Wednesday, June 22, 2022



There is some click bait over at The Independent titled "The 15 Worst Albums By Classic Artists," and as expected, a few of the usual suspects appear, like The Clash disaster "Cut The Crap," the Gary Cherone mess that is known as "Van Halen III" and the Jim-less Doors fiasco "Other Voices." While I'm not surprised to see "It's Hard" by The Who on the list---it is mostly garbage---its inclusion tempted me to write a completely different piece titled "All That Is Wrong With Record Store Day," leading with the example of the just released 2-LP version of The Who's worst album. But I'll save that for another day.

Also on the list is Aerosmith's "Draw The Line," an unworthy follow-up to what I maintain is the greatest hard rock album of all-time, "Rocks," but hardly as bad as a number of records that followed, like "Rock & A Hard Place," "Done With Mirrors" and "Honkin' On Bobo." The author doesn't say much about "Draw The Line" other than pulling a quote about Tyler & Perry's drug habits. A lazy inclusion, if you ask me.

There are also records by Motley Crue, Kiss, Metallica and Black Sabbath that I can't comment on, having little memory of hearing a note from any.

The most confounding and offensive inclusion is Led Zeppelin's "Presence." 

Now before all of you Zep haters regale us with the same tired stories of seeing them stink up the joint 50 years ago while Mashmakan blew them off the stage, or any of you Randy California disciples vomit the same stories of Jimmy Page's plagiarist tendencies, or mention the banana in Robert Plant's pants, let me preempt that by saying, you most likely have not heard a note from "Presence," and if you have, it was probably 45 years ago, so you are disqualified. Please put your two cents away.

This is The Independent's entire commentary:

"The end of 1975 was a tough time for Led Zep. Singer Robert Plant was still recovering after being seriously injured in a car accident, so their tour was cancelled and studio time booked instead. Presence was put together in just a few weeks, with guitarist and producer Jimmy Page working 20 hour days to finish it and Plant singing through the pain. In hindsight, bed rest may have been a better option."

Hoo hoo hoo. How droll. 

What's it sound like, Strindberg?

"Presence" was indeed recorded under trying circumstances, but so what? There are no songs called "My Leg Is In A Cast" or "Our Tour Was Cancelled." 

As a long time Zep devotee, who once spent the better part of 1994, reading an exhaustive document of LZ's entire touring history and listening to over 100 live bootlegs, some of which sounded as if they were recorded from a chopper hovering over the arena, I feel confident that I know what I am talking about. 

"Presence" is brilliant. That it followed what is widely regarded as the band's masterwork, "Physical Graffiti," is no fault of the music on the record. Neither is the shitty album cover.

The album opens with the epic "Achilles Last Stand," ten-plus minutes of an impossibly relentless groove that finds John Bonham out-Bonhaming anything he's done in the past. It also features, what I think is Jimmy Page's best guitar solo. That's right. It's not the one in "Stairway To Heaven." It's this one. "Achilles Last Stand" is thrash, years before it became a genre. The rhythm section of Bonzo and Jonesy drive this song into the stratosphere.

"For Your Life," which by the way features one of my other favorite Page solos, along with "Royal Orleans" and "Hots On For Nowhere," offer some of the band's funkiest grooves and deepest pockets. Hard rock bands exist for years trying to come up with one evergreen riff, and we have three right here on one record.

"Nobody's Fault But Mine" takes the blues standard and turns it on its ear. Again, I will use the word "funky." Of course, this isn't Meters funky, or P-Funk funky, but it's there.

The one true misstep is the 50's boogie pastiche, "Candy Store Rock." To paraphrase Neil Young, this one begins nowhere and then gets lost altogether. 

"Tea For One" closes the record. This has a promising opening riff, one that can only be from the mind of Jimmy Page. But then it quickly becomes a slow, blues dirge which might have worked with a blistering solo to take us home. But that never happens.

"Presence" gets played in this house more often than all other LZ records except for "III," which along with "Physical Graffiti" sit as my two favorites. To include "Presence" on a list with Motley Crue's "Generation Swine" and Duran Duran's all covers shit show "Thank You," where you will hear Simon LeBon spew his way through Public Enemy's "911 Is A Joke," tells me the author of The Independent's piece knows nothing about Led Zeppelin or their music.


Keith35 said...

Any album with Achilles Last Stand on it can't be bad. It's a top 5 LZ tune for me

Anonymous said...

The first requirement for identifying crap in a catalogue should be loving the artist.

wardo said...

Even if it's their "worst" album, that doesn't mean it's bad. Neither LZ nor the Beatles made a bad album.

Anonymous said...

I've never understood the venom towards Presence. It's loud, heavy, and assaults the ears in a wonderful way. It was recorded quickly and to me, it's a fast listen and to the point - I believe that was Page's intent.

I agree with you, Sal, in regards to Tea For One - that song needs something else to lift it up a bit. I enjoy Candy Store Rock more than you but I get where you're coming from.

As much as I love Achilles, I think my favorite track is For Your Life, which just oozes the heaviness/thunder/coolness that only this band can produce. It also could be my favorite performance of the '07 reunion show.

Great post, thanks!


cmealha said...

I loved Presence. It was so raw and funky ("Royal Orleans", "Hots..."). Some of their best tracks. I vividly recall the first time I heard the opening riff to "Tea for One" and Bonzo came in. I was so excited, anticipating what was to come. I'll never forget the disappointment when it settled into the blues number it is. As a blues number, I really enjoyed it but it always suffered from failing to deliver on the early promise.

Bombshelter Slim said...

I had lost interest in Zep after IV/Zoso (in fact, didn't hear Houses of the Holy until '83 or so) but picked up Presence when it came out because I liked the cover (!) It remains my very favourite LZ album (with the exception of about half of II) for quite a few reasons: some of Page's best guitar work, Bonzo to the front, etc. etc...

itsok2beright said...

This albums works on so many levels. Anyone putting this on a 'worst albums' list is doing it, as you say, for click-bait, or they are your typical Zep-hater who is looking for a reason to trash them.

Just the other day, I picked up my guitar and starting playing Achilles Last Stand. The fade in on that song! What a way to open an album.

In total agreement with Anonymous Randy. For Your Life is my favorite. Seeing them play it in 'Celebration Day' made the movie for me.

The different sounds on the album also adds to its greatness. Nobody's Fault But Mine is a perfect example. The sound of that phase shifted opening lets you know this is going to be big. Follow that into the off-timing beats of Bonham's drums, then the harmonica solo. Come On!! You can't beat that. Yes as said, Tea For One needs some shredding at the end, that just slowly fades out as if he never stopped playing.

Though, for some reason, Hots on For Nowhere reminds me of Ziggy, but that's a story for another day ... or blog.

Now, factor in that this album followed their masterpiece, and sounds nothing like it and is still amazing. Think of how many bands who have tried to make copies of their own work. Not here. They made a slight turn with this album and it became its own masterpiece.

G said...

I just listened to Draw The Line for the first time BECAUSE of this post, having never bothered before today BECAUSE of the decades of bad reviews (see how words can hurt!?!)... I am shocked that this record has gotten such a thumbs down over the years. I think it's great! Not their best, but hey, they can't ALL be the best. They had already set the bar pretty high for themselves at this point. This one is like a distillation of their reputation at the time--sounds like DRUGS. If I had only heard about them before listening to this, this is what I would expect them to sound like. And I have always loved that Hirschfeld cover too.

Who else remembers the Draw The Line TV commercial?


Anonymous said...

Non-Zep fan weighing in here, but I'm surprised I don't recognize a single song title on this album. Were any of the songs played on rock radio of the day? I'll give the album a listen just because of that.

G, I had the same experience with Goats Head Soup. The reputation was so bad that I never bothered. I listened to it last year for the first time and enjoyed it quite a bit. You never know.


hpunch said...

I'm with you. I am a great admirer of Presence. Do you think the writer meant In Through The Out Door?

Sal Nunziato said...

The band, notorious for not releasing singles, left Atlantic to take care of that end, and they unfortunately released "Candy Store Rock." But, "Hots On For Nowhere," "Nobody's Fault But Mine" and the single's b-side "Royal Orleans" were all played regularly on NY's WNEW-FM.

I vaguely remember the "Draw The Line" commercial. A more vivid memory is a bunch of us in Sheepshead Bay wondering why the album sounded so bad. Some great material there, that has actually aged well, to my ears, but as you said, it really does sound like drugs. I am pretty sure one of the various bands with rotating members that I was a part of covered "Kings & Queens." So we didnt hate it then, and I know I don't hate it now.

Sal Nunziato said...

"Do you think the writer meant In Through The Out Door?"

No hpunch, he got the back story right. He just can't hear the music while reading someone else's notes.

itsok2beright said...

Add me to the short list of fans that actually likes Draw The Line. It's not full of killer, timeless hits, but many have their worth.

Draw The Line and Kings and Queens are classic hit's still. Perry singing lead on Bright Light Fright, not the best, but definitely worth listening to. Most of the rest are reasonably good B-Sides, but not bad songs.

Considering the garbage that came after this album, especially the 'copy-and-paste' sounds from Permanent Vacation on, this was the last of the 'old' Aerosmith.

buzzbabyjesus said...

I liked "Presence" when it came out, and still do. I think it sounds like disc three of "Physical Graffiti".

Anonymous said...

Presence: 6 out of 7 cuts, brilliant….massive record….Draw the Line: ratbag sonics, strange panning, Radio Shack mixing board…massive record….that person is an idiot.

Bulletins From Mars Hill said...

This was made with UK Punk on the horizon. Led Zeppelin were supposed to be old and in the way by this stage, but only the Pistols matched their energy. And their lead singer wasn't in a wheelchair. This was the first current Zeppelin album I bought and it wasn't a disappointment then or now! In Through The Out Door, now that's a different matter!

Noam Sane said...

I love the cover. I want my own Object.

I'm well into the new-ish Zep bio by Bob Spitz. Grant and Page could never get a cover done on time; every album's release date gets pushed back time after time, waiting for Hipgnosis to get some exotic touch finished. You'd think at some point they'd learn to start the process a bit earlier.

But yeah, great record, loved it from the jump. According to Spitz it was created from whole cloth, very little stuff was brought in as demos. It feels like it was conjured, as opposed to produced. And it's overall quite dark.

F'rinstance "Hots On" has that carefree "la la" chorus but the lyrics oppose:

Now I've got friends who will give me their shoulder
When I should happen to fall
The timing is right growin' older
I've got friends who will give me fuck all.

That's Percy dissing his drug-addled bandmates (and management) great as the record is, overall it strikes me the sound of a band falling apart.

Jim G said...

I like Presence and like Draw The Line better than Aerosmith's first. I also like Done With Mirrors better than Aerosmith's first, surely a minority opinion but I don't care. I find a lot of writing on music, espec classic rock, to be lazy and riddled with mistakes at times, because a lot of it is written by young people who never heard it when it came out and are too lazy or overworked/underpaid to listen now because they are listening to "fill in the blank with your average overhyped current band with less tunes than on Draw The Line". Hence the lazy review of Presence which set you off, Sal.

Jobe said...

Well I'm not going to subscribe to some hack's opinion on what he perceives to be junk, so there is that. But I do love Zep. However the same thought about "Tea For One" "Has a promising opening riff but then becomes pure dirge"(to me) Heart did the riff better with Barracuda. "For Your Life" has all the ingredients of what I love about Zep. Royal Orleans is pure filler. "Nobody's Fault But Mine" again contains all the ingredients. Candy Store Rock, filler. I do like "Hots On For Nowhere" I guess I'm kinda out of the majority there. And your sentiments about "Tea For One" are spot on. In all I like this record better than "Houses Of The Holy" But there are some great things on "In Through The Out Door" ""In The Evening, All Of My Love, and I'm Gonna Crawl." Ever notice how the "I'm Gonna Crawl" intro is the same as Elvis Presley's "Where Do You Come From?" One more thing I agree with you completely about "Rocks" just the right amount of drug taking for Steven and the boys.

Jobe said...

Oh shit I just realized that I should have added to my thoughts about "Tea For One" that "Achilles Last Stand" promising opening riff blah blah blah was what I was talking about. Note to self proofread.