Led Zeppelin: In Through The Out Door (1979)

No, this is not my favorite Zeppelin album; far from it.  (I know it's not terribly original, but if forced I'd have to go with IV/Runes/Zoso or Houses of the Holy, though I'm partial to Presence just because it suffers less from classic-rock-overplay syndrome.)  Nor am I a diehard Zeppelin fan -- either because of decades of radio oversaturation; or the fact that when I was a somewhat nerdy and undersized junior high school kid, it was the Zeppelin guys who used to intimidate me.  Still, now and then I'll pull out my Zep albums, if only for Bonham's inimitable thunderous beat, and put my speakers to the test.

So why In Through The Out Door?

Back in 1980, I was still in my early throes of classic rock exploration. I'd spend hours in the library reading about rock history, checking out any albums I could get my hands on.  At the top of the list for me were the Who and Pink Floyd; The Wall had recently come out, and it was catnip for a 13-year-old music geek -- depressing and pretentious and "deep."  (These days, I'll pull it out every year or so out of a sense of obligation, like fasting on Yom Kippur -- it's a form of atonement for my sins.)  

A family friend and one-time babysitter, observing my Floyd fascination, gave me a copy of Animals for my 14th birthday, assuring me it was much cooler than The Wall, dropping words like "Orwellian."  But that sounded a little too scary.  So I took my copy of Animals, still unwrapped, to the local Musicland, and swapped it for a cassette of In Through The Out Door.

I wasn't a huge Zep fan, for the afore-referenced reasons, but they were everywhere at the time.  The album was inescapable on the FM band (Chicago's WXRT), the kids were all talking about it, and everyone was buzzing about their forthcoming tour, which would be hitting Chicago soon (or would have been, had Bonham not up and died before it got off the ground).  I was just gearing up to start high school, and the last thing I wanted to be when I started a new school was to be the one weird kid with idiosyncratic music taste who wasn't up to speed on what was cool and hip.

Did I like the album?  Meh.  It was ok.  I really liked the sprawling, synth-based "Carouselambra," probably the least Led Zeppelin-sounding song in their catalog (and to this day I will defend it as their best song).  I liked the guitar sound on "In The Evening," particularly the part where it sounds like an airplane taking off right as Page starts his solo. And the hook in "Fool In The Rain" was catchy enough.  Beyond that?

Not so much.  Certainly nothing on the same page as "How Many More Times" or "D'yer Mak'er" or "When The Levee Breaks" or "Achilles Last Stand."  Except for "Carouselambra."

I finally picked up Animals a couple years later, and my babysitter was totally right.  Should have kept that one in the first place. 

Here's "In The Evening" live at Knebworth and, ok, I take it back, Led Zeppelin is the fucking greatest band ever.  (Yeah, live Zeppelin has a tendency to do that.)
...and an audio rip of "Carouselambra":