In 1975, Led Zeppelin released their only double-album, “Physical Graffiti,” a brilliant Zeppelin mish-mash that combines eight songs the band recorded specifically for the album, plus seven leftover tracks recorded during the sessions for “Led Zeppelin III,” “IV,” and “Houses Of The Holy” that the band wanted to give a proper home to. It’s quite a balancing act, but it works, as “Physical Grafitti” is yet another Led Zeppelin classic.Of the songs the band specifically laid down for “Physical Grafitti,” the most famous one by far is “Kashmir,” without a doubt Led Zeppelin’s second-most beloved song in their catalog, second only to “Stairway To Heaven.” This legendary Zeppelin rocker, with it’s Eastern-influenced force & swagger, is simply a monster, and, like “Stairway,” it contains all the classic trademarks of this legendary band in a single song: Robert Plant’s seductive voice that can just as easily rise into an air-raid siren, Jimmy Page’s precise, rock-god command of the guitar strings, John Paul Jones’ powerful bass & keyboard work, and, to cap it off, John Bonham’s knockout, sledgehammer attack on the drums. It’s no wonder this Zeppelin number is so cherished by both the fans and the band themselves. But “Kashmir” is in darn good company with many other classic Zeppelin songs on this album, including the equally-brilliant rockers “In My Time Of Dying,” “In The Light,” “Ten Years Gone,” the album’s opening shot “Custard Pie,” and the thrilling, head-bobbing, foot-stomper that is “Trampled Underfoot” (which is said to have been inspired by the Stevie Wonder hit, “Superstition”).As for the album’s outtakes assortment, they’re just as excellent. The band brilliantly rock out on “The Rover” and “Night Flight,” “Houses Of The Holy” & “Down By The Seaside” are wonderful, melodic songs (and I love that daring shift in tempo and back again during “Seaside”), “Bron-Yr-Aur” is a classy acoustic showcase for Page, and “Boogie With Stu” is just plain fun, with some great ragtime piano from Jones.Admittedly, “Physical Graffiti” would’ve worked just as well as a single album, as the outtakes would’ve greatly benefitted the band’s sparse release of odds-and-sods, “Coda,” but no matter. “Physical Graffiti” is a fantastic Led Zeppelin album, and worth every penny of the double-CD price.
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By 1975, Led Zeppelin had established itself as the premier hard rock group in the world, which gave them the luxury to experiment and to release older tracks which normally wouldn’t see the light of day. Seven older tracks were added to eight new songs to create “Physical Graffiti”, and the result is Zeppelins finest studio output.”Kashmir”, although overplayed, still ranks alongside “Stairway to Heaven” and the latter “Achilles’ Last Stand” (from “Presence”) as one of the bands greatest “Zepics”. The real beauty of “Graffiti”, however, lies with the songs which don’t make the airwaves that often. “In My Time Of Dying” is one of Zeppelins underappreciated tracks. Similarly, “The Rover” , “Houses of the Holy”, “Custard Pie”, “The Wanton Song”, and “Sick Again” illustrate the band could still compose a compact rocker and play it with conviction. Jimmy Pages talent shines on “In the Light” and “Ten Years Gone”, proof that while he may not have been on the same technical level as his contemporary Jeff Beck, he was the most expressive and well rounded guitarist of his generation.The remaining songs show off Zeppelins diversity and fearlessness: traces of funk (“Trampled Underfoot”), country (“Down by the Seaside”), and soul (“Night Flight”) grace “Graffiti’s” grooves, along with acoustic blues (“Boogie With Stu”, “Black Country Woman”) and Pages shimmering acoustic solo “Bron-Y-Aur”.Performance-wise, it is not Robert Plants finest hour, as he does sound hoarse in several songs, but his bravado makes up for lack of technical excellence. John Paul Jones continues to stretch out as a performer and songwriter (check out the intro of “In the Light” and his brass/string score of “Kashmir”), while the late John Bonham maneuvers through the complex time changes of “In My Time of Dying” and “Kashmir” with ease, the former containing some of his most powerful work.The album is not an easy first listen, especially when compared to earlier work such as “Led Zeppelin II”, but it is the most powerful evidence that Led Zeppelin was at its creative peak.
Wow. As Zeppelin’s most ambitious statement, and their first and only double album, Physical Graffiti would hypothetically be a contender for greatest rock album of all time it it weren’t for Zoso (Not that I’m complaining or anything! ) Custard Pie is blues on speed, while being squashed under the skillful wah-wah pedal of Jimmy Page.The Rover simply rocks. It combines headbanging with flair in a musical statement that is hard to overestimate.In My Time of Dying contains some of the best spitfire-blues slide guitar you’ll ever hear.Houses of The Holy is a great, catchy pop-rock song that just makes you wanna get up and get your schwerve on.Trampled Under Foot is pure, 100%, unfiltered headbanging enjoyment.Jimmy Page & Robert Plant both agree that “Kashmir” was their greatest work. I say they’re just being humble about “Stairway to Heaven”, but Kashmir is a close second. (Man, Puffy really pissed me off when he did “Come With Me”! Ruined a great song! (Yeah I know Jimmy helped him, but I think Jimmy was just trying to expose a new generation of listeners to Zeppelin, which is honorable))In The Light has two distinct moods: A peaceful, glorious side, and a dark, foreboding, heavy metal side. These two moods throw you back and forth until you’re dizzy, which is a good thing.Bron-Y-Aur is an acoustic track kinda hidden amidst greatness, but it’s actually Jimmy Page’s best perfomance on this album! As a guitarist, trust me. This is NOT an easy song to play! Very pretty, too.Down By The Seaside is a really peaceful little song, with really cretive use of a tremolo effect on Page’s guitar. Gets you in the mood for the next two songs.Ten Years Gone is the middle track of PG’s “mellow part”, and really lets the listener appreciate Zeppelin’s flair and subtleties.Night Flight is a great ballad that, while overall pretty subdued, starts to rock up the album a little again, as to get you ready for….The Wanton Song! Headbanging conviently wrapped in a sleek, 4:06 package for your enjoyment!You’ll find Boogie With Stu kinda silly the first couple times you hear it, but the more you listen to it, the more you’re gonna wanna get up and, well, boogie!Black Country Woman is some great acoustic blues that really convey the blues to the listener.And finally, Sick Again is a great romping, rockin’ closer that, along with the overall effect of the album, will leave you breathless.So BUY THIS ALBUM, for god sakes!
If you can understand sheet music and are attempting to master any instrument (from a cello to a tuba) you might want to take a look at the scripts for this album. You’ll be devistated! Also, if you are interested in making an album and happen to own a studio, you might find a listen to Physical Graffiti to provide a very instructive statement the limits of how complex mixing and multi-tracking get.
Sure, a few tracks on the ablum: Custard Pie and Trampled Under Foot, are probably the best embodiment of the blues-rock Zep-sound that most people are familiar with, but after those tracks, the album turns into a zen statment on overindulgence. Normally, I might agree that musical overkill is a bad thing, but there’s a right time and place for everything; and within the framework of this album, overkill becomes baroque. I argue that only Zep could pull this off.
Beginning with Kashmir, the album lays track upon track until many songs (ie: In the Light, Ten Years Gone) are orchestrated with somtimes 7 or 8 different guitar tracks and 3 or 4 different bass tracks. Bach himself might be proud of such hefty orchestration. Throw in JPJ’s keyboards, along with several exotic instruments such as mellotrons and vibrophones, and you’ve got yourself a saturated hard-rock symphony. Many of the songs, such as Kashmir, In The Light, and Ten Years Gone, are very cerebral, creating a soothing Indian Raga-like effect, while others sustain a hectic Occidental pace (ie: Rover, Night Flight) but are never abrasive to the ear.
I feel that the overall album gets a bum rap sometimes, because many people would prefer to hear the more concise and abbreviated sound associated with the pentatonic riffs of earlier Led-days (ie: Whole Lotta’ Love, Heartbreaker). They complain that this album is overindulgent, solos are extended too long, etc.. But they never really explain why this makes the album less worthy than say, the Runes Album. I think that the intent of the album was to push the manifold of hard-rock overindulgence and the result is the raga-like, baroque musical symphony from the ’70s that is Physical Grafitti.
I would not hesitate to say that this is the best album from the 70’s hard-rock genre; if not the best rock and roll album of all time.
Containing some of Zeppelin’s very best tracks, “Physical Graffiti” is definitely worth the price of two discs. Like most double albums, it can get a little excessive… but if you’ve purchased their first 4 albums and still can’t get enough, this is a must have! “Kashmir” is essential by itself and possibly the best song the group ever recorded… a majestic epic that fuses rock, blues, and middle eastern influnces… all the things Zep is known to do best! Then there’s the blistering “Trampled Under Foot” which has one of Page’s best riffs of all time and a funky clavinet played by the multi-talented John Paul Jones. Plant is in top form on the spiritual catharsis of “In My Time of Dying” with John Bonham providing the raw energy all the way through. Disc one is more consistent, but disc two offers a wide variety of gems such as the building ballad “Ten Years Gone” which offers some of Robert’s best lyrics to date, the fun old-timey feel of “Boogie With Stu”, the countrified acoustic track “Black Country Woman”, and the wild “Wanton Song”. Many of these tracks have the feel of b-sides (which is essentially what they were) and makes them even more fun to listen to. One of the few double LPs to truly be worth purchasing (along with the Beatles White Album, Stevie Wonder’s Songs In the Key of Life, George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, and Pink Floyd’s The Wall), Physical Graffiti is the high water mark of Led Zeppelin’s career.