In Through the Out Door by Led Zeppelin (1979)

23Feb11

This album gets the gears turning in my musical cortex every time I listen to it. Technically I was alive when it was released (2 years old), but it’s from another world/planet/generation of music that I am still trying to wrap my head around. Living in this current era of “Robert Plant: the country singer”, it may be easy for a young music fan to assume that their parents’ Led Zeppelin records are outdated relics for hillbillies and stoners. Truth is, albums like In Through the Out Door started absolutely everything that we know about good rock music today. The pop explosion was over, disco was played out, and hippies were no longer cool. America was looking for the modern era of rock to grow legs and form its identity, and this record from Led Zeppelin is one of the first great pieces of rock music that had the kind of sound that today’s artists are still trying to create. I know I’m probably too young to make comments like that, but my point is that this record wouldn’t be too far out of place if released in 2011, which can’t really be said about a lot of stuff from that long ago (and quite frankly, can’t be said about most of Zeppelin’s prior work either). Sadly, this was Led Zeppelin’s last studio recording together…perhaps a “here you go” gesture to the future of rock music.

There’s a ton of history behind this album, and I’m not going to act like a Led Hed and try to explain it. The Wiki page for this album does a good job of summarizing why it was viewed as a departure from the band’s earlier work. 1979 was a rough time for the band, after the death of Robert Plant’s son and right before the alcohol-related death of drummer John Bonham. Perhaps those emotions led to a lack of focus, because the songs on In Through the Out Door are all over the place. But a lot of really good art came out of that period of emotional chaos. The classic songs that you’ve heard from this record are ‘Fool in the Rain’ and ‘All of My Love’. You could write a page on each of those two songs, so I’ll just leave it at that. The rest of the tracks (this album only has 7 songs) are pretty experimental, ranging from the country hop ‘Hot Dog’ to the trippy rock banger ‘In the Evening’. I could play ‘South Bend Suarez’ for you 10 times and you’d never guess it was a Zeppelin song, even with Plant’s vocals…it’s got a ‘Great Balls of Fire’ kind of piano thing going on behind repetitive “shake it/feels so good” lyrics. ‘Carouselambra’ seems to be the “cool kid” on this album, because much of what I’ve read about this record (here, for example) mentions it as a sleeper pick for best-song-on-the-album. It’s fine and all, but at 10+ minutes I think the band was probably shooting for “experiment” and that’s what they got. ‘I’m Gonna Crawl’ is the very definition of an album-closer, and does a great job of combining the edginess of rock music with the soul of a blues hi-hat…I like this song more each time I listen to it.

I love this album, and it’s not even really Led Zeppelin’s best stuff. As a casual fan, I know that I prefer their prior albums, so there must be another reason why I go back to this one…it’s because these songs fit in really well with the music I’m downloading from new artists today. As a 2011 music nerd, I see In Through the Out Door in the same mp3 library with albums from artists like Muse and Kings of Leon, and the similarities are real. I don’t even know if those two bands list Zeppelin as one of their influences, but I’m talking from a larger perspective of what music sounded like in 1979, and what it sounds like now. Certainly it didn’t sound like this…and while In Through the Out Door isn’t mentioned along with Led Zeppelin’s other masterpieces, I dig that their final hurrah was this non-traditional mixed bag of musical experiments for future bands to use as inspiration. Cool factoid: this record was released with 6 different album covers, covered in brown paper so you wouldn’t know which one you’re getting. Each cover was the same scene captured from a different angle:

music turtle recommends: FIND A USED CD…OR VINYL!

What do you think about this album? Comment below

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5 Responses to “In Through the Out Door by Led Zeppelin (1979)”

  1. 1 Bob

    Put water on the inside cover and watch the colours appear.

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