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McSeven

Presence vs ITTOD

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Say you like ice cream. You may love chocolate or pistachio the most. But that doesn't mean you don't like strawberry or rum raisin or chocolate chip or butter pecan, either.

I look at Led Zeppelin albums the same way. I may have favourites but I like them all and some suit certain moods better than others. Each Zeppelin album had its own flavour. If they just delivered chocolate all the time it would have become boring and you would suffer from chocolate overload.

But Led Zeppelin delivered a rainbow of flavours and sounds. Maybe it wasn't what you wanted or expected but each album was a part of the rainbow and most Led Zeppelin fans were willing to take a chance on whatever flavour Led Zeppelin was putting out.

No band hits it out of the park with every album. Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, The Who, Doors, Black Sabbath, ZZ Top...every band has their moments where they only hit a single or double. 

But Led Zeppelin hit a higher percentage of home runs than most bands.

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Musically, Presence makes much more sense relative to their catalog if you listen only the  'new' tracks that were cut for Physical Graffiti first.  Nonetheless, if one calls ITTOD a pseudo  Robert Plant solo album, the same can be said of Presence for the Dark Lord.

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Presence is actually my favorite album. ITTOD may have more variety but Presence is Zep in raw form. It's the only album of theirs that is strictly drums, bass, guitar, and vocals. I remember the first time listening to the whole thing front to back. I knew ALS and NFBM but wasn't familiar with anything else. For Your Life blew my socks off. Immediately became one of my all time favorite tracks. The whole album is just raw and super tight. Also, the album cover is one of my favorite pieces of art as well. I know the whole thing has suck a dark vibe to it but I still love it. 

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When i compare, achilles last stand and carouselambra. I cannot say which one is better

They are 2 totally different albums, yet so interesting to compare 

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Presence, in my opinion, is more of a progressive rock album. Its not progressive in any means, but compared to most other LedZep albums, the songs in general are more prog. Compare that to ITTOD, which sounds nothing like the Zeppelin we had heard before. ITTOD sounded different for a LedZep album, with almost every song containing keyboard or piano. And it also has a few songs that have zero reminiscence of their other works (Hot Dog and South Bound Saurez). ITTOD is also full of fun, playful songs that are fast and upbeat compared to darker, moodier songs on Presence. Take Achilles Last Stand and South Bound Saurez. SBS is fast, has a short solo, and has a piano moving at 100 mph. Achilles last stand has heavy drums, a darker solo, and it starts slow.

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When I first got these two albums, I was a little disappointed with Presence and extremely disappointed with ITTOD. To me, Zeppelin was Black Dog, Stairway, Heartbreaker, Immigrant Song and the like. Plant's voice on Black Dog and the band's riffs were the most exciting thing I had ever heard in music, while the poignancy and imagery contained in songs like Stairway, Ramble On and Going to California were the other side of the coin for me. With Presence, I did not get my fill in either way with any of the songs. I did like Nobody's Fault right away and Achilles was good but too long for me. The rest of the songs were not quite as good as the ones mentioned previously, although I did kind of get stuck on For Your Life, but even that was too long. None of the solos on Presence really smacked of the Page lightning that had so captivated me in the early albums. The solos on Presence struck me as workmanlike. They were the product of a skilled, experience musician, but not the product of sheer inspired genius, which is how I thought of his solos on the early albums.

ITTOD left me astonished in a bad way. "Sha-na-na-na, Sha-na-na-na" sounded like I was watching the movie Grease. I hated SBS with a passion, especially the cheesy vocal harmonies. Page played the same B.B. Box licks that he plays when he runs out of ideas. In the Evening struck me as very good, but the rest were way too 80s-cheesy-keyboard driven for me. Plant lost his early Zeppelin voice and Page lost his early Zeppelin riffs and solos. Hot Dog created massive cognitive dissonance in my mind. My favorite band playing this stuff? Horrible.

Fast forward 30 years.

I like both albums a whole lot more. ITTOD especially. In fact, I like ITTOD more than Presence because Presence gets a little long with all the songs sounding kind of the same. The guitar tone on Presence never really changes. Still, I now really like some songs I hated, like Candy Store Rock and Royal Orleans. ITTOD has some excellent Page solos, like I'm Gonna Crawl, which is his best playing in the studio since, in my view, Houses of the Holy. The structure of that solo is genius and it conveys so much feeling. SBS is actually one that I will play over and over again now. I saw a cover band play it once and they knocked it out of the park. I thought wow, this is a great song. It's happy and fun. Hot Dog, I think it's great. Fun story, crazy solo and overall good vibe. Carouselambra, I can still take it or leave it. Fool in the Rain, awesome and again, one of Page's most inventive solos.

I give the nod to ITTOD.

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An interesting thread.  I remember seeing LZ sales, and seeing that the two worst sellers were Presence and ITTOD.  Of course, it's all personal opinion, but to me, weaker albums would be LZ3 and HOTH.  But again, just personal opinion.   But it got me to wondering, what IS it about ITTOD and Presence that made them somewhat unpalatable to the greater masses?  I went back for a listen to both.

For me Presence opens with a song that feels like it's going too fast, it never flows smooth, always feels like it's sort of struggling to keep up.  Maybe it's the drums, I can't explain it, but it just doesn't feel right.  From there, the album begins a pattern that will cover every other song except Tea For One and Candy Store Rock: songs built around a start and stop motif.  It begins to make the songs sort of indistinguishable or at least too similar.  Further, many of the songs aren't very happy sounding, nothing you would bring to a dance with your girl.  The album ends with Tea For One, which to me, is Page's finest blues guitar work probably anywhere.  The song itself is a bit too languid, Plant at times sounds like he's at a funeral, but Page's playing is extraordinary and so bluesy on this song.  

ITTOD opens with what I consider to be one of LZs finest songs.  Every time I listen to it, I come to the same conclusion.  I am also struck at how modern and airy the album sounds, although at times a little too clean and antiseptic.  I couldn't stand Hot Dog when I first heard it, I was totally anti-country music.  Listening to it now I am struck by how much fun they all seem to be having, amazing lyrics, and Plant's phrasing is stunningly good.   Carouselambra starts off almost cringeworthy with the synthesizer opening, but has some excellent guitar parts.  In reality, I feel like Carouselambra should have been maybe half as long and the album could have included Wearing and Tearing, making a very strong album.  I get the sentiment behind All My Love, but it has to be one of the least Zeppelinesque songs I can think of, I usually skip it when listening to the album.  I'm Gonna Crawl is a great way to end the album, Plant really belts out the lyrics and Page turns in a fine solo.

So I'm an odd duck here, I don't really care for either of the album's long pieces.  But to me both albums are quite strong, stronger than LZ3.  

Perhaps Presence was dogged by having to follow Physical Graffiti as well as the live album release close by.  ITTOD received the benefit of being the first new Zep material in a few years, so there was pent up demand to help sales.  

I tend to like happier albums, so for me, ITTOD wins the match.

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The problem with Presence is Plant...his vocals are flat and seemingly uninspired. I know he was singing from a wheelchair and does an ok job on ALS singing in what Lisa Robinson of Creem called his "best sail away voice", whatever that is. Royal Orleans, For Your Life, NFBM...which I still love... suffer from a lack of tunefulness and range that tends to undermine the efforts of the rest of the band. Hots On For Nowhere is his best vocal on the album and that song is much better off for it.

ITTOD is obviously a much different album instrumentally and Plant is much better even though some curious choices on the mixing lessens his vocal impact....see Carouselambra and In the Evening.

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I think that Plant has a lot of attitude on For Your Life.  Love his vocal on that number.

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I remember a scathing review (cannot remember which mag but most likely RS) on Presence where the reviewer when describing For You Life described Plant's vocal performance as something along the lines of Plant having some sort of medical condition related to his testicles. Not a good review. I have to somewhat agree as though I like FYL in general, I really do not like Plant's vocal as it sounds muddy and as if Plant was singing with a cold, almost congested. The other tunes do not sound like FYL in regard to vocals so I wonder if this was deliberate?

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Somehow I remember a reviewer's line regarding FYL....Plant "boringly moaning coital groans"....we might be talking about the same review. I thought the song was much better live at the O2 reunion....especially Plant.

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Never had a problem with Plant's vocals on anything from Presence, especially FYL, my favorite track from said album. I think I remember Plant himself said his vocals were somewhat lacking compared to maybe his own lofty standards...

I know he's definitely nailing it on ITTOD & I can definitely pick up every vocal on Carouselambra...

 

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2 hours ago, Giveroffire said:

Somehow I remember a reviewer's line regarding FYL....Plant "boringly moaning coital groans"....we might be talking about the same review. I thought the song was much better live at the O2 reunion....especially Plant.

I had a feeling it was in CREEM Magazine ....

 

No "Black Dog" [in Presence], no "Kashmir" either. Yet though Presence doesn't bombingly pockmark the landscape or scale snowy Himalayan heights—even if Jimmy Page's guitar is becoming a riff Osterizer and Robert Plant's voice is shredding at the edges and tearing in the middle—still, Zeppelin has such command of heavy-metal weaponry that even their modest efforts have scorched-earth capability. When Zeppelin doesn't launch search-and-destroy missions into your neocortex it's because they don't want to, not because they can't. This album, a quickie recorded in eighteen days, lacks the fleetness of Houses of the Holy and the architectural density of Physical Graffiti, but in its best moments still manages to rattle the windowpanes.

"Achilles' Last Stand" for example is lengthy, too lengthy, and drivingly singleminded (a detour or two would have been nice), but is rescued by Plant's parched-throat chanting which gives the track a raw thrilling lift. "For Your Life," however, features Plant at his most dreary: he boringly moans coital groans as if his vocal cords were located in his testicles; such singing should be vasectomized. "Royal Orleans" has teasing guitar licks; "Nobody's Fault but Mine" opens pretentiously but has a blasty harmonica break; "Candy Store Rock" is formula grindola, and "Tea for One" is the obligatory soul-dragging, slow-bluesy number, a recycle of "Since I've Been Loving You" from album three. The high on Presence is "Hots on for Nowhere" which is dynamically sporadic….

Contrary to myth, critics have never really hated Led Zep the way they've hated units like Chicago, ELO, or Emerson Lake & Palmer; Zeppelin was just resented, and resented simply because despite their numero uno popularity, they're fundamentally so damned uninteresting to write about. Nearly all of the mavens … have written memorably about the Stones, but I've never read any analysis of Zeppelin which made them sound more provocative than the Doobie Brothers, BTO, Bad Company, or any of those other applause-machine bands that I assiduously avoid. Now I understand why: everything Led Zeppelin does is in the grooves, there's no spillover, no sauce for us young dogs to lap up, and the fans they don't care, they adore music which is so majestically self-contained. Though I enjoy Zeppelin, it's been a while since hermetic-studio music could have an equally enthralling effect. In fact, it's been a long time been a long time been a been a lonely-lonely-lonely-lonely-time.

James Wolcott, "Same Same Old Old (Do You Care?)," inCreem (© copyright 1977 by Creem Magazine, Inc.), July, 1976, p. 65.

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25 minutes ago, the chase said:

I had a feeling it was in CREEM Magazine ....

 

No "Black Dog" [in Presence], no "Kashmir" either. Yet though Presence doesn't bombingly pockmark the landscape or scale snowy Himalayan heights—even if Jimmy Page's guitar is becoming a riff Osterizer and Robert Plant's voice is shredding at the edges and tearing in the middle—still, Zeppelin has such command of heavy-metal weaponry that even their modest efforts have scorched-earth capability. When Zeppelin doesn't launch search-and-destroy missions into your neocortex it's because they don't want to, not because they can't. This album, a quickie recorded in eighteen days, lacks the fleetness of Houses of the Holy and the architectural density of Physical Graffiti, but in its best moments still manages to rattle the windowpanes.

"Achilles' Last Stand" for example is lengthy, too lengthy, and drivingly singleminded (a detour or two would have been nice), but is rescued by Plant's parched-throat chanting which gives the track a raw thrilling lift. "For Your Life," however, features Plant at his most dreary: he boringly moans coital groans as if his vocal cords were located in his testicles; such singing should be vasectomized. "Royal Orleans" has teasing guitar licks; "Nobody's Fault but Mine" opens pretentiously but has a blasty harmonica break; "Candy Store Rock" is formula grindola, and "Tea for One" is the obligatory soul-dragging, slow-bluesy number, a recycle of "Since I've Been Loving You" from album three. The high on Presence is "Hots on for Nowhere" which is dynamically sporadic….

Contrary to myth, critics have never really hated Led Zep the way they've hated units like Chicago, ELO, or Emerson Lake & Palmer; Zeppelin was just resented, and resented simply because despite their numero uno popularity, they're fundamentally so damned uninteresting to write about. Nearly all of the mavens … have written memorably about the Stones, but I've never read any analysis of Zeppelin which made them sound more provocative than the Doobie Brothers, BTO, Bad Company, or any of those other applause-machine bands that I assiduously avoid. Now I understand why: everything Led Zeppelin does is in the grooves, there's no spillover, no sauce for us young dogs to lap up, and the fans they don't care, they adore music which is so majestically self-contained. Though I enjoy Zeppelin, it's been a while since hermetic-studio music could have an equally enthralling effect. In fact, it's been a long time been a long time been a been a lonely-lonely-lonely-lonely-time.

James Wolcott, "Same Same Old Old (Do You Care?)," inCreem (© copyright 1977 by Creem Magazine, Inc.), July, 1976, p. 65.

That's the review I was talking about, thank you kind Sir.

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24 minutes ago, the chase said:

he boringly moans coital groans as if his vocal cords were located in his testicles;

I remember this review.  This one particular bit is typical of the laziness of rock "writers".  All they heard was the line "with the lemon in your hand" and didn't bother to listen to the rest of the lyrics, which are a great antidrug message.  And in most of the track the singing is intense, in line with the lyrics.

And what in the world is this supposed to mean?  More meaningless drivel from a two bit poseur rock "critic".  If this jackass and any of the other hipster doofus "mavens" of the time had ever taken the time and effort to listen to Zeppelin they could have written very interesting things about the music.  But they did not because they could not get over themselves or the fact that Zeppelin was wildly successful in spite of their lame criticism of the band. 

26 minutes ago, the chase said:

everything Led Zeppelin does is in the grooves, there's no spillover, no sauce for us young dogs to lap up, and the fans they don't care, they adore music which is so majestically self-contained. Though I enjoy Zeppelin, it's been a while since hermetic-studio music

 

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47 minutes ago, Mr.Bones said:

That's the review I was talking about, thank you kind Sir.

you're welcome!

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32 minutes ago, the chase said:

you're welcome!

Funny story, I was eight when Presence was released and I was starting to really get into Zeppelin at the time via my older brother and a cousin. I actually went to the record store with a friend in 74' to pick up Elton John's Bennie & the Jets 45rpm so was into music at a very early age. Anyway, when Presence came out this was going to be my first full album purchase as I had saved my allowance money to buy my first album. It was a toss up between Presence & Funkadelic's Hardcore Jollies (always loved the funk) but when I got the issue of what I guess was Creem (I bought all the rock mags back then) and read that review about Robert singing from his gonads that was it, had to get Presence and listen to FYL as I had to know what the hell that would sound like.

Kids, what can I say

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Presence is the Led Zeppelin album I heard the least (when it was released in 1976), due to being 8 years old (Kiss Destroyer just released) and with Physical Graffiti being my favorite in their catalog.  I didn’t want to hear it immediately, as I didn’t want to be disappointed with it , so I put it on the back burner (by choice). With ITTOD being released three years later, a lot had changed in tastes of the general musical landscape (disco) and was a much welcomed album. It was a very different album (sonically) than expected. I was hoping for more straight ahead rock (Wearing & Tearing) with some funky interplay / riffs a la HOTH & PG, but it grew on me. “In The Evening”, “Fool In The Rain” & “I’m Gonna Crawl” are my highlights.  They’re two very different releases w/ different approaches / due to band member circumstances. Presence is more bare bones & darker while ITTOD is gift wrapped / polished with layers of keyboards (so I was initially missing the guitar based blues rock). After all these years, I’ve grown to appreciate JP’s more subtle guitar work, interplay and role given his circumstances. 
 

R😎

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I see these albums as where the perfect collaborative balance achieved in the first 5 albums was lost. From what I have read Page was pretty much the main driving force behind Presence and has complained JPJ didn't pick up the slack, then ITTOD seems to be the opposite situation with JPJ having to step in? Both albums feel like one or two members overwhelm the basic unit's harmony. For example compare JPJ's use of synth on In The Light from PG and it is perfect haunting introduction to an epic song despite it's length. But fast forward to ITTOD I find his synth solo on All My Love really unsuited to the songs emotions and straying into prog rock pompousness with out paying attention to the lyrics. Also the parping synth horn riffs on Carouselambra could have worked but in the mix they totally overwhelm Page and Plant, the careful balance of each members contribution is destroyed. Admittedly this is more due to the mix but Jones' sound choice is so strident I can't really imagine how it would have fitted even if mixed well, same riff but different sound but Jones' taste goes out the window and he blasts us with medieval horns for 10 minutes (IMO of course!).

Strangely despite people saying they don't like ITTOD as it doesn't sound like Zep for me it encapsulates the spirit of the previous albums better than Presence. Zep was always about taking chances and experimenting. They may not always work but it made the albums exciting and unexpected. ITTOD reminds me of House of the Holy, I may not love all the experiments but I would not change any of them as they are pushing themselves into new and exciting areas. People may not like Zep playing funk and reggae (on HOTH) or people may not like Zep playing synth rock or Latin rock but I respect ITTOD for this experimentation. 

I also disagree with many listeners and find the first track In The Evening to be a rather weak opener. It is like they want to reassure people this is still a Zep album. But while it has plenty of atmosphere and a killer solo, I find the chorus pretty weak and it lacks the twists and turns of the tracks it is trying to rekindle the spirit of. I think ITE feels like a Presence track, like the linking track between eras. They are experimenting with textures rather than melody or harmony. This is not a bad thing but for me the interesting sounds end up giving a fairly ordinary track a glamours sheen that makes it sound better than it is. Again just my opinion, I can understand why this maybe heresy to many! I also should say I am being hyper critical here but I still enjoy both albums. I just wanted to examine why I ultimately find each album frustrating. 

One final point is that ITTOD reminds of the way I feel about the Rolling Stones album Goats Head Soup. Both albums were made in the depths of drug addiction for a key member with one member taking up the slack (Jagger in the Stones case). Both albums are played brilliantly, put together with obvious care and show the band trying very hard to stay current and experiment. However something is missing. That magic excitement and balance is missing, some members are not firing on all cylinders. Everyone is looking at a different goal, each can see greatest but it is tantalisingly out of reach. The albusm are less than the sum of their parts. When an album is truely great you don't really notice things like problems with the mix or out of tune guitars, you are caught up in the listening experience. With GHS and ITTOD I start enjoying a track and then I am pulled out of the experience as a problem with the mix starts to bug me, or some other element I feel should have been there. 

So while I find it frustrating I think with a better mix ITTOD would have been a better album than Presence. I always sit down thinking I will enjoy Presence more than I do. But it feels one dimensional.  JPJ only has one co-writing credit for the jam of Royal Orleans and on this album we have the problem of too little JPJ rather than too much. He always was more than a bassist and his brilliant keyboard work and arranging pushed many Zep tunes from good to great. The other problem with Presence for me is that, understandably, Plant is a bit off form lyrically and melodically. The whole album is made in troubled times so it is hard to judge it too much given this, it is amazing it is as good as it is. But I find Plant doesn't do justice to the riffs on Hots On For Nowhere or Candy Store Rock. The Na Na Na refrain is rather weak and having two "filler" tracks sequenced next to each other is an mistake. It could be argued HOFN and CSR could have worked well on a double album like Presence where weaker songs can work as part of the patchwork. One or two more killer tracks on Presence would have given it more balance as a listen. Also emotionally the jump from these two light tunes into Tea For One is too much for me, it is like jumping off a cliff into the darkness of TFO. I sometimes wonder if a light and a heavy side may have worked better with Achilles, FYF, NFBM and TFO on side one and RO, CSR and HOFN (with perhaps one more song) on side two? It is quite interesting that both albums start with a multilayered guitar epic and end with a dark slow blues.

I also think if you combined some of the best tracks from both albums into one LP it would be amazing. I also think if some of the contemporary tracks from Coda had been included in ITTOD it may have been stronger although I am not sure if they were in any state of completion at the time? 

I think given the turmoil of the band we are lucky to have either album and this turmoil is the root of both the similarities and the differences between them. ITTOD has to be viewed as a response to Presence, the struggle between the members trying to transcend the problems and launch the band into a new era but maybe not being healthy enough physically and psychologically to do this. When viewed with this historical filter with an understanding of the complex circumstances a lot of the criticisms melt away for me. It is the first time we hear Zep falter and show the vulnerability of being a mortal capable of missteps. This makes the best tracks on each album amongst their most moving and human songs for me.

 

 

 

 

Edited by Babaluma
spelling error

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