Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Led Zeppelin Coda (1982)


Either Jimmy was out of money or nostalgia was grabbing him by the throat, but truth is: it’s hard to imagine an album that could shatter Led Zeppelin’s reputation more than Coda. What’s interesting is that a large number of these outtakes date from a relatively early period in the band’s career, before their slump into the vulgarized power metal style. And yet, most of these songs are totally, unlimitedly, un-com-pro-mi-sing-ly unlistenable, at least for me. Lovers of generic heavy metal will dig it, but not me.

There are exactly three songs on here that I would rank as ‘trying to approach ‘decent”. The cover of B. B. King’s ‘We’re Gonna Groove’ ranks along with their more moderate Graffiti product like ‘Custard Pie’: fast but not melody-less, and bluesy which is a bonus. While one might get tired of the overall bluesy style of their first albums, on PG and Presence I simply can’t wait to hear a blues like ‘Tea For One’ or ‘In My Time Of Dying’ because it always elevates the playing. This one’s good, too, but an incredibly deceptive beginning for an album.

Then there’s a strange countryish ditty called ‘Poor Tom’ which, although credited to Page – Plant, is an obvious rip-off from some obscure ‘classic’ song; what it does painfully remind me of is the Stones’ cover of ‘Prodigal Son’, only augmented by a full-blown rhythm section. The mix is bad (BTW, the mix is mostly bad throughout the album), but if you’re diligent enough you just might like it. At least, in this context it’s OK.

It’s easily understandable, too, why it never could fit into any of the ‘regular’ albums: while there is indeed a ‘minor’ atmosphere on the song, it’s nowhere near as overblown as some of their acoustic balladeering (‘Thank You’, for instance), and it’s nowhere near as gloomy as some of their other acoustic balladeering (‘Gallows Pole’, anyone?). This is why I find it particularly delicious.

Finally, the third track that is somewhat interesting to me is the instrumental ‘Bonzo’s Montreux’, a mostly drum-driven boogie that could be called an extended drum solo, but in reality it isn’t: it’s just Bonzo banging away a complicated rhythm track on a battery of doomed drums. Or, well, maybe it is a drum solo, but in that case I always loved drum solos that are rhythmic and constitute a real solid groove (like Ron Bushy’s solo on ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida’), and this one’s one of the best in the genre.

It sounds absolutely mind-blowing, what with all the force he puts into his blows (the coda is especially shattering), and it’s probably the best requiem they could put on record for him. One complaint, though: why couldn’t they record a track like this instead of the stupid drum solo on ‘Moby Dick’?

This is, however, where the scarce praisings end and the garbage dissection comes in. For me, it was hard to imagine anything worse than the songs they put on Presence; boy, was I ever mistaken. In fact, ‘Wearing And Tearing’ is a worthy candidate for Worst Song in my more than 500-CD catalogue. ‘Ya know, ya know, ya know, ya know…’ Ya know what? If I heard a song like this played by KISS or Poison or Cinderella or Twisted Sister, I’d probably just turn off the radio/TV and walk away without much afterthought.

But hearing this lifeless, gross, profanized piece of noise-making played by Led Zeppelin, a band which I like and generally respect in spite of all the critique on this site, it’s really a pain in my heart. Actually, it’s not even heavy metal, it sounds more like very poorly executed hardcore punk – and that’s not even music.

Of course, none of the other songs can hope to be as bad as that (I ditched the rating one special point for that horror), but that’s small consolation. ‘Ozone Baby’ is a ridiculous fast-tempo ballad with strong punk connotations (bad punk connotations) again, and ‘Darlene’ looks like a Houses Of The Holy outtake cuz it sounds as most everything on that album: in a different style from their usual one. They attempt to record something like ‘heavy dance music’ on that one, but they fail because these two things don’t fit in properly, not to mention that Plant sounds especially self-parodic.

Sometimes it seems to me (don’t laugh) he’s trying to pull a Captain Beefheart, with similar hoarse vocalization; but it takes a lot of brawn to match the vocal skills of Mr Van Vliet. The hookless rocker ‘Walter’s Walk’ is just as forgettable (it reminds me of all those weak cock-rock numbers on Physical Graffiti), and the live rendition of ‘I Can’t Quit You Baby’ (why that one?? why not ‘Stairway To Heaven’ at least?) has long since been superated by the better versions on the BBC Sessions.

In all, my reaction is a total yuck. I understand that in 1982, when the album was released, it was certainly acceptable when judged by any lesser bands standards. But in retrospect it almost looks like a dead dog’s droppings: if you played me ‘Wearing And Tearing’ without my knowing the author, I’d never even suggest Led Zeppelin; I like the band too much for even being able to suggest such an atrocious thing.

Why Jimmy allowed the band’s reputation to be flopped and flapped around in such a miserable way is beyond me, and I’m pretty sure they still have loads of better material in the vaults. Or maybe I’m wrong? Maybe speaking of ‘loads of better material’ is more like prattling about goblin gold? Well, anyway, like I said: better dream of goblin gold than sniff a dead dog’s droppings.


March 9, 2013 - Posted by | Led Zeppelin Coda |

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