Led Zeppelin remains one of the most well-respected outfits in the whole of music. Titans of rock, the English four-piece dominated the late 1960s and ’70s with their heavy take on blues-infused rock and roll. Famously, one of the group’s defining features was that each member was at the very top of their game.
Frontman Robert Plant’s siren-like vocals are unmatched; guitarist Jimmy Page is one of the greatest axemen to have ever lived; bassist and multi-instrumentalist John Paul Jones was the band’s secret weapon and had a background in music like no other; and drummer John Bonham needs no real introduction, he was arguably the ultimate rock drummer of all time.
Together, the band produced some of the most iconic albums in history before they disbanded in 1980 following the tragic death of Bonham. An interesting entry into their extensive back catalogue is 1976’s Presence. One of the band’s most critically panned records, it is something of a cult classic to diehard Led Zeppelin fans, but interestingly, many people outside of this circle haven’t even heard of it.
Presence was made as the band’s influence was waning and came out of a dark period for frontman Robert Plant, who was recovering from a near-fatal car accident and coming to terms with his position as a tax exile. Although recording the album was a great struggle, the band themselves are fans of their obscure 1976 offering, understanding the power that some of the tracks have. Featuring takes such as ‘Achilles Last Stand’ and ‘Hots on For Nowhere’, it’s not hard to understand why.
In a 2015 interview with Loudersound, Jimmy Page was asked if Presence is his favourite Zeppelin record. “I certainly really like it,” Page explained. “It’s a bit of a muso’s album, though, isn’t it? So many times, I speak to people and they say that Presence is their favourite, and it always surprises me, because you’ve got to really listen to what’s going on.”
Page then explained how the personal problems Plant was facing at the time fed into the intensity on some of the album’s tracks and that his pain can be heard throughout the record.
He said: “Robert had had his accident, so his leg was in plaster in the studio. So that was a set of circumstances right there that wasn’t in script. So Presence was very reflective of what was going on – a lot of darkness and intensity. There’s some extraordinary stuff on there: from my point of view, ‘Achilles Last Stand,’ but also ‘Tea For One,‘ where Robert is singing his heart out.”
An impressive moment in the band’s career, Presence is always worth a revisit to hear some of the power that Plant and the band delivers. Containing some of the band’s heaviest moments and some of Plant’s finest, there’s no surprise that it’s a favourite of Zeppelin purists.
Listen to Presence below.