Of course, the members of Led Zeppelin likely never knew that this seven-song album was to be their last. Had they known, they may have gone out with more of a definitive bang. Surprisingly, though, “In Through the Out Door” shows a tired band moving in a creative direction, leaving the world to wonder how the rockin’ foursome may have sounded had it played on in the synth-crazy 1980s. John Paul Jones actually takes more creative control on this record, co-writing five of the seven songs. And it’s his keyboard work that makes a great deal of this sometimes dull album a bit more interesting.
After the seven-minute dinosaur riff of “In the Evening” comes the unexpected “South Bend Saurez,” a slinky barlike number with a hopping piano and a scorching solo by Jimmy Page midway through. There’s even a feminine-sounding “Sha-la-la-la” vocal bit at the end, something different for Zeppelin. “South Bend Saurez” is just the first of several upbeat-sounding tunes on this record. The well-known “Fool in the Rain” overstays its welcome by a few minutes, but “Hot Dog” is a ride-’em-cowboy track with a looseness and country tinge that’s unexpected. Robert Plant plays the down-to-earth country-rocker role to the hilt and seems to enjoy himself. That song is a great segway to one of Zeppelin’s best and most underrated songs, “Carouselambra.” Born of a musical zoo of varying forms, “Carouselambra” is packaged neatly in three parts, starting with a buzzing synthesizer and a frantic pace. The beginning is guitarless but bursting with electric energy, really unlike anything Zeppelin had tried before. All at once the song stops dead in its tracks and the hot-paced first stanza suddenly becomes a memory, replaced by a deep, moaning guitar and vocals. Things pick up again in the third stanza with an odd slice of synth that could practically introduce the 6 p.m. news. Overall, “Carouselambra” is an adventorous journey, epic on a new Led Zeppelin level.
A humble attitude and sound creeps into the final two tracks of the CD, perhaps a form of apology for the band’s reckless behavior and unlucky past. “All of My Love” and “I’m Gonna’ Crawl” are noted for their wonderful string sections and desperate-sounding love-is-all-you-need lyrics. “All of My Love” is dedicated to Plant’s sadly deceased young daughter, while “I’m Gonna’ Crawl” sounds like a hopeless romantic who got plowed the night before. By the record’s end, the four great musicians are in complete synchronicity as they’ve been so many times before. It’s a handsome and stately end to a career known for roughness around edges. Zeppelin got out of the game without embarassing itself, and created a solid ending to one of the world’s most influential and dazed-and-confused rock bands.