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Led Zeppelin - Physical Graffiti CD (album) cover

PHYSICAL GRAFFITI

Led Zeppelin

 

Prog Related

4.03 | 612 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Kashmir, where's that? Somewhere near Morocco?

"Physical Graffiti", the first album to be released on Led Zeppelin's Swansong label, is in many ways a frustrating album. When it is good, it is astonishingly good, when it is not so good. well let's just say it's not so good. At first sight, the explanation for this would appear to lie in the fact the album combines new material with cast-offs and other surplus material recorded for previous albums. This theory is quickly dispelled however when you remember that the older tracks include excellent numbers such as "Down by the seaside", while the newer ones include more prosaic songs such as "The wanton song".

The split between new and old is about half and half, the newer songs sometimes being characterised by a different sounding vocal by Robert Plant (he had just endured a voice saving operation to remove nodules on his vocal chords).

The blues influences which dominated earlier albums are still very much in evidence on track such as the opening "Custard pie". Like many earlier songs, this one is a thinly veiled amalgam of several blue standards, the sexual innuendoes being equally thinly veiled! It is though the Moroccan influenced "Kashmir" which is the undoubted highlight here. This wonderfully heavy piece features John Bonham at his very best (he received a rare co-writing credit for the song) as he powers the piece along. The track features very clever use of tension as the listener anticipates the orchestral bursts which seem to appear at different intervals every time you hear it. The orchestration by the way is a mixture of real instruments plus mellotron. The geographic relevance of the lyrics may be suspect but the song is one of the finest Led Zeppelin have ever recorded.

There is a diversity to the tracks which mirrors the make up of the band's fourth album. While the quality of the songs here is not nearly as consistent, there are plenty of highlights. "The rover" is an unjustly ignored song with a strong melody. The song took shape over several years, finally being recorded for, but not used on, "House of the holy". Strangely, the title track from that album also appears for the first time here, being omitted from the album of that name because it "did not fit". "Down by the seaside" shows the band's lighter side, being a lilting song with occasional high vocalising, and a harder centre.

"Trampled underfoot" is one of the band's most controversial songs. The incessant keyboards driven disco beat may be abhorrent to some, but I find the track to be refreshingly different. The similarities with the Doobie Brothers "Long train running" are undeniable, but the song retains its own character nonetheless.

There does though, appear to be a certain amount of filler on "Physical graffiti", which would certainly have benefited for being a single LP. "In my time of dying" is a rambling 11 minute blues song, and "Ten years gone" is rather nondescript and dull. The whole of the final side of the album is for me rather uninspired and indulgent. "Boogie with Stu" is of interest though, as it credits and features Rolling Stones road manager Ian Stewart (Stu), who played piano on "Rock and roll" from the fourth album. Also bizarrely receiving a song writing credit for "Boogie with Stu" is the late Ritchie Valens' mother. This was intended to be a generous gesture to allow her to receive royalties, as she had reportedly received none from her son's work. The gesture backfired though when Valens estate sued for royalties due to the songs similarities with one of Ritchie Valens compositions.

The excellence of many of the tracks included on "Physical graffiti" render it to be an essential album. It is however by no means without its flaws, and the listener should be selective when choosing tracks from it.

Easy Livin | 4/5 |

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