Interesting album this from the London/Birmingham quartet and one of such contrasts. First of all, there was far less input than normal from Jimmy Page and John Bonham as the two were fighting their personal battles with alcohol and substance abuse (this tragically would prove to be a losing cause with Bonham) and secondly with Robert Plant trying come to terms with the recent loss of his 5 year old son Karac.
In Through The Out Door is Led Zeppelin's penultimate studio album and would also be the final one before Bonham's untimely death 12 months later which would soon result in the band's permanent breakup. The reins of the coordination of the album were largely handled by Plant and John Paul Jones during their bandmates' most difficult times and in fact, two of the record's seven tracks Page had absolutely no input whatsoever until it came to the mixing tables.
The critics weren't kind to The 'Zep's new offering either. Rolling Stone magazine described a couple of tracks as lame and referred to Plant's overuse of the word 'baby' while Piero Scaruffi found it 'embarrassing'. OK, as a die-hard Zeppelin fan, I will admit their standards had slipped somewhat and that the heavy metal/blues/folk roots had been ditched at some point but for me, I will always observe this album as a working process and that the members wanted to take a more positive and for sure a different view on life as well as putting aside their personal woes.
Slight differences in their format are evident in their opening track In The Evening, where we hear distant kettle drums rolling before the usual 'Zep order is read out. Only this time, Page's familiar Les Paul is replaced by a Stratocaster presumably for the tremolo effects throughout the verse and instrumental leads. But look for any traces of metal in South Bound Suarez, Fool In The Rain or Hot Dog and you could be in for a major shock as the latter track has Jones going hammer and tongs on a Honky Tonk piano and Fool has rather curious samba xylophone and percussion in the breaks (interesting to note that Jimmy Page would later marry a Brazilian almost 20 years later).
As said earlier, only seven tracks on this album, but the bulk of it is made up by the 10 minute epic Carouselambra which is dominated by Jones' heavy synthesisers. On first impressions, the song doesn't appear to have aged too well but I've maybe missed the point as the title suggests a Carousel-type feel and the keys certainly sound like they're straight of the merry-go-round organ pipes. All My Love is one of LZ's most beautifully enchanting songs ever recorded although Page was somewhat uncomfortable over it, but I for one give it a big thumbs up and showcases Plant as a top lyricist.
Certainly this is one of their less meaty records and I'm reeling from the shock and not-too-much-awe from listening to their departure from their hard rock/metal roots. Yet given that most of In Through The Out Door was recorded by Jones and Plant it wasn't a disastrous effort either and personally with hindsight, The Rolling Stone and other critics were a little harsh on this. It makes me wonder (no pun intended, honestly) how much bigger the record would've been were Messieurs Page and Bonham in better condition for recording. Tragically, we were destined never to find out.
7 out of ten. This is good and well worth a check.
Best Track : All My Love
Buy In Through The Out Door on this link
Led Zeppelin Official Website here
Listen to the album here on Spotify