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In Through the Out Door
Led Zeppelin

Swan Song 16002
Released: September 1979
Chart Peak: #1
Weeks Charted: 41
Certified 3x Platinum: 10/30/84

Led Zeppelin is a band I've never been able to enjoy except in small doses -- for a number of reasons, one of them being Robert Plant's cartoonish macho yowling -- and it was clear even to devotees that their inspiration had been flagging on their last couple of albums. (Have you listened to Presence much lately? Didn't think so.) But the three-year hiatus since their last effort has clearly had a healthy effect on them, if only because they've been able to soak up some fresh, generally youthful influences. Their "comeback" effort, In Through the Out Door, is, surprisingly, the most consistently listenable, inventive, and entertaining record they've ever made. It's certainly the most subtle.

The two big changes here are in Plant's vocals and Jimmy Page's deliberate downplaying of his customary steamroller guitar attack. Plant sounds restrained, delicate; he seems to have abandoned his trademark Wagnerian blues style in favor of a voice-as-instrument approach that's almost pretty, if you can believe it. Suddenly he's a first-rate, emotive, rock-and-roll singer. Page, meanwhile, has decided to integrate himself into a basically keyboard-oriented framework (there are elements of some of the artier New Wave outfits here, as well as a bit of the later Who), and when he does cut loose the effect is nearly always bracing. It may have taken him ten years to realize that less can be more, but it has been worth the wait.

Led Zeppelin - In Through the Out Door
Original album advertising art.
Click image for larger view.
The variety of this album is what's most impressive. There's a great, thundering riff-rocker with a nod to punk ("In the Evening"), a partly tongue-in-cheek neo-Fifties hoedown clearly influenced by labelmate Dave Edmunds' revisionist rockabilly ("Hot Dog"), and a Latinish workout ("Fool in the Rain") that achieves the seemingly impossible synthesis of salsa and metal. Even the obligatory ten-minute epic ("Carouselambra") comes off; for once, the whirling-dervish instrumental work and the unexpected segues impress me as musically justifiable. There's more atmosphere in this than in anything else I've heard this year from anyone.

Yes, there are moments that don't make it. "All My Love," though beautifully played and sung, is mostly a routine ballad, and "I'm Gonna Crawl," a James Brown-style soul number blown up to symphonic proportions, is a miscalculation -- Götterdämmerung in Las Vegas. But by and large this is a lovely, intelligent, and genuinely exciting record from a group that previously dealt almost solely in excess. I await Led Zep's next album with genuine interest.

- Steve Simels, Stereo Review, 11/79.

Bonus Reviews!

Zeppelin's first album since 1976's The Song Remains The Same shows that the high powered quartet has not lost its grasp on contemporary rock trends. The seven tracks offered here bristle with Zep's patented heavy metal riffs yet the material is surprisingly diverse in content and delivery. Amidst the guitar riffs is a country/rock tune ("Hot Dog"), calypso ("Fool In The Rain"), blues/rock ("In The Evening") and some southern boogie ("South Sound Saurez"). Guitarist Jimmy Page, vocalist Robert Plant, bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones and drummer John Bonham prove that hard rock, and Led Zeppelin, doesn't have to remain in one place. Included is a 10-minute plus rock excursion "Carouselambra" that has a cosmic feel to it. Best cuts: "In The Evening," "Fool In The Rain," "Carouselambra," "All My Love."

- Billboard, 1975.

The tuneful synthesizer pomp on side two confirms my long-held belief that this is a real good art-rock band, and their title for the first ten minutes or so, "Carouselambra," suggests that they find this as humorous as I do. The lollapalooza hooks on the first side confirms the world's long-held belief that this is a real good hard rock band. Lax in the lyrics department, as usual, but their best since Houses of the Holy. B+

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

The last studio album recorded before the death of drummer John Bonham, In Through the Out Door found the unlikely combination of the kings of power rock recording in the Stockholm studio of Abba, the kings and queens of pop. The difference in overall balance and the manipulation of space is quite distinct on CD. The sound is quite as spacious as before but less reverberation is present -- a distinct Caribbean flavour in the instrumentation and rhythms must have been difficult to create in the depths of a Swedish winter.

Updated but solid rock'n'roll was less portentous than previous cosmic efforts but should be judged against the then background of disco and New Wave music. The disc contains the superb ten-minute track "Carouselambra" and a heartfelt lovesong "All My Love."

It is something of an indictment of the music however that this album is best remembered in rock histories for the marketing award received for the cover concept -- a brown bag concealing one of a set of different covers which is not extended to the CD issue.

- David Prakel, Rock 'n' Roll on Compact Disc, 1987.

Between Presence and In Through the Out Door, disco, punk, and new wave had overtaken rock & roll, and Led Zeppelin chose to tentatively embrace the pop revolutions, adding synthesizers to the mix and emphasizing Bonham's inherent way with a groove. The album's opening number "In the Evening," with its stomping rhythms and heavy, staggered riffs, suggests that the band hasn't strayed from their course, but by the time the rolling shuffle of "South Bound Suarez" kicks into gear, it's apparent that the group has regained their sense of humor. After "South Bound Suarez," the group tries a variety of styles, whether it's an overdriven homage to Bakersfield country called "Hot Dog," the layered, Latin-tinged percussion and pianos of "Fool in the Rain," or the slickly seductive ballad "All My Love." "Carouselambra," a lurching, self-consciously ambitious synth-driven number, and the slow blues "I'm Gonna Crawl" aren't quite as impressive as the rest of the album, but the record is a graceful way to close their career, even if it wasn't intended as the final chapter. * * *

- Stephen Thomas Erlewine , The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

Zeppelin's seventh studio album proved to be the band's last. After a brief tour across Europe and a series of dates at the English country estate known as Knebworth -- the band's first UK gigs for four years -- any further activity was stopped in its tracks by the death of drummer John Bonham the following year.

The album, recorded by Zeppelin in Polar Studio in Stockholm, is a hit or miss affair; it opens grandly enough with a typically Zeppelin track, the sweeping and anthemic "In The Evening," "Carouselambra" and "I'm Gonna Crawl" all have echoes of material from the days of Physical Graffiti, but elsewhere the band is heard mixing up styles, and experimenting with new instruments as well. The album's standout track, and one of the first Zeppelin songs to feature synthesizers, is "All Of My Love." Despite such carping and more from critics the fans lapped it up, however, sending it to the summits of both US and UK album charts on its release. In Through The Out Door remained in the UK charts for 16 weeks and in the US charts for 28 weeks. It has been suggested that the title might be a sexual innuendo.

The original LP record of this album featured an unusual gimmick. It had an outer sleeve which was made to look like a plain brown paper bag, and the sleeve proper featured black and white line artwork which, if washed with a wet brush, would (permanently) become fully coloured.

As of 2004, In Through The Out Door was the #26 best-selling album of the 70s.

- Hamish Champ, The 100 Best-Selling Albums of the 70s, 2004.

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