Saturday, March 31, 2012

Power and Force: Led Zeppelin's Presence

Presence is the seventh studio album by Led Zeppelin, released by Swan Song Records on March 31, 1976. The album received mixed reviews from critics and is one of the lowest sellers in the band's catalog. Personally, I find it to be the band's most grossly underrated album and, if pressed to choose, my favorite one. It stands out from the band's other albums in that it's filled with nothing but hard-hitting, lean and mean rock.

After a month of rehearsals, the album was recorded in just eighteen days at Musicland Studios in Munich, Germany. The rushed recording sessions were, in part, a result of Led Zeppelin having booked the studio immediately prior to The Rolling Stones, who were shortly to record songs for their album Black and Blue. Upon their arrival, the Stones were amazed that Zeppelin's album had indeed been completed (both recorded and mixed) in a mere eighteen days.

Guitarist Jimmy Page had stayed awake for two days straight to perform all of the guitar overdubs. As he later explained: "I just had to lay it down, more or less: first track... second track – you know, really fast working on that. And all the guitar overdubs on Presence were done in one night. But I didn't think I would be able to do it in one night, I thought I'd have to do it across maybe three different nights to get the individual sections. Everything sort of crystallized and you'll notice everything was just pouring out. I was very happy with the guitar playing on that whole album, you know as far as the maturity of playing goes."

Page describes Presence as the band's "most important" album, proving they would continue despite their turmoil. Arguably, the band's future was in limbo. Adversity sometimes turns into a powerful drive that leads us to triumph, and each track on Presence is sonically bursting with the stuff that makes us all carry on through our darkest times. Robert Plant was in a wheelchair with a shattered ankle from a recent car accident, no one knowing if he would ever walk again. Add to the mix that Plant was missing his family terribly, and also dealing with claustrophobia (thanks to the studio being in a basement of an old hotel), and it's not difficult to understand why you can literally hear and feel the strain and painful emotions that went into recording this intense album.

The cover and inside sleeve of this album, created by Hipgnosis, features various images of people interacting with a black obelisk-shaped object. Inside the album sleeve, the item is referred to simply as "The Object." It was intended to represent the "force and presence" of Led Zeppelin.

In the liner notes of the first Led Zeppelin boxed set, Page explained: "There was no working title for the album. The record-jacket designer said 'When I think of the group, I always think of power and force. There's a definite presence there.' That was it. He wanted to call it 'Obelisk.' To me, it was more important what was behind the obelisk. The cover is very tongue-in-cheek, to be quite honest. Sort of a joke on [the film] 2001. I think it's quite amusing."

The background used in the cover photograph is of an artificial marina that was installed inside London's Earl's Court Arena for the annual Earl's Court Boat Show that was held in the winter of 1974–75. This was the same venue where the band played a series of concerts a few months after the boat show, in May 1975. In 1977 Hipgnosis and George Hardie were nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of best album package.

The album was completed on November 26, 1975. This was the day before Thanksgiving, and in a telephone call to Swan Song Records, Page suggested the album be named Thanksgiving. This idea was quickly dropped, in favor of a title that was thought would represent the powerful force and presence that the band members felt surrounded the group.

1. Achilles Last Stand 10:26
2. For Your Life 6:21
3. Royal Orleans 2:58
4. Nobody's Fault But Mine 6:15
5. Candy Store Rock 4:10
6. Hots On For Nowhere 4:42
7. Tea For One 9:27

Presence by Led Zeppelin - A Bit Of Groovy!

For more information On Led Zeppelin visit
Authored by: Ravenval
Sources: Wikipedia entry and the articles and books referenced within.

1 comment: said...

Great piece, and you're right: Presence is severely underrated.

Thanks for the Twitter follow -- I'm glad it led me to your blog :)