Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Led Zeppelin 10: Coda

While Page and Plant had already moved on with their own solo careers after Zeppelin ended, they still tried to give their old band proper closure. Coda was really an afterthought, a kind of “this is all we’ve got”, and while that’s not a completely correct statement, it’s fitting.
“We’re Gonna Groove” is a funky rave-up from a live performance, with the crowd mixed out. Plant’s vocals are buried beneath guitars and contemporary overdubs. “Poor Tom” is an acoustic-based experiment that would have worked as a B-side if they put out singles. “I Can’t Quit You Baby” is a burning live version that whets one’s appetite for more live stuff. “Walter’s Walk” is a pile of sludge from the Houses Of The Holy sessions, notable for sharing the riff used at the start of “Tea For One”.
Side two has much stronger material, with three tracks from the tail end of the In Through The Out Door sessions that were nearly issued as an EP while the band was still intact. “Ozone Baby” has a multilayered riff and an infectious lyric. “Darlene” is driven by the piano in two parts, the second being a boogie not unlike the doo-wop half of “The Ocean”. Included as a tribute to Bonham, “Bonzo’s Montreux” is a detour of a drum solo “treated” by Page with harmonizers and melodic effects that make it sound like steel drums singing “Whole Lotta Love”. “Wearing And Tearing” was the key tune from these final sessions, considered near-punk by the band. What it lacks in style it makes up in attitude. This is speed metal at its zaniest, with Plant screaming for “medication” over a fantastic production. It ends the project on a high note.
On the face of it, Coda should only be procured after all the others, but not ignored completely. It was a commercial success, if hardly satisfying at 33 minutes. Future CD reissues merely replicated the eight-song sequence, but for 1993’s Complete Studio Recordings box set, the Coda disc included four of the rare tracks from the other two box sets, which certainly added to both its total playing time and the overall listening experience. Still, it left the fan hungry for more of the studio tracks that had discreetly trickled out over the years.
Page kept the mystique in place for a long time, until finally expanding each of the studio albums in brisk order, reissuing all nine studio albums in the space of fourteen months. Coda was given the most love of all, adding over an hour’s worth (on not one but two companion discs) of alternate mixes and especially outtakes that were blatantly missing from the Deluxe Editions of the albums on which they were most expected. Highlights include “Sugar Mama”, a raveup from the first album sessions, re-recordings of “Four Sticks” and “Friends” with native Bombay instrumentation, an early take of “When The Levee Breaks” with the arrangement in place but months before they found the right stairwell for the drums, the funky Zeppelin III outtake “St. Tristan’s Sword”, an equally funky rough mix of “The Wanton Song”, and another variation on “Everybody Makes It Through”, a.k.a. “In The Light”. (The rare tracks from the box sets appeared here, rightfully, save the one that was also left off the BBC collection, to much teeth-gnashing around these parts.)

Led Zeppelin Coda (1982)—3
2015 Deluxe Edition: same as 1982, plus 15 extra tracks

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