Thursday, November 21, 2013

70 Physical Graffiti (1975) Led Zeppelin




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

There aren't too many big name artists I can think of that don't have a double album somewhere in their repertoire. The Beatles, The Stones, Pink Floyd, The Who, Dylan etc all decided at one point or another that they had enough material to justify putting out two slabs of vinyl instead of just one. At times they were definitely correct and at other times they were basically padding a single album into a double just because they could. In my younger days I probably would have said Led Zep were in the former camp and every song on Physical Graffiti justified its place, but now I'm just not so sure.

The story goes that the band went into the studio to record some material and when they finished realised they had slightly more than an album's worth of tracks. They'd spilled their talent onto tape and it had spilled over an LP's worth of time which put them in a bit of a dilemma. They had two options: Cull the tracks down to an album's worth or find something to fill the another side of vinyl and release a double. I never understand why people don't take option one: release an incredibly good single album and store the rest of the tracks away for your next release. That way when you go into the studio next time you've already done half the work. Zeppelin's next release was the disappointing Presence which could have benefited from a few more killer tracks and less filler. Physical Graffiti could have been a huge single album and Presence a much bigger one. But instead we've got a kind of bloated double release and a dullish follow up.

But that's quibbling. There's enough on Physical Graffiti to justify its place here. In fact there would be more than enough even if it was four sides of vinyl with Kashmir on every one. By heaven Kashmir is a magnificent song. Like most Led Zeppelin tracks it's got a great guitar riff but Kashmir's crunching chords aren't played by Page, they're played by a string section. Page replicated them well onstage with only his six strings but in the studio they brought in some sessions musos to really give the song some extra oomph. And it has to be said that Kashmir is pretty damn oomphed up and manages to strongly images of exotic lands you've never even been to.

Kashmir had impact in the studio, slightly less impact when played by four men onstage but amazingly it had even more impact when performed live with a string section, percussion group and backing band as Page and Plant discovered for their 1994 reunion No Quarter and subsequent tour. If you haven't heard the Unledded album then I highly recommend you do and then try and get your hands on one of the many bootlegs of the tour they performed after the event which was just fantastic. In the hand's of their touring band, Kashmir became an outstanding concert experience which was genuinely chilling to be a part of. I was lucky enough to see P and P when they came to Melbourne and was blown away by the experience. But Kashmir doesn't need strings to make it work. I've heard a version by two guys with acoustic guitars which were still compelling and hugely entertaining.

Kashmir is one of those huge songs that is enough to prop up an album all on its own but it gets plenty of support from some other highlights. House of the Holy, Trampled Underfoot, In my Time of Dying and In The Light are all outstanding songs that are recognisably Led Zeppelin but definitely a progression from where they started their careers. They're not just retreading old ground but not completely reinventing themselves either. The trademark guitars are still there and so is Page's distinctive voice but there's enough variation in rhythm, structure and melody to make it all interesting.

If the filler tracks were as good as the hits this would be the best album ever but nobody really needs to hear the aimless acoustic wandering of Bron-Yr-Aur, the overblown tedium of Down by the Seaside or throwaways like Night Flight and Sick again.

Physical Graffiti is a great double album that could have been one of their greatest single discs. It's still worth your time and proof that Zeppelin were much more than just a bunch of guys who knew how to rip off the blues.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "but i still give it only 1 star because the song 'house of the holy' is on this cd rather than on the cd called 'house of the holy' which just proves that led zeplin is stoners ..."

-I don't think it does. I really don't think that constitutes definite evidence.

So is this twice as good as any other Zeppelin album or twice as bad? Let me know below.

2 comments:

  1. If I remember correctly I came with you to that concert and it was their last one on a huge tour. So they gave us "Rock & Roll' where no one else did. But of course no one got Stairway. Great night it was too.

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    1. I believe you did. It was a great night as I recall. It was great to see two legends performing together and finding they didn't disappoint.

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