One facet of my personality is that I turn back to examine closely what the crowd has passed by. In 1975 and 1976 *Led Zeppelin* released two double-album sets, the first one studio and the second one live, and both were monster hits. In March 1976, between "Physical Graffiti" and "The Song Remains The Same" they released their best album, "Presence", but hardly anyone noticed. There's no ballads here, no funny instruments like the mandolin or synthesizers, it's just Robert Plant fronting a power trio with the power turned way up. And it's heavy. This album is more Led, less Zeppelin.
The highlight here is the ten minute magnum opus Achilles' Last Stand, which is sort of like Battle of Evermore meets The Immigrant Song, but on steroids. The energy and endless variety of this epic is astonishing. It *gallops*. You've listened to Heart's 1977 track Barracuda? It's a blatant ripoff of this song.
For Your Life is a hard rocker with a start-stop riff, a song that would be at home anywhere on the first disk of "Physical Graffiti". You've heard it before, because sometimes classic rock stations actually play tunes from this gem of an LP, but they don't overplay them. And that's part of what makes Presence such a find.
Royal Orleans harkens back to the funk of Led Zep's James Brown knockoff The Crunge but this time it's done straight up, not as a joke.
You've heard Nobody's Fault But Mine, which has been interpreted to be a song either about someone who has become addicted to drugs, or someone who has sold his soul to the devil. Jimmy Page uses a great effects box or post-processing of some sort to give his guitar a multitracked, flangy sheen that sounds like it could cut concrete. But the best part is the scorching harmonica solo by Robert Plant. You've listened to Billy Squiers' Lonely Is The Night? It's a blatant ripoff of this song.
Candy Store Rock is where Led Zeppelin does rockabilly, with Plant doing his best blatant ripoff of Elvis. You almost expect him to mutter, "Thankyouverramuch" at the end.
Hots On For Nowhere is heavy but "poppy" at the same time, with a complex beat and a "Lala-la-la-la-la" chorus. Since I consider "Presence" to be Led Zeppelin's last *real* album, this represents their swan song, so to speak, of Zep as a rock band.
I say that because the final track, Tea For One, is a blues epic in the same vein as Since I've Been Loving You on their third album, only it is heavy to fit in with the sonic template of the rest of the album. Led Zeppelin actually evokes wrenching emotions here. It is a great way to close the LP and their "canonical" studio career. Three years later they delivered the soft-rock abomination we know as "In Through The Out Door". Don't make me mention "Coda".