Let's start off 2012 the way we ended 2011, with another classic rock band. For younger readers of this blog we'd like to introduce you to one of Led Zeppelin's signature records. Some may argue that Physical Graffiti was their magnum opus, but I would say it was Presence. The record was released in early 1976, almost exactly a year after the release of their double album Physical Graffiti, and it's perhaps their darkest record. Robert Plant had suffered serious injuries from a car accident in Greece shortly before these sessions and would spend the entire recording process in a wheelchair. Plant maintains that his vocals on Presence were some of the weakest he's done while Jimmy Page claimed that this record contained some of his most inspired guitar work. In desperate need to get back to his family and overwhelmed by his physical limitations, Plant began to question his future with the band. Despite Plant's injury and the sprawling nature of the work, Presence was recorded and mixed in only 18 days, with Page doing the majority of overdubs in a single 24 hour period. The masterful 10-minute epic "Achilles Last Stand" opens the record in fine fashion with a haunting Page riff that also serves as the song's coda. Elements of "The Immigrant Song" and "Kashmir" pervade the song. The most straight-forward track, "Nobody's Fault But Mine", borrows a similar riff to the one found in the opening of "Achilles Last Stand" and contains a furious harmonica solo from Plant. It would become one of the only songs from this record to find its way into Zeppelin's live sets. Page's solo on "For Your Life" is particularly memorable. "Royal Orleans" employs the signature start-stops and guitar fills that defined the Zeppelin sound. The album was considered a commercial failure for Zeppelin, that is it only went triple platinum, due to the stripped down nature of the arrangements; there are no bells and whistles on this record, just guitar, bass, and drums. It was this combination of rawness, a compact recording schedule, and lingering emotional & physical issues that helped make Presence such a special record.
Buy this record to sail away, to touch the dream, to ride the wind, to laugh out loud.