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.