Led Zeppelin’s ‘Presence’ at 45: Every Song Covered
Even though Led Zeppelin’s 1976 album Presence isn't considered to be the classic Led Zeppelin II or IV or Physical Graffiti are, and it wasn’t as big of a seller as those records, the album has some very fine moments. It also maintains a base of fans that vouches for its strengths, its pleasures and, above all, its killer tunes.
Some of those fans have bands of their own, and there's ample documentation of the moments in which they plug in their instruments, turn up their amplifiers and make their Presence known.
We’ve filtered through a lot of them and present to you below each of the album’s seven songs, performed by those who perhaps love them best – enough to take them to the stage or the studio and play them for their pleasure and for ours.
"Achilles Last Stand" (Temple of the Dog)
The grunge supergroup (minus singer Eddie Vedder) embarked on a seven-show tour in 2016 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its only album, the classic self-titled debut. Their two-plus-hour set contained a number of covers, including the leadoff track from Presence, “Achilles Last Stand.” It’s a bittersweet thing to see Chris Cornell front and center in this clip – great to see him doing Robert Plant proud but sad to be reminded he no longer walks among us.
"For Your Life" (People’s Front of Zeppelin)
Who knows how this stuff happens? This self-described “internet-based Led Zeppelin tribute band” features a bass player who lives in Brooklyn, a drummer from Chicago and a guitarist from Croatia. They post Zep covers and tutorials and at one time had a “Gallery of the Brave” section of their Facebook page dedicated to those who posted videos of themselves singing along with PFoZ tracks. Their version of “For Your Life” features a guitar solo from Emerson Swinford, who serves as one of Rod Stewart’s touring guitarists.
"Royal Orleans" (The Secret Team)
This appears to be one of many projects that keeps Canadian producer/studio owner/conspiracy-theory podcaster Len Osanic busy. He plays guitar in the band, behind singer Susan Kovacs, and they have a bunch of Zeppelin covers up on YouTube. This run through “Royal Orleans” is not awful – the band is tight, drummer Rick Fedyk has his Bonham-isms down cold and Kovacs, while not as menacing as Plant, acquits herself well.
"Nobody's Fault but Mine" (Jimmy Page and the Black Crowes)
Some might quibble that it’s cheating to put Jimmy Page in a list of Zeppelin cover songs. Those people would be wrong. The awesome shows Page and the Black Crowes did together in 1999 are the epitome of cover-band cool, largely because Chris Robinson and band were just as great a tribute act as one might’ve thought they’d be; having Page solo over top of them was icing on the cake. They have their collective mojo workin’ on this stop-time blues. Watch, listen and be reminded of how terrific this was.
"Candy Store Rock" (Glen Sobel, Tony Franklin, Tracii Guns, Michael Devin)
This was part of a drummer showcase called Bonzo Bash at the 2015 National Association of Music Merchants trade show. Glen Sobel (Alice Cooper) is behind the kit, while bassist Tony Franklin (the Firm, Blue Murder, Whitesnake) and guitarist Tracii Guns (L.A. Guns) provide the loud, distorted parts. The singer here is Michael Devin, who has been the bassist in Whitesnake for much of the '10s.
"Hots On for Nowhere" (Get the Led Out)
Innumerable bands that are not Led Zeppelin have worked up Zeppelin songs to play at their local watering holes, block parties, carnivals and really inappropriate funerals. Not many get to tour theaters around the country playing Zeppelin songs, but Get the Led Out do. This six-man-one-woman band (someone has to sing Sandy Denny’s part in “The Battle of Evermore”) meticulously recreates the sound of Zeppelin’s studio recordings, as can be heard on this take on Presence’s penultimate track.
"Tea for One" (Joe Bonamassa)
The slow blues that closes Presence might be the most underrated song on this underrated album. Bonamassa – a guitar hero’s guitar hero if ever there were one – wrings every ounce of pathos out of his Les Paul (the solo section in the middle of the song is great), while singer Doug Henthorn alternately testifies and looks on in awe.