- With two Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sides, we guarantee you’ve never heard anything like the massive amounts of Zeppelin Rock and Roll energy that are on this copy
- Here is a pressing with the power, the dynamic contrasts, the low end whomp, as well as the in-the-room midrange presence (pun only slightly intended) you’ve been waiting for
- Featuring a stripped down, harder rock sound, Presence really benefits from the killer bottom end found on this early LP
- “Presence has more majestic epics than its predecessor, opening with the surging, ten-minute Achilles Last Stand and closing with the meandering, nearly ten-minute Tea for One.”
We just finished a massive shootout for this album and were reminded just how HARD this album rocks. Achilles Last Stand, For Your Life and Nobody’s Fault But Mine are KILLER on a Hot Stamper pressing like this one.
After cleaning and playing a pile of copies we are pleased to report that the best of them are full of The Real Zep Magic. The average LP may not be much of a thrill but our Hot Stampers sure are. If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What outstanding sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1976
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
What We’re Listening For on Presence
This copy has the kind of sound we look for in a top quality Led Zeppelin record: immediacy in the vocals (so many copies are veiled and distant); natural tonal balance (most copies are at least slightly brighter or darker than ideal; ones with the right balance are the exception, not the rule); good solid weight (so the bass sounds full and powerful); spaciousness (the best copies have wonderful studio ambience and space); and last but not least, transparency, the quality of being able to see into the studio, where there is plenty of musical information to be revealed in this sophisticated recording.
Here is a more comprehensive breakdown of what we were listening for when evaluating Presence.
Clarity and Presence
Many copies are veiled in the midrange, partly because they may have shortcomings up top, but also because they suffer from blurry, smeary mids and upper mids. Dull, dead sounding pressings can’t begin to communicate the musical values in this excellent recording.
With a real Hot Stamper the sound is totally involving. The musicians aren’t “back there” somewhere, way behind the speakers. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt — Keith Harwood in this case — would have put them. There is breath in the voices, the picking of the strings on the guitars — these things allow us to suspend our disbelief, to forget it’s a recording we’re listening to and not living, breathing musicians.
Top End Extension
- Most copies of this album have no extreme highs, which causes the guitar harmonics to be blunted and dull. Without extreme highs the percussion can’t extend up and away from the other elements. Consequently these elements end up fighting for space in the midrange and getting lost in the mix.
Although this quality is related to the above two, it’s not as important overall as the one below, but it sure is nice to have. When you can really “see” into the mix, it’s much easier to pick out each and every instrument in order to gain more insight into the way the songs were arranged and recorded.
Seeing into the mix is a way of seeing into the mind of the artist. To hear the hottest copies is to appreciate even more the talents of all the musicians and producers involved, not to mention the engineers.
This is an area where Heavy Vinyl fails more often than not. Modern remastered records are just so damn opaque. That sound drives us to distraction when it doesn’t bore us to tears.
- No Led Zeppelin record without good bass can qualify as a Hot Stamper. How could it? It’s the rhythmic foundation of the music, and who wants a Zep record that lacks rhythm?
Drums and Cymbals
The drum sound on the best copies is punchy and HUGE, with prodigious amounts of studio space swirling around Bonham’s kit. There’s real resonance to the toms, not the standard overdamped sound of a studio kit, which gives them a lively, realistic, natural quality that you rarely hear outside of Zep records.
And the cymbals crash and splash just like real cymbals do, which is yet another sound you rarely hear outside of the best Zep pressings. (The best copies of Zep IV have crashing cymbals on Black Dog and Rock and Roll like few records in the history of rock.)
Achilles Last Stand
For Your Life
Nobody’s Fault But Mine
Candy Store Rock
Hots On For Nowhere
Tea For One
All Music Guide Review
Presence scales back the size of Physical Graffiti to a single album, but it retains the grandiose scope of that double record. If anything, Presence has more majestic epics than its predecessor, opening with the surging, ten-minute “Achilles Last Stand” and closing with the meandering, nearly ten-minute “Tea for One.” In between, Led Zeppelin add the lumbering blues workout “Nobody’s Fault but Mine” and the terse, menacing “For Your Life,” which is the best song on the album.
[Presence] has become a much underrated element of their catalogue. The basic drums-bass-guitars formula may lack the diversity of previous Zeppelin sets, but in terms of sheer energy, ‘Presence’ packs a considerable punch, and has emerged as one of their most potent performances… This album is also a triumph for Jimmy Page. His production and dominant guitar style has an urgency and passion that reflects the troubled period that the group were going through at the time. ‘Presence’ is Led Zeppelin with their backs against the wall.
After a month of rehearsals, the album was recorded in just eighteen days at Musicland Studios in Munich, Germany, with Plant in a wheelchair. This was the fastest recording turnaround time achieved by the band since their debut album. The rushed recording sessions were in part a result of Led Zeppelin having booked the studio immediately prior to The Rolling Stones, who were shortly to record songs for their album Black and Blue.
Upon their arrival, the Stones were amazed that Zeppelin’s album had indeed been completed (both recorded and mixed) in a mere eighteen days. Page had simply stayed awake for two days straight to perform all of the guitar overdubs. As he later explained:
I just had to lay it down, more or less: first track… second track – you know, really fast working on that. And all the guitar overdubs on Presence were done in one night. But I didn’t think I would be able to do it in one night, I thought I’d have to do it across maybe three different nights to get the individual sections. Everything sort of crystallised and you’ll notice everything was just pouring out. I was very happy with the guitar playing on that whole album, you know as far as the maturity of playing goes.
In an interview he gave to Guitar World magazine in 1998, Page stated that he worked an average of 18 to 20 hours per day during the mixing period at Musicland Studios:
[A]fter the band finished recording all its parts, me and the engineer, Keith Harwood, just started mixing until we would fall asleep. Then whoever would wake up first would call the other and we’d go back in and continue to work until we passed out again.