Top of the Pops: Coda

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September 7, 2013 by NowhereButPop

By Andrew Doscas

After the sudden dissipation of the world biggest rock band in 1980, it seemed like an epilogue of some sort was needed, to act as a denouement final curtain to the theatrics and legacy that was Led Zeppelin.  Not only did they owe it to us the fans, but they owed it to themselves as well.  Thank God for contractual obligations, because we got just that-the final Led Zeppelin album that even though is made up of outtakes recorded at various points in the band’s lifespan serves as a suitable and satisfactory epilogue.

Named Coda, which is a musical reprise following the main body of an arrangement and serving as its end, the album couldn’t be titled more appropriately…unless of course it was titled Contractual Obligation with Atlantic Records.  While not a cohesive album, it is even split up between its two sides.  Side one are songs recorded prior to 1975’s Physical Graffiti and side two is composed of outtakes from 1979’s In Through the Out Door.  The fact that side two is almost exclusively dedicated to In Through the Out Door material is because the vast majority of their earlier outtakes were put onto Physical Graffiti, hence it being a double album.

The album kicks off with a cover of “We’re Gonna Groove”, the best song on the album, as it is most reminiscent of the Led Zeppelin we all know and love: vibrant, exciting, loud, dynamic, and bluesy.  Originally meant for Led Zeppelin II, it was left off due to time constraints; fortunately it makes its appearance on Coda and reaffirms that first and foremost they will always be a blues rock band (In Through the Our Door on the contrary).  “Poor Tom”, excluded from Led Zeppelin III because quite frankly they recorded better songs for the album (“Hats off to Roy Harper notwithstanding) follows “We’re Gonna Groove”.  Like the previous track which sums up their hard rocking days, “Poor Tom” reminds us of their folk influences and their soft acoustic sound which stands in direct contrast to the hard and heavy Led Zeppelin of stereotype.

Now, an album made up exclusively of songs not good enough to make the cut when they were recorded, and released out of necessity is bound to have a few fillers; this is to be expected.  Why they put a live version of “I Can’t Quit You Baby” instead of the oft underrated “Hey, Hey What Can I Do” is beyond be.  We already have “I Can’t Quit You Baby” on Led Zeppelin I, and to be honest, it’s not even one of their better ballads.  Following this live version, is “Walter’s Walk” which sonically doesn’t fit together, because it sounds like it was originally written sometime between Led Zeppelin IV and Houses of the Holy, but then re-recorded in 1979.  The more you listen to it, the more you can’t help but wonder if this song somehow served as the precursor to “Royal Orleans” off of 1976’s Presence.

Side two starts off with “Ozone Baby” which sounds like In Through the Out Door Led Zeppelin trying to be Presence Led Zeppelin.  Although left off, it would have fit in nicely with side one of In Through the Out Door as it is stylistically similar to “In the Evening”.  If “Ozone Baby” and “Darlene” had been put on In Through the Out Door instead of “South Bound Saurez” and “Carouselambra”, the album would be about 1.5x better than it currently stands.  This is because the excluded tracks still have some semblance of rock music in them while the two included tracks are either completely forgettable, or absurdly puzzlingly to begin with.

The final two tracks are a drum solo called “Bonzo’s Montreux” which is better than “Moby Dick” but much more conventional and less innovative.[1]  Closing out the album is “Wearing and Tearing” served as a response to punk music to prove that Zeppelin could compete and dominate these new upstarts with their stupid haircuts and misplaced fascination with bobby pins.  Naturally this song automatically gains my approval for this.  Then again I do enjoy the “Fuck You” song as much as anyone, especially when it comes from Led Zeppelin.

Coda isn’t a masterpiece; it’s not supposed to be.  It can’t even be ranked alongside the eight original Led Zeppelin albums because it’s not a cohesive album.  It’s not really an album so to speak, but more like a walk down memory lane.  The point of Coda is to leave us wondering “What If”.  It’s impossible to say what they would have done next had Bonham not died, but at least Coda provides a proper goodbye to the world’s greatest rock band.


[1] Then again I was never one for the odd middle section of “Moby Dick” where he starts playing with his hands.

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