The very first time I picked this album up, I found it on vinyl at a Half Price Books store in Bloomingdale. I had never heard of the album and decided to pick it up simply because it was the cheapest Led Zeppelin album available. It ended up being my favorite album by Led Zeppelin and is still. The album is classic Zeppelin, with a wild mix of upbeat and energetic songs.
Released two years after the 1980 death of John Bonham, Coda tied up most of the loose ends Led Zeppelin left hanging: it officially issued a bunch of tracks circulating on bootleg and it fulfilled their obligation to Atlantic Records. Coda doesn't contain every non-LP track Zeppelin released -- notably, the B-side "Hey Hey What Can I Do" and anything from the BBC sessions were left untouched (they'd be added to Coda on a 1993 CD revision of the compilation, and also appear on the major three-disc overhaul Jimmy Page masterminded in 2015) -- but it does gather much of what was floating around in the wake of their demise, including three blistering rockers that were rejected for In Through the Out Door. If "Ozone Baby," "Darlene," or "Wearing and Tearing" -- rockers that alternately cut loose, groove, and menace -- had made the cut for In Through the Out Door, that album wouldn't have had its vague progressive edge and when they're included alongside a revival of the band's early raver "We're Gonna Groove," the big-boned funk of the Houses of the Holy outtake "Walter's Walk," and the folk stomp "Poor Tom" (naturally taken from the sessions for Led Zeppelin III), they wind up underscoring the band's often underappreciated lighter side. For heaviness, there's a live version of "I Can't Quit You Baby" and "Bonzo's Montreux," a solo showcase for the departed drummer, and when this pair is added to the six doses of hard-charging rock & roll, it amounts to a good snapshot of much of what made Led Zeppelin a great band: when they were cooking, they really did groove.[Led Zeppelin launched a massive, Jimmy Page-supervised reissue campaign in 2014, where each of their studio albums was remastered and then expanded with a bonus disc of alternate versions (in the case of the super deluxe editions, they were also supplemented by vinyl pressings, download codes for high-resolution digital audio files, and massive hardcover books). The deluxe editions of Coda arrived in the summer of 2015, plumped up with two full discs of outtakes. Essentially, this 2015 version of Coda is a clearinghouse for everything Page didn't include elsewhere in the series, including the III-era B-side "Hey Hey What Can I Do," the BBC session "Travelling Riverside Blues" that was later released as a single in 1990 to promote that year's four-disc box, and "Baby Come on Home," a blues from 1968 that first surfaced on the 1993 Box Set 2. The rest are unreleased cuts from throughout the band's life, with only two tracks being unheard songs: the blooze-blast of "Sugar Mama," a 1968 cut that feels like a bubblegum rough draft of "Communication Breakdown," and the III-era instrumental "St. Tristan's Sword," which has a nicely funky groove from Jones and Bonham plus dry, gnarly riffs and solos from Page. Elsewhere, the rough mixes are notably different. "Bring It on Home" sounds thin and nasty, "If It Keeps on Raining" lightens the mood of "When the Levee Breaks" by pushing up the bass and pushing down the guitars, an instrumental version of "The Wanton Song" called "Desire" highlights the song's tricky turnarounds, while the versions of "Four Hands" and "Friends" recorded with the Bombay Orchestra emphasize the group's adventure. Overall, this sprawl amounts to one of the best of the Zeppelin reissues: it touches upon every aspect that made the group restless and great.] ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi