In Through The Out Door was released August 15, 1978, and it would be a number of lasts for Led Zeppelin. It was their last album to reach the number one position on The United States album charts. It was the last studio album before the group’s dissolution and the last album of drummer John Bonham’s life, as he would pass away during 1980 at the age of 32.
It remains somewhat of an oddity in the group’s catalogue. Jimmy Page and John Bonham were dealing with their addictions and were often late or missing from recording sessions. Robert Plant and especially John Paul Jones stepped into the breach and created a different sounding Led Zeppelin album. It was also the disco and punk rock era, and while the album cannot be classified as either of those styles, it did contain a heavy synthesizer sound.
The album’s jacket was very creative. There were six different pictures used for it but it was covered by a brown paper wrapping so a person did not know which one they would receive when making their purchase. There was, however, a code on the jacket that would tell you which was inside, but that fact was unknown to most buyers. It was a challenge for fans and collectors who wanted a complete Led Zeppelin collection. It also received a Grammy nomination for Best Album Jacket Of The Year.
The band sounds a little tired but rises to the occasion in places despite being only average in other areas. The results are diverse and even eclectic, if you will.
I tend to prefer the first side of the original vinyl release as it contains the two best songs. More on that later.
“In The Evening” contains some nice guitar riffs and distortion on top of a synthesizer foundation. The vocals are layered in among the sound. “South Bound Suarez” features a honky tonk-type piano by Jones and complements Page’s guitar playing. The song was never performed live and was one of very few Led Zeppelin songs that Page did not write or co-write.
The last two tracks on the first side are the best. “Fool In The Rain” is part reggae and part samba. Cute lyrics of boy waiting for girl on a street corner only to be disappointed when she does not arrive and then realizes he is on the wrong corner highlight the track. It would be the band’s final successful single.
“Hot Dog” owes a lot to country and rockabilly, as Plant gives his best Elvis impersonation on this loose-sounding but fun track.
The second side is less appealing, but at least one song is very imaginative. “Carouselambra” is divided into three sections. It moves from keyboards to guitar, then to a final uniting of the entire band. It may not be completely successful, but it is interesting for 10 minutes and at least they took a chance.
“All My Love” is poignant, progressive rock as Plant had just lost his five-year-old son, and this is a tribute to him. “I’m Gonna Crawl” is an average rock/blues closer.
In Through The Out Door is one of the Led Zeppelin albums that I visit the least. Still, it contains a few high points and is a nice change of pace every now and then.
Article first published as on Blogcritics.org