In retrospect, Zep’s final collection of studio recordings provides an intriguing addendum
To be sure, any Led Zeppelin album slated for posthumous release would have faced special scrutiny no matter what its contents contained.
After all, their final official effort, In Through The Out Door — their last album recorded prior to the death of drummer John Bonham and a subsequent decision to disband — marked their most sophisticated work to date, setting a standard that would seem to elevate their creatuve intents to new heights.
Consequently, to relegate their swan song to a collection consisting entirely of outtakes seemingly stood little chance of rising to the same standard. Although the songs seemed to be worthy examples of the band’s power and proficiency, taken in tandem its difficult to avoid the fact it was ultimately a hodgepodge cobbled together for the simple purpose of tying together some loose ends.
It was even branded as such upon its release on November 19, 1982. But in retrospect and given a fresh listen after 40 years, it sounds surprisingly cohesive, a set of songs that bears the same drive and dynamic of their seminal outings. There are certain sound similarities to Presence and Houses of the Holy as well, given the loose approach taken on certain songs. For example, “Darlene,” the album’s best track overall, vaguely recalls the rockabilly sound Robert Plant would indulge in later with his band the Honeydrippers, while “Bonzo’s Montreux,” on hte other hand, is little more than “Moby Dick” redux, albeit with the addition of some electronic effects overdubbed by Jimmy Page.
Mostly though, the material falls well within the Zeppelin wheelhouse. “We’re Gonna Groove” is all its title suggests, a remake of a Ben E. King number given some straightforward bluster and bombast. “Wearing and Tearing” was intended for In Through the Out Door, but pulled for lack of space. It was just as well, given the fact that it stands better alone as a decidedly explosive example of the band’s at their most driving and demonstrative. It was briefly considered for release as a stand-alone single to commemorate the band’s 1979 Knebworth performance, and as proof that Zep were determined to hold their own even in the face of punk’s growing ascendance. “Ozone Baby” and “Darlene” were also recorded for In Through the Out Door, and of the three outtakes, the former, with its start-stop rhythm, would have made the best fit.
Still, the best examples of classic Zeppelin were found on side one. “Poor Tom” is remastered rehearsal of a song intended for Led Zeppelin III, a swampy acoustic blues that might have been best repurposed for Led Zeppelin IV. An edited version of “I Can’t Quit You Baby” shares another rehearsal take from 1970 prior to a performance at the Royal Albert Hall, and once again finds the band providing their trademark blend of fire and finesse.
AUDIO: Led Zeppelin “Walter’s Walk (Rough Mix)”
Side one reached its conclusion with the determined rocker “Walter’s Walk,” a loose jam recorded for Houses of the Holy, and a potentially good fit at that given the track’s fluid groove.
There would be further Zeppelin offerings after the fact — box sets, remasters, compendiums and greatest hits, live albums, and even an expanded edition of Coda that tripled its original content. All proved essential as far as completists were concerned.
Still, Coda ought to be considered the conclusive finale to the band’s regal run of recordings.