vrijdag 22 januari 2016

Coda. Led Zeppelin

This January it is two years ago that I, at the time unwittingly, started a reassessment of all Led Zeppelin's studio albums. It all started with Erwin Zijleman, who reviewed 'Houses Of The Holy' and me thinking why not match that?, having always liked that album a lot. That summer the band started to re-release its oeuvre and the rest is history.

With Coda I'm exactly there, with the album Led Zeppelin released after its demise in 1980. By then I was totally turned off the band. How far is shown in the fact that I only had one LP of Led Zeppelin, 'In ThroughThe Out Door', and never bought one of the mid price re-issues of the 1980s. The hitsingles had become a faint memory from my early youth, the albums not in my possession until the mid 1990s, on cd.

Coda was never a part of that, so I'm listening without prejudice. Except for the fact that Led Zeppelin surprised me. Not as in even more, no as in truly surprised. Most albums were so much better than I remembered. The one that I did not like, 'Physical Graffiti', remained just there. I think it's their worst album.

'Coda' is a bunch of leftovers and alternative versions. Is everything the band played touched by gold? Even those bits that were discarded? Time to find out.

It's John Bonham who gets to kick off Coda. The pace of 'We're Gonna Groove' is as fast as the title suggests. Some study learns that it is a live recording with some overdubs added from January 1970. The song was never used on record before. Why is a good question, as it would have fit well with  'II'. Again John Bonham picks up in the more folky 'Poor Tom', a left over from 'III'. Acoustic guitars are dominant here as started to show through by that time, circa one and a half year into the band's recording career. The third face of Led Zeppelin, English folk started to show through. They would do this a lot better over time. 'Poor Tom' does show how well folk fitted the band.

Face two, electric blues, comes up next. In a blistering live rendition of 'I Can't Quit You Baby' Led Zeppelin shows what a fantastic blues band it is. Plant wails, Plant rants, raves and wails, Jones and Bonham kick up a storm and hold back in all the right places. And there's Jimmy Page to top that all off. 'Walter's Walk' sounds like a demo, a song never truly recorded and left by the studio wayside. It is one of those pleasant Led Zeppelin rockers. With a load of Page all over the place and Bonham's 'Animal' kind of drumming. Wild, loud and explosive.

Side 2 of the original album is taken in by 'In Through The Out Door' outtakes. Now the album had more than surprised me. I found it exceptionally good and certainly to what I had expected; not much. I'm leaving out a John Bonham drum solo. Why would anyone ever want to put a drumsolo on a studio album? Sometimes it is fun to be at, as an experience, but that is all.

'Ozone Baby' is a bit of a lightweight rocker, with something of a psychedelic guitar solo/intermezzo. The second solo is more solid. It starts somewhat hesitantly, but soon after Page makes the roof come off. I notice that I like the tightness of the song. Here's a band rocking out, leaving out all that is not necessary to have a good rock song.

'Darlene' goes back to the rock and roll of Chuck Berry with a total Led Zeppelin make over. The stop-start rhythm is there. John Paul Jones comes up with a fun piano solo. Rock and roll and Led Zeppelin. Again a song that showed that the band had enough left to explore when it came to its fateful end. 'Darlene' is not the best the band ever did, but shows how good it is, including the influences that are let in in abundance here. From a Led Zeppelin song, the band starts playing and does a tour of rock and roll's history. The fun only gets bigger.

'Wearing and Tearing' was the end of the band's career until cds and re-releases became the standard, respectively in vogue. The song sounds unfinished. It could have used another take (or more). Having said that, 'Wearing and Tearing' again shows how fruitful the 'In Through The Out Door' sessions were. What happens here sounds truly inspired. Very much up tempo. Very much rock and roll. An answer to the punkrockers making fun of this old dinosaur band. I'm pretty certain of it that that is the case. And where are they now?

The conclusion has to be that also Coda surprises me. It holds a few songs that would have deserved to be on the original records that they did not make it to. What a band!

The circle is round. You can find a review of all studio albums of Led Zeppelin on this blog. No other band of old matches that. A small search finds you there. I am tempted to come up with a short best of top 10 after this. That would make it a nice ending. Keep watching.


You can listen to 'Sugar Mama (mix)' here:


or buy on Bol.com

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