Classic Rock Review

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Led Zeppelin In Through The Out Door (1979)

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

I suppose if you’re not going to go out with a bang, then you’d might as well go out confusing the hell out of everybody. This was the final Led Zeppelin album released while all the members were still alive (John Bonham would die the following year), and this is one freaky beast. Legend has it, these guys had so many problems that they were hardly able to function as proper human beings much less coherent musicians. The only member of the band who was straight enough to write new songs was John Paul Jones.

Jones was also apparently aware of his surroundings enough to realize that the music the kids were listening to in 1979 was disco and new wave. So, lo and behold, In Through the Out Door is very much a keyboards driven album! Except, the keyboards are very weak in the mix and thus sound terribly amateurish. I certainly can’t blame them for not letting the keyboards dominate everything since Led Zeppelin had the great Jimmy Page among their ranks, and nobody would dare drown him out. Except Page spent most of the album puttering about in the background not seeming to give much of a damn about what he’s playing. And all I can say about the nearly dead drummer Bonham was that he kept good time; if you’re expecting him to throw out any inventive fills in the mix, then you’re going to be sorely disappointed.

I think nearly everyone can agree that Led Zeppelin were reduced mere shells of their former, glorious selves at this point, even compared to Presence, and yet this album entertains the hell out of me. I was starting to worry that the entertainment value of this album was unintentional, but I listen to a song like “Hot Dog,” and I realize that at least they had control of their faculties enough to goof on Elvis. Plant warbles around amusingly in that Elvis Presley way (as opposed to the Robert Plant way), and that generic country-rock hoedown groove they generate is so much fun that it makes me want to get up out of my chair and goof around with them.

I can’t be sure what was possessing them to do it, but they wrote a 10-minute song devoted mostly to a disco groove, and they dubbed it “Carouselambra.” It’s such a strange song. Plant wails over it just as though he were (poorly) singing a regular Led Zeppelin song, and Page can barely be heard making deeply pitched growling noises with his guitar in the background. It’s such an odd thing, but I somehow find it rather infectious and at least Jones’ bass is danceable! Unfortunately the middle portion of that song is devoted to a very long and very sluggish bit of heavy blues that has absolutely no personality. When they get to that portion of the song, 10 minutes starts to seem like 20 minutes.

The lengthy reggae bit in the middle “Fool in the Rain” is nearly unlistenable, and the vaguely poppish “All My Love” is so awkwardly played that they sound like a mediocre high school band warming up. “South Bound Suarez,” on the other hand, utilizes such a strange keyboard texture that I can’t help but to sit up and take notice of it. Heck, perhaps I even like it! The opening song, “In the Evening” certainly didn’t need to be seven minutes long, but I find that dumb keyboard-centric riff to be quite catchy, and it’s complimented well with some heavily mixed and simple drumming.

A lot of people really like the closing song “I’m Gonna Crawl,” and I have no trouble believing that whatsoever. The main attraction there, surprisingly enough, is Plant who actually vomits in his microphone in a convincingly emotional manner. I don’t find the melody or groove engaging whatsoever, and in fact I get bored of it after only a short time, but Plant somehow manages to keep it together. Even a functional Page comes in here and there with a few interesting licks.

Led Zeppelin in In Through the Out Door were half-disintegrated, and I wouldn’t recommend this album to anybody. However, if you’ve purchased it by accident, then you might be surprised to find some entertainment value in this strange, strange album. To say the least, it was a head-scratching way for this band to go out.

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May 15, 2013 - Posted by | Led Zeppelin In Through The Out Door |

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