Classic Rock Review

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Led Zeppelin In Through The Out Door (1979)

In+Through+the+Out+Door+HQ+png+imageFrom sfloman.com

The three year lapse between releases was caused in large part because Robert Plant received the call that no father should ever get: his young son Karac had died suddenly from a respiratory infection while he was away on tour. Released after Plant had taken the required time to regroup, In Through The Out Door was a significant departure from anything that had come before it. More than any other Zeppelin album this one belongs to John Paul Jones, who co-wrote all but one song here (the worst one), and whose synthesizer/piano parts are all over the place (if Presence could’ve used more keyboards for variety’s sake, this album could’ve used less).

Part of the reason for that was that Page was hooked on heroin and not as his best, so Jones stepped up to fill that void. The album begins with the eerie effects and powerful guitar swirls of “In The Evening,” the album’s best song which brings back the droning Eastern mysticism (Page breaking out his violin bow again) of past triumphs and contains a cocksure, strutting Plant vocal that confidently told the punk pretenders – who had cropped up in the band’s absence and who were supposed to render older rockers such as Led Zeppelin irrelevant – who was still boss. This fact was reinforced when not only this album went straight to #1, but when the band’s entire back catalog was simultaneously in the U.S. top 200, such was the renewed interest in Zep after the long layoff.

Anyway, “South Bound Suarez” is an upbeat piano rocker that’s highlighted by Page’s great guitar solo and some sunny “sha la la” harmonies; this song always makes me think of the album cover, another artistic triumph in itself. Continuing, the somewhat overrated “Fool In The Rain” presented more catchy piano pop while also creatively making use of the studio. I most enjoy the mid-section when Bonham’s successfully tries his hand at a samba beat, but Page’s guitar solo lacks its customary juice, and on the whole I find it to be a good song but one that’s a bit overplayed and boring.

Unfortunately, things don’t get any better on “Hot Dog,” an unsatisfyingly slight Elvis-styled ‘50s country rocker (or was this simply another unsuccessful joke?), and the 10+ minute “Carousalambra” is rather low-key compared to past multi-sectioned epics. It’s still another good song, one that’s dominated by it’s bright synthesizer melody (which hasn’t aged all that well), but it definitely doesn’t completely warrant its long running time; my favorite part is the middle of the song when it slows down and gets moodier and mellower.

“All Of My Love,” the album’s best known (and second best) song, is another keyboard dominated track, this one a pretty if somewhat schmaltzy love song that registers due to the band’s beautifully understated, almost classical playing and Plant’s heartfelt vocals (about Karac), while “I’m Gonna Crawl” closes the album with what I’d call an “ambient blues” that again features modern synthesizers most prominently.

Again, the song has a good melody and a strong Plant vocal, but like too much of the rest of album it lacks anything resembling an edge and is a bit on the boring side. Still, despite its faults the band’s poppiest album was a largely enjoyable affair, one that saw the veteran band keeping pace with the snarling young punk upstarts (dwindling by ’79) by, ironically enough, toning things down. Yet Zep’s slicker new sound was notably less powerful than on previous albums, and though the band was still very relevant they were no longer revelatory.

Ironically, John Bonham’s death by asphyxiation and Led Zeppelin’s subsequent breakup prevented the band from hanging around past their prime, leaving behind a largely untarnished musical legacy.

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March 4, 2013 - Posted by | Led Zeppelin In Through The Out Door |

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