Classic Rock Review

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Led Zeppelin In Through The Out Door (1979)

cover_5639181182009From amazon.com

Review During a time when record labels thought it would be prudent to cash in on the punk phenomenon of the late 1970s and almost went under in the process, this album brought kids into record stores and saved the industry. That said, the album is not viewed favorably amongst the buying public because it lacks a “How Many More Times”-esque head-banger.

Jimmy Page, reeling in the depths of addiction, is not as prominent on “In Through The Out Door”. John Paul Jones, on the other hand, is all over the place, be it on piano or synthesizer, and has 6 writing credits on the album. “In the Evening” is a fine opener (although Robert Plant does sound like he guzzled a bottle of Liquid Plummer) and a song which benefits mightily from Jones’ contributions. “Fool In The Rain” and “All My Love”, the two most played songs off the album on FM radio, are excellent examples of the skills of all four members. Page and John Bonham, in particular, are outstanding on “Fool”, creating a sophisticated, layered sound which does not rely on million-mile-an-hour guitar leads and over-the-top drum bombast.

The 10 minute “Carouselambra” continues the fine tradition of Zeppelin epics (“Kashmir”, “Achilles’ Last Stand”) with some excellent keyboard and bass work from Jones and understated yet tasty double-neck guitar and guitar-synth work from Page. Plants lyrics are indecipherable, however, without a lyric sheet. But he is crystal clear on “I’m Gonna Crawl”. Page belts out one of his pristine blues solos here, easily the best lead on the album, while Jones has a synth-orchestra opening the track.

That leaves two other songs: “South Bound Saurez” and “Hot Dog” are the true definition of filler. Page does not sound at all sober in his “Hot Dog” lead, stumbling through pentatonic scales and sounding as if his right hand is permanently attached to the B-string bender on his Telecaster because he uses it so much. “South Bound” is one of the songs which you can listen to on the radio if nothing else is on. It is not the quality of “Fool In the Rain”.

Overall, this album is good but confusing. It does have sparkling musicianship but some filler material as well. The production is not up to Page standards, either; given his health cicra 1978-79, it is not all surprising. But what is strong is very strong indeed. “Carouselambra” alone is worth the price of the album. It is also an interesting experience to listen to Zeppelin as they musically evolved over the course of a decade. “In Through The Out Door” is an album a true Led Zeppelin fan cannot be without.

Review This is Led Zeppelin’s most maligned album, most of said malign coming from ultra-orthodox rock fans who can’t stand musical diversity. Because unlike their previous, guitar-riff based albums this one features John Paul Jones on keyboards in the lead role, with Jimmy Page playing along beside him instead of in front of him (for once).

Since Page was pretty whacked out on heroin during the making, his guitar playing skills do leave something lacking especially compared to his best work on songs like Achilles Last Stand or Black Dog.
However, the use of keyboards on the songs gives them a very different and unique feel.

In The Evening: A song with a standard rock sound and standard blues lyrics, the huge, slamming riff makes a great opener. Too bad you can’t understand any of the lyrics except ‘oh oh I need your love’.

South Bound Saurez (sic): An interesting little piece featuring Jones’ piano, but not an especially classic piece. You can’t understand any of the lyrics, though.

Fool in the Rain: A mellow, happy little riff about a slightly less happy subject; a guy waiting for his date and imagining he’s been stood up, when actually he’s waiting in the wrong place (whoops). Very enjoyable and spiced up by the fast little jam section in the middle.

Hot Dog: weirdness. A mock-country song that demonstrates their sense of humour if not much else.

Carouselambra: Whoa, they really opened the floodgates now. The first part contains keyboards, drums, bass and vocals but no guitar. The second bit has Page plucking out fuzzy little arpeggios while Robert Plant occasionally belts out something, and then it returns to a full synthesized speed-fest. You can’t understand any of the lyrics (starting to notice a pattern?) which is a shame because they can almost compete with Bob Dylan in terms of inscrutable mysticism. Great, underrated song.

All My Love: Another synth-heavy one. It’s the most sincere song on the album, dedicated to Robert Plant’s son (not daughter as a lot of people think for some reason) who died in ’77. Nice melody and cool solo.

I’m Gonna Crawl: A cool bluesy ending to the album, it might seem a bit repetative at first until they start to mix things up.

All in all…well, if you’re a really over-the-top fan like me you’d buy it even if it was crap. It isn’t. It’s as good as any of their other albums, just very different, and musical diversity is what made the band so great. So head out to your closest locally-owned, non-chain music store and get this album!

January 25, 2014 Posted by | Led Zeppelin In Through The Out Door | | Leave a comment

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.

May 15, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin In Through The Out Door | | Leave a comment

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.

March 4, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin In Through The Out Door | | Leave a comment