Ever since Led Zeppelin called it quits in the early 1980’s, Jimmy Page was at a loss as to where to put himself. The man who helped to produce some of the most iconic and influential blues-rock compositions of all time suddenly had a whole lotta riffs but nowhere to go. After recording a couple of movie soundtracks, Lucifer Rising (which was never used) and Death Wish II and III, he teamed up with Paul Rogers (Free, Bad Company) and a couple of other geezers otherwise known as The Firm. He also briefly reunited with Robert Plant to record the one off Honeydrippers EP (which included the hit “Sea Of Love”), and of course who can forget Outrider, from 1988, an album full of quality playing yet lacking in inspiration. Page had been nagging Plant for a few years to do something but to no avail. And so it was eventually in 1993 that he teamed up with none other than David Coverdale, lead singer of Whitesnake, a vocalist who not only resembled Plant but also had a mane to match (albeit it one that was thoroughly bleached).
First track, “Shake My Tree” has Led Zeppelin stamped all over it, from the country-blues-rock riffing by Page to the Plant-like high notes courtesy of Coverdale, the entire song reeks of what Zep might have gone on to do were it not for the passing of drummer John Bonham. “Waiting On You”, despite some intense guitar by Page, is little more than heavy-rock filler. “Take Me for A Little While” is one of those predictable power ballads that were de rigueur of the hair metal brigade, before Page revisits his Zeppelin days on “Pride and Joy”, where Coverdale sings as if his nuts were on fire, rivalling even Plant himself.
The thumping “Over Now” and fiery “Feeling Hot” could be outtakes off In Through The Out Door, especially the latter, where Page is clearly having fun, as he also seems to be on the guitar avalanche that is “Easy Does It”, another hard-rock epic that would have fit nicely on Physical Graffiti. Coverdale sings about how he just wants you “to feel alright” on “Take A Look At Yourself”, a bombastic rocker if there was ever one, before getting all bluesy on “Don’t Leave Me This Way”, throughout which Page gets to bend the strings while Coverdale wails just the way old Percy used to. It’s all a bit “Since I’ve Been Loving You”, but then that is what this album is all about in the first place – Page recreating much of the sound and feel of those early classic years with Zep.
“Absolution Blues” has Page playing like a demon, enough to show Slash just how it’s done, while album closer “Whisper A Prayer for the Dying” is akin to throwing a couple of logs on the fire and waiting for the sparks to emerge.
If Page wanted to record another Led Zeppelin album, he had obviously met his match in David Coverdale, someone who could blow away the Valkyries and a rhythm section who were well and truly versed in the school of Messer’s Jones and Bonham. If Presence were recorded in the ‘90s, then this is what we might have ended up with.