The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus Minus
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus (often quieter than this grade)
- With two Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sides, we guarantee you've never heard anything like the massive amounts of Zeppelin Rock and Roll energy that are on this copy
- Here is a pressing with the power, the dynamic contrasts, the low end whomp, as well as the in-the-room midrange presence (pun only slightly intended) you've been waiting for
- Featuring a stripped down, harder rock sound, Presence really benefits from the killer bottom end found on this early LP
- "Presence has more majestic epics than its predecessor, opening with the surging, ten-minute Achilles Last Stand and closing with the meandering, nearly ten-minute Tea for One."
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We just finished a massive shootout for this album and were reminded just how HARD this album rocks. Achilles Last Stand, For Your Life and Nobody's Fault But Mine are KILLER on a Hot Stamper pressing like this one.
After cleaning and playing a pile of copies we are pleased to report that the best of them are full of The Real Zep Magic. The average LP may not be much of a thrill but our Hot Stampers sure are. If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it -- not often, and certainly not always -- but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What the Best Sides of Presence Have to Offer is Not Hard to Hear
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1976
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange -- with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there's more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
What We're Listening For on Presence
This copy has the kind of sound we look for in a top quality Led Zeppelin record: immediacy in the vocals (so many copies are veiled and distant); natural tonal balance (most copies are at least slightly brighter or darker than ideal; ones with the right balance are the exception, not the rule); good solid weight (so the bass sounds full and powerful); spaciousness (the best copies have wonderful studio ambience and space); and last but not least, transparency, the quality of being able to see into the studio, where there is plenty of musical information to be revealed in this sophisticated recording.
Here is a more comprehensive breakdown of what we were listening for when evaluating Presence.
Clarity and Presence
- Many copies are veiled in the midrange, partly because they may have shortcomings up top, but also because they suffer from blurry, smeary mids and upper mids. Dull, dead sounding pressings can't begin to communicate the musical values in this excellent recording.
- With a real Hot Stamper the sound is totally involving. The musicians aren't "back there" somewhere, way behind the speakers. They're front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt -- Keith Harwood in this case -- would have put them. There is breath in the voices, the picking of the strings on the guitars -- these things allow us to suspend our disbelief, to forget it's a recording we're listening to and not living, breathing musicians.
Top End Extension
- Most copies of this album have no extreme highs, which causes the guitar harmonics to be blunted and dull. Without extreme highs the percussion can't extend up and away from the other elements. Consequently these elements end up fighting for space in the midrange and getting lost in the mix.
- Although this quality is related to the above two, it's not as important overall as the one below, but it sure is nice to have. When you can really "see" into the mix, it's much easier to pick out each and every instrument in order to gain more insight into the way the songs were arranged and recorded.
- Seeing into the mix is a way of seeing into the mind of the artist. To hear the hottest copies is to appreciate even more the talents of all the musicians and producers involved, not to mention the engineers.
- This is an area where Heavy Vinyl fails more often than not. Modern remastered records are just so damn opaque. That sound drives us to distraction when it doesn't bore us to tears.
- No Led Zeppelin record without good bass can qualify as a Hot Stamper. How could it? It's the rhythmic foundation of the music, and who wants a Zep record that lacks rhythm?
Drums and Cymbals
The drum sound on the best copies is punchy and HUGE, with prodigious amounts of studio space swirling around Bonham's kit. There's real resonance to the toms, not the standard overdamped sound of a studio kit, which gives them a lively, realistic, natural quality that you rarely hear outside of Zep records.
And the cymbals crash and splash just like real cymbals do, which is yet another sound you rarely hear outside of the best Zep pressings. (The best copies of Zep IV have crashing cymbals on Black Dog and Rock and Roll like few records in the history of rock.)
Standard Operating Procedures
What are the criteria by which a record like this should be judged? Pretty much the ones we discuss in most of our Hot Stamper listings: energy, vocal presence, frequency extension (on both ends), transparency, harmonic textures (freedom from smear is key), rhythmic drive, tonal correctness, fullness, richness, and so on down through the list. When we can get all, or most all, of the qualities above to come together on any given side we provisionally award it a grade of "contender." Once we've been through all our copies on one side we then play the best of the best against each other and arrive at a winner for that side. Repeat the process for the other side and the shootout is officially over. All that's left is to see how the sides matched up. It may not be rocket science, but it is a science of a kind, one with strict protocols that we've developed over the course of many years to insure that the results we arrive at are as accurate as we can make them. The result of all our work speaks for itself, on this very record in fact. We guarantee you have never heard this music sound better than it does on our Hot Stamper pressing -- or your money back.
Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of later pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don't have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful originals.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that's certainly your prerogative, but we can't imagine losing what's good about this music -- the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight -- just to hear it with less background noise.
Hey Man, Turn It Up!
We're hoping this copy ends up in the hands of someone who will play it good and loud because that's the way it was meant to be heard. It's the only way the mix works, which is a sure sign that that is clearly how the artists intended their records to be played.
Turn up the volume and play the midsection of For Your Life on side one or the entire Nobody's Fault But Mine on side two to hear Zep rockin' out in their prime.
Nobody did it better than these four guys. If you have Hot Stampers of their albums, you have some of the best sounding rock and roll records ever made, records that sound the way Zep wanted you to hear them when you play them loud.
- Achilles Last Stand
- For Your Life
- Royal Orleans
- Nobody's Fault But Mine
- Candy Store Rock
- Hots On For Nowhere
- Tea For One
Presence scales back the size of Physical Graffiti to a single album, but it retains the grandiose scope of that double record. If anything, Presence has more majestic epics than its predecessor, opening with the surging, ten-minute "Achilles Last Stand" and closing with the meandering, nearly ten-minute "Tea for One." In between, Led Zeppelin add the lumbering blues workout "Nobody's Fault but Mine" and the terse, menacing "For Your Life," which is the best song on the album.
[Presence] has become a much underrated element of their catalogue. The basic drums-bass-guitars formula may lack the diversity of previous Zeppelin sets, but in terms of sheer energy, 'Presence' packs a considerable punch, and has emerged as one of their most potent performances... This album is also a triumph for Jimmy Page. His production and dominant guitar style has an urgency and passion that reflects the troubled period that the group were going through at the time. 'Presence' is Led Zeppelin with their backs against the wall.
After a month of rehearsals, the album was recorded in just eighteen days at Musicland Studios in Munich, Germany, with Plant in a wheelchair. This was the fastest recording turnaround time achieved by the band since their debut album. The rushed recording sessions were in part a result of Led Zeppelin having booked the studio immediately prior to The Rolling Stones, who were shortly to record songs for their album Black and Blue.
Upon their arrival, the Stones were amazed that Zeppelin's album had indeed been completed (both recorded and mixed) in a mere eighteen days. Page had simply stayed awake for two days straight to perform all of the guitar overdubs. As he later explained:
I just had to lay it down, more or less: first track... second track – you know, really fast working on that. And all the guitar overdubs on Presence were done in one night. But I didn't think I would be able to do it in one night, I thought I'd have to do it across maybe three different nights to get the individual sections. Everything sort of crystallised and you'll notice everything was just pouring out. I was very happy with the guitar playing on that whole album, you know as far as the maturity of playing goes.
In an interview he gave to Guitar World magazine in 1998, Page stated that he worked an average of 18 to 20 hours per day during the mixing period at Musicland Studios:
[A]fter the band finished recording all its parts, me and the engineer, Keith Harwood, just started mixing until we would fall asleep. Then whoever would wake up first would call the other and we'd go back in and continue to work until we passed out again.