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Old 03-27-2015, 08:06 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Led Zeppelin - Physical Graffiti (1975, Swan Song)

Led Zeppelin - Physical Graffiti
(1975, Swan Song)

(Unfortunately, due to post requirements, I can not attach the album art, so you will have to refer to my avatar )

Introduction
Whether a fan or not, there is hardly a person in the music world who hasn't heard the Led Zeppelin hit song "Stairway to Heaven", and even fewer who have never heard the name. Their name is etched into history forever, but mostly due to their first four albums, Zeppelins 1, 2, and 3 as well as their untitled album.

The album I am reviewing here is not one of the first four, or even the excellent fifth, but is Physical Graffiti, album number six, one that gets a lot of hate from non-hardcore Led Zeppelin fans. Mainly, the dislikement for Physical Graffiti comes from too many "filler tracks" on the album, songs that aren't that good, but were put on the album to fill the extra space required to make this 15-song double LP. Here in this review I will be examining each song, and determining whether this album really would have been better at half the length, or if most of the songs actually are gems.


Song-by-Song Review

Custard Pie - "Custard Pie" is an excellent opener for Physical Graffiti, with a simple guitar riff and a solo from Jimmy Page, some typical Plant vocals, and basic booming drums on Bonham's part. Jones does his magic on the bass, and even throws in some clavinet. There's nothing special about "Custard Pie", or anything wrong for that matter, it's just a typical Zeppelin song.
The Rover - The band kicks it up a notch here, and it gets interesting. It opens with a heavy drum beat, and then the best part comes in: Page's fabulous riff, using a phaser to create a 3D sound in it. We do get some of Plant's vocals in "The Rover", but Page and Bonham are the main attraction here.
In My Time of Dying - This is where Plant steps up to the plate and releases that wailing voice loved by Led Zeppelin fans, more than eleven minutes of song's worth, making this the longest Zeppelin studio recording. Page's slide guitar work on "In My Time of Dying" is addictive, and as great as to be expected of Page. This is one of my personal favorites of the album, because of the sensation I get hearing the band put this beautifully crafted sound behind Plant's voice; it's something you have to experience to fully comprehend. I never get over how funny the "cough" at the end is.
Houses of the Holy - The title track to the album it never made it on, it was recorded during the HotH sessions, but eventually cut from the record, for reasons I can't see. Another golden track here, with more harmonious singing here, and an extremely simple, yet effective riff from Page. Nicely filled with bass as well, and the drums don't disappoint either. Another solid track.
Trampled Under Foot - Kudos to John Paul Jones on this song; "Trampled Under Foot" is a gem with an stunning, funky, and never-ceasing yet never-tiring clavinet riff and some superb singing from Plant. Page almost takes a backseat here, Led Zeppelin makes it clear it's all about Jones here.
Kashmir - Probably the most famous song from Physical Graffiti, "Kashmir" is one of the slowest and most melodic of the songs listed so far, with a nice calm and steady beat kept by Bonham and strings and horns played in the background by session players brought in for recording. "Kashmir" is another plus for Physical Graffiti; so far no supposed "filler tracks".
In the Light - Here, on the second of the two discs (third of four on the vinyls) we come across a questionable song. While a favorite of dedicated fans and also a favorite of Robert Plant's, it hasn't been picked up by the casual Zep fan. This could be mostly due to the fact Led Zeppelin has never played "In the Light" in concert, a good sized chunk of this song is Jones' synthesizer, and Jones couldn't reproduce the same sound outside the studio. To create the unique into here, Page used a violin bow on an acoustic guitar, the only time he ever did this on a Zeppelin song, and it is a marvelous sound to hear. While I am a huge fan of this song, I prefer the early version, called "Everybody Makes it Through"
Bron-Yr-Aur - "Bron-Yr-Aur" is a simple, relaxed, and peaceful song, comprised purely of Page's magic fingers playing an acoustic guitar.
Down by the Seaside - While an different sound for Zeppelin, with a country rock feel to it, we still have a great song here. "Down by the Seaside" was recorded for Led Zeppelin IV/Zoso/Untitled, but was eventually cut. Unlike "Houses for the Holy", I can see a good reason for this being cut from IV, it's too different from IV's songs. Despite this, it is an alluring ballad on Zeppelin's part.
Ten Years Gone - Speaking of alluring ballads, here we have a magnificent piece. I think producer Rick Rubin hit the nail when he described "Ten Years Gone" as "A deep, reflective piece with hypnotic, interweaving riffs. Light and dark, shadow and glare. It sounds like nature coming through the speakers." Plants vocals stun me once again here, and Page does wonderful, contributing a large part of the hypnotic sound.
Night Flight - Another Plant-centered song here, and another IV cut, "Night Flight" is the first potential weak spot on the album. There's nothing about "Night Flight" that makes you long to hear it, Plant isn't exactly producing top-notch quality work (especially that "Alrighttttt" at the end of the first chorus), and the rest of the band isn't contributing a whole lot, certainly not enough to cover it up. While I find it enjoyable on occasion, and it is still and alright song, "Night Flight" breaks Physical Graffiti's perfect streak.
The Wanton Song - What "Night Flight" lacks, "The Wanton Song" easily makes up for and makes amends with listeners, with a loud, sharp riff from Page, comparable to that of "Houses of the Holy" or the famous "Immigrant Song". Page also pulls out his "backwards echo" trick for the solo, placing the echo of the sounds before the sounds themselves, a technique he used since his pre-Zeppelin days.
Boogie with Stu - Here we have an old fashioned piece of rock and roll, inspired by (and including) Ian Stewart jamming with Zeppelin on an old, bar-sounding, piano. Page plays mandolin on this track, with Plant taking over guitar. An excellent, enjoyable, laid-back kind of song.
Black Country Woman - With "Black Country Woman", we get a bluesy acoustic rock song with enticing singing on Plant's part, and Page does well on the acoustic. A definite plus for the album.
Sick Again - "Sick Again" is the best track to finish up such a marvelous album, with thunderous guitar from Page and more relentless beating by Bonham. Plant is screaming here to stay loud enough.


Conclusion
Physical Graffiti is by no means an album half-composed of throwaway tracks, but another Zeppelin masterpiece, and probably the best Led Zeppelin album released. Led Zeppelin IV usually wins the "best Zeppelin album" awards, but it is crushed by Physical Graffiti in terms of diversity and by the number of great Physical Graffiti songs. Plus, every song on IV has already been overplayed by radio stations everywhere, Physical Graffiti feels like a fresh experience.


Rating: 9.8/10

Track Listing

Disc: 1
1. Custard Pie
2. The Rover
3. In My Time of Dying
4. Houses of the Holy
5. Trampled Under Foot
6. Kashmir
Disc: 2
1. In the Light
2. Bron-Yr-Aur
3. Down by the Seaside
4. Ten Years Gone
5. Night Flight
6. Wanton Song
7. Boogie with Stu
8. Black Country Woman
9. Sick Again

Last edited by baconbash; 03-28-2015 at 02:58 AM.
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Old 08-01-2015, 06:54 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I believe that this album is way better then Coda along with In Through The Out Door. A double album that covered a lot of musical territory.......There are highs and some songs that could have been a little shorter in length and accomplished the same thing.
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Old 08-01-2015, 07:51 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Nice review! Graffiti was the first album ever to go platinum based on advance orders alone. (I was one of 1,000,000 who pre-ordered it).

Got the call from the small record store that it was in, begged my mom for a ride, got home, turned on a red light, smoked a joint, and listened to all 4 sides twice in a row.
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Old 08-02-2015, 05:29 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Great post, huge zeppelin fan here. I didn't know this until recently but it's fairly obvious once pointed out; the clavinet riff in Trampled underfoot was heavily inspired by Stevie Wonders superstition.
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Old 08-03-2015, 03:52 PM   #5 (permalink)
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This is probably the Zeppelin album I'd pick if I had to give a favorite - Houses of the Holy, The Rover, In the Light, Sick Again...and Ten Years Gone - such a great song there, probably my favorite of Jimmy's solos. I've just gotten so burnt-out on everything up to PG over the years, this and Presence are really the only two I find myself listening to as of late.
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