot. Though personally I think the box set is well overpriced.
Since I started buying these Deluxe Editions it was only the last album I purchased Physical Graffiti that cost me a bit more has it came with 3 CD’s instead of the 2. All the 2 CD editions up to this point cost £9.99 which was a great price. But this one actually cost me £11.49 and the prices have gone up. It’s not just the price fluctuation you get with Amazon either and they have gone up in all the stores.
The new remasters do sound great and even on CD they do present you with genuine really good sound quality, and I certainly have no complaints on that score. The 1st disc contains only the 7 tracks that were on the original album, and I quite like how they decided not to include any bonus tracks on it either, and prefer all albums to come with the original material that was placed upon them in the first place, and for them to put any bonus material on a separate disc.
I very much think that Jimmy Page was running out of ideas and out of any real unreleased material when compiling a lot of the bonus material we get with these companion discs. The best of the bunch so far is certainly still the one that came with their debut album, though some of the others you might get the odd track here and there that’s worthy of having too, but a lot them do tend to disappoint.
You get 5 bonus tracks on this companion disc and they are all what Page has called reference mixes which are referring to them as actually being the first rough mixes of the album tracks they made for reference. The overall time of the disc is 31 minutes, 32 seconds.
I have to say I am quite confused and may even be “Dazed” too :))))))) as to just what on earth is going on here. Simply because in all honesty some of these so called “Reference” mixes are not rough mixes at all, and some sound a lot better than what the bloody hell they put on the original album in the first place.
To be honest I quite like this bonus disc and even though 4 of the 5 tracks are the same tracks you get on the original album. They do very much sound different. Some of them I think actually are better than the original final mixes that are on the main album. Especially the “Hots On For Nowhere (Reference Mix)”.
To be perfectly honest I suspect a bit of cheating has been going on here, and these so called “Reference” mixes that supposed to have been made first and was originally recorded for reference are nothing of the sort. They are most likely remixes where Page has perhaps changed some of the tones slightly on his guitars. It’s easy to do with guitar plugins too.
The “Royal Orleans (Reference Mix)” has a completely different singer on it, and to be honest I wish Jimmy Page would of been more considerate when releasing these new editions by providing some proper information in the booklet to actually tell you what the hell is going on here. Even in the countless interviews of him speaking about these Deluxe Editions I have watched on Youtube he does not give you any real information either ffs.
I had to spend awhile researching this particular version of the song which is quite a funny version by the way, and to be honest I still do not have a concrete answer as to who the hell is singing it. But according to form it can be one of two people of the band. It’s ether Robert Plant mimicking John Bonham’s voice or John Bonham himself singing it.
You also get an unreleased instrumental bonus track too entitled “10 Ribs & All/Carrot Pod Pod (Pod)“. It features John Paul Jones on piano and bass. Backed up by some lovely light guitar touches from Page and some wonderful more perhaps melodic drums from John Bonham.
It’s quite a lovely piece and was penned by Jones & Plant though I certainly feel the biggest majority of it was in fact written by Jones. I would also would of thought it was perhaps something Jones knocked up in between sessions and got a bit bored because Page wanted no keyboards on this particular album.
I really like the piece, and even though it certainly merits being placed on an album, it was perhaps more suited for a John Paul Jones solo album more so than actually being placed on the album Presence. It perhaps does not have that Led Zeppelin sound or element about it, and actually feels as if Jones played everything here too. So I can see why it got left off the album and was not considered to be placed on it.
Musicians & Credits…
Recorded between November – December 1975 at the Musicland Studios Munich Germany. Produced by Jimmy Page. Executive Producer Peter Grant. Mixing Engineer Keith Harwood. Tape Engineer Jeremy Gee. Sleeve Design by Hipgnosis. George Hardie. Cover Photography by Aubrey Powell. 2015 Reissue remastering by Jimmy Page.
Jimmy Page: Guitars.
Robert Plant: Vocals/Harmonica.
John Paul Jones: Eight String Bass/Piano.
John Bonham: Drums.
The Original Album Tracks Review…
The album Presence by Led Zeppelin was released on the 31st March 1976. The album contained 7 tracks and had a total playing time of 44 minutes, 46 seconds. Apart from 1 track credited to all 4 members of the band, the rest of the material was put together by Page & Plant in Malibu were Plant had spent his time recuperating from his accident.
The four members of the band got together and spent a month rehearsing the material at the SIR Studio in Hollywood and later flew to Germany to record the album in Musicland Studio Munich whilst Plant was still in a wheelchair. Jimmy Page spent many sleepless nights rushing to get the backing tracks completed, and the whole album was completed in 18 days.
Page very much wanted to return to a more guitar based album this time around, and go back to their earlier days with more of an hard rock and blues approach to it all, just like the band achieved with their debut album. He decided no keyboards would be needed for this album to take away the lighter edge and airy feel that they achieved on there previous album Physical Graffiti.
So let’s now take a look at the album’s tracks one by one and see if he achieved his goals.
Track 1. Achilles Last Stand.
Well the title of this opening song sort of has me thinking along the lines of General Custer at the battle of Big Horn. Though this is not a western, it does ride along a bit like one with Bonham’s drums racing and galloping along. Plant’s lyrics were inspired by the Atlas mountains in Morocco many miles away from Montana :)))).
It’s the longest track on the album weighing in at some 10 and half minutes, and is even rumoured to have been originally known as the “Wheelchair Song” down to Plant’s accident and not knowing if he would ever be able to walk again.
Jimmy Page layered several guitar overdubs on the song, and even speeded parts up, something of which John Paul Jones felt would of never worked when Page had originally told Jones of his intentions of how he was going to try and make it work.
At the time Page was recording the overdubs to which he done all in one night. The Rolling Stones was also recording their album Black And Blue in the same studios and both Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood dropped in on the band for a listen, and told them that they ought to get in another guitarist, and told Page that he was becoming known as the most overworked guitarist.
Even though the song contained many overdubs and was quite difficult for the band to perform and make it sound good live. They did manage to achieve it, and it featured in many of their live shows.
For many no doubt “Achilles Last Stand” would be seen as a Zeppelin classic. Personally I do not see it like that. and neither does it hark back to the bands earlier material either that their first 4 albums had in the way of true classics. I do think it’s a good song however, and it has to be a high contender for the top spot on this album too.
Track 2. For Your Life.
No doubt this song does have much more of a familiar Led Zeppelin guitar riff and could be much more associated with the bands earlier material than it’s 10 an half minute opener. Jimmy Page uses a 1962 Lake Placid Blue Fender Stratocaster on this one. It was the first time he ever used the guitar and it was Gene Parsons who supplied it to him. It’s said to be instantly recognisable by the use of it’s Whammy Bar (Tremolo Arm) and Page later went on to use the same strat when he formed the band The Firm with Paul Rogers in 1984.
The lyrics Plant wrote for the song were based around prostitution and the excessive use of cocaine he observed being used in Los Angeles around that time. Part of the song is also said to be based on a female friend of his who got caught up in that scene back then.
“For Your Life” is certainly one of the good songs on the album. It’s got a great change in it, and the laziness and laid back feel works very well.
Track 3. Royal Orleans.
“Royal Orleans” is the only song on the album credited to all 4 members of the band. Plant based the lyrics around a true story and event that occurred at the hotel of the same name. The rumour of the event that supposedly happened was that John Paul Jones had took what appeared to be a woman (later discovered the person was a transvestite) in the bar of the hotel up to his bedroom. They both was smoking a joint and fell asleep setting fire to the hotel room.
Though much later in an interview John Paul Jones gave to the Mojo magazine in 2007 Jones cleared the so called rumour of the story up, stating “The transvestites were actually friends of Richard Cole’s normal friendly people and we were all at some bar. That I mistook a transvestite for a girl is rubbish, that happened in another country to somebody else… Anyway ‘Stephanie’ ended up in my room and we rolled a joint or two and I fell asleep and set fire to the hotel room, as you do, ha ha, and when I woke up it was full of firemen”.
Well he would deny it wouldn’t he, and so would anyone else :))))))).
The song itself quite a funky little number, and I am glad that Robert Plant was not trying to do his James Brown impression on it, like he did with that dreadful track on the Houses Of The Holy. It’s not a bad song but it’s hardly gonna set the world on fire never mind the hotel room :)))))).
Track 4. Nobody’s Fault But Mine.
This one featured at many of the bands live shows and I am not surprised either. For me personally this is what I consider to be the classic song on this album, and merits my top spot award. Once again the song does hark back the bands earlier days just like the 2nd track on the album does too. Though just like some of their earlier songs once again it could be said that plagiarism certainly played a part here.
Though even today the song is still credited to Page & Plant I actually think they are lucky they have not had a lawsuit filed against them.
The original song goes way back to 1927 and its earliest recording was done by Blind Willie Nelson. The song with its same title has been covered by countless artists over the years, way before Led Zeppelin were born, and it was Plant who suggested to Page to do a cover of Nelson’s version in the first place.
Page told Plant that he had already written the music and the riff for the song, and it was his own music and not Nelson’s. Well there is no doubt that a million blues guitar riffs can be alike and be played in the same chords. But Page’s riff here does have elements on John Renbourn’s 1968 acoustic version of the song. Though there is also no doubt that Led Zeppelin are also capable of putting their own stamp on the music with how they approach and play it in their own style.
But once again Plant has used lines from the original song and just changed the lyrics to his own way, which anybody could do in reality. But why oh why would you use the same title for Christ’s sake. Surely he never learned nothing from those earlier days with the band and made the same blatant mistakes.
Though they have not been done for plagiarism here. I personally feel that this song was nicked and just by looking into some of the bonus material we have on the companion disc and what I stated earlier about it. I would say that a lot of things Jimmy Page does, is certainly questionable.
It’s got a great guitar riff and features some great harmonica from Plant too. The only thing that is not questionable here, is that Led Zeppelin certainly made it their own.
Track 5. Candy Store Rock.
This one has that beep bop 50’s rock n roll feel about it, and Plant is perhaps getting the vibe from Elvis Presley in how he’s putting over the song with his voice in some respects. “Candy Store Rock” was the single release from the album in America only and “Royal Orleans” was the B-Side. Plant also considered this song as the best song on the album. But then again he was always into the 50’s rock n roll and Elvis Presley.
I think the band do a great job here, and I like the groove and sound of Page’s guitar on it. It sort of gives it a bit more of a modern approach to it all. It’s not a bad song, but it certainly is not my favourite, or even a contender on the album for that matter, in my own personal opinion it’s perhaps “Just Alright” :))))))))))).
Track 6. Hots On For Nowhere.
Another song with quite a funky dance get up and go upbeat and groove, and once again Page takes advantage on the 1962 Lake Placid Blue Fender Strat. The song flows very well. Plant let’s out his frustrations with both Page and the bands manager Peter Grant with the lyrics, and the whole band appear to be having fun regardless of all the frustrations.
It’s another one of those songs that is perhaps not gonna set the world on fire and is quite good when you get into the swing and the groove of it. It’s also a song that the band never performed live, and the only time it ever was done so was in 1999 when Page played it with the Black Crows.
Track 7. Tea For One.
Well no doubt the band are going back to their roots on this one, and it very much sees them slipping back into the same melody lines we got with one of their many classics “Since I’ve Been Loving You“. Which in reality was certainly better than anything on this whole album if I was to be perfectly honest about it.
It’ s another song that the band never performed live in it’s entirety, and it’s easy to see why, because it’s perhaps too close to that older classic, but somehow it does not seem to work as good as it. The opening riff certainly does not marry up with how it changes into the familiar melody lines we are getting here, and is really out of place.
Though Led Zeppelin never performed the song live, it did manage to get done live with an orchestra by Page & Plant in 1996 on their tour of Japan.
“Tea For One” if anything is nothing more than a gap filler on the album. It just does not seem to work for my liking I am afraid. I think if your going to try and revive an old song from the past such as this, you have to do it right or not at all. Whereas Eric Clapton did do it right with both “Layla” and “Bad Love“. Led Zeppelin certainly failed in my own opinion.
To sum up my review of the 2 CD Deluxe Edition of the 1976 album Presence by Led Zeppelin. I still think even the extra £1.49 I forked out for it is still value for money, and it’s price of £11.49 can still be seen as a bargain in some respects. You do get quality recordings even on the CD and it sounds really great. I also think the album is very well produced too.
The bonus disc is certainly more of an interesting one. I certainly think there is a few porkies being told as to how some of the material on it came about, and some of it would of been done today rather than yesteryear so to speak. But I quite like it, and you are getting something different here too, plus unreleased material.
In conclusion of my review of the album Presence. I would say that the band attempted to go back to their past a bit with the material that was written for it. In all fairness they had a good go at trying to achieve their goal, but it does not quite measure up to it. But that’s not to say the album does not have its moments. There are some great tracks here, even if they do not quite cut the mustard with their first 4 albums or Physical Graffiti for that matter.
My personal highlights from the album are “Achilles Last Stand“. “For Your Life” and “Nobody’s Fault But Mine“.
But I would certainly say this album is a lot better than Houses Of The Holy and has a far better production too. It’s nowhere near a solid album though, with all that is contained on it. There is only really one classic here in my eyes, and overall it’s perhaps a bit better than an half decent album. But that is only my only personal opinion of course. Many others may like this one a lot. Just like Jimmy Page does for some reason or another.
It’s Nobody’s Fault But Mine…
The album track listing is as follows:
01. Achilles Last Stand. 10:31.
02. For Your Life. 6:25.
03. Royal Orleans. 2:59.
04. Nobody’s Fault But Mine. 6:28.
05. Candy Store Rock. 4:11.
06. Hots On For Nowhere. 4:44.
07. Tea For One. 9:28.
01. Two Ones Are Won (Achilles Last Stand) (Reference Mix). 10:28.
02. For Your Life (Reference Mix). 6:28.
03. 10 Ribs & All/Carrot Pod Pod (Pod) (Reference Mix). 6:48.
04. Royal Orleans (Reference Mix). 3:01.
05. Hots On For Nowhere (Reference Mix). 4:47.