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Led Zeppelin - Physical Graffiti CD (album) cover

PHYSICAL GRAFFITI

Led Zeppelin

 

Prog Related

4.03 | 607 ratings

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ZowieZiggy
Prog Reviewer
2 stars THE LEFT OVER ONE (Part one)

Here we go for a double album. Well, actually it should have been better if it were only a single album. "Physical Graffiti" combines some oldies with new material to fill four vinyl sides. If one bears the number of tracks into consideration, almost half of them (seven out of fifteen) were left-over from previous studio sessions.

One has to recognize that this proportion changes to two-third (over fifty-seven minutes) of new material if length is concerned (compared to twenty-nine minutes for the "lost jewels"). The problem being that the new stuff was not, generally, superior to the old one.Lack of inspiration ? Tiredness ? Boredom ?

I purchased "Graffiti" at the time of release, and I was so disappointed that I returned the album a few days later, and this time got the refund. I must say, that in 1975, I was not into hard-rock any longer (my first love). I had switched to prog in November 1973 to be precise. On the same Wednesday afternoon, I purchased "Genesis Live" and "Yessongs". Quite a change. This will not be the last one. I will deeply embrace a new genre in 1977, but that's another story.

None-the-less, it was the second time in a row that I was disappointed with a Led Zep album at the time of release (you can read about the first one in my review for "HOTH").

Let's start with the old stuff (in chronological order).

"Bron-Y-Aur" (1970) comes from the Led Zep III sessions. It is a short acoustic number completely in the mood of the album. They should have been inspired to replace the awful "Hat's Off Roy Harper" and release this one instead. It's a nice and gentle guitar solo as Page was able to deliver. Nothing from the other world. Just a sweet piece of music.

Three tracks from 1971 : the Untitled album sessions.

"Down At The Seaside". It starts as a mellow rock-ballad. It rocks a bit later on but the general mood remains globally mellowish. It's not too bad compared with the others tracks. But there's no wonder that it failed to make the album (this one in particular). "Night Flight" is not a bad song either, on the contrary. A good, average, Led Zep song.

But this is the major concern of this album. Too many middle-of-the-road music. No highlight. I guess it could have been a good B-side for a single. Since "Misty Mountain." and "Four Sticks" did the job, there was no room left for this one. "Boogie With Stu" is an old rock'n'roll song (almost revival). It's time for John-Paul to have fun on the piano. The fan, on his hand, doesn't have a lot of fun listening to this number though.

Next three tracks come from the HOTH sessions (1972).

"The Rover" is a heavy track. The intro reminds me at times of Black Sabbath ("Iron Man"). It gets catchier as soon as soon as Plant comes in and Jimmy's solo creates a nice break in this ordinary song.

I have never understood that "Houses Of The Holy" which should have been the title track was omitted on the album. There were at least two weak numbers that should have been replaced by this one (actually "The Rover" could have make it as well). So, I burned a CD copy of "my" HOTH : just deleting "The Crunge" and "No Ocean" and replaced them with "The Rover" and "HOTH". It's one of my fave on "Physical". The riff is great, Plant's voice as well and the rhythmic section on par.

"Black Country Woman" is an acoustic blues. Probably the worst track here as well as the whole time low from the band. Press next. That's it for the "lost" jewels". Well, not really jewels to be honest. So ? Hurry up for the new numbers. We'll get definitely better stuff ! Well. not quite sure. "In My Time of Dying" is their longest studio track (over eleven minutes). It's a loooooooooong bluesy one. Not a la "Since I've Been Loving You" I'm afraid. It turns (finally) into a rock one after five long minutes but returns to the boring blues part for the last three minutes. It should have, at least, been cut by half.

"Kashmir" is the highlight for most of the fans and one of their emblematic songs. This hypnotic riff never changes for over eight minutes. I remember quite well the first time I listened to it. I've had already read a review which praised this song very much, so I guess I was expecting a kind of fantastic song, a new "Stairway" maybe. I was always expecting the track to really lift of : to get an incredible tempo change, a wild guitar break, some vocals from another world. But the song kept going on and on with the same and languid (almost dull) pace. Till the end.

"Kashmir" will be seriously improved on the Page-Plant album "No Quarter" in which the duo will be playing with an Egyptian ensemble, developing this song to a greater dimension (IMO).

"In The Light" is the third long piece of music. It is almost boring all the way long. Eastern influences (Northern Africa - Middle-East) are obvious again. Plant was deeply inspired by these sounds at the time. More than thirty years later, he will still be (at least, he is consistent). The song starts to be interesting, after two-third or so while the Oriental mood turns into a truly melodic rock ballad. This saves the track from total chaos. There is a working version for this number on an unofficial recording called "Headley Grange" (1971). It was called "In The Morning". The final part is pure jamming. It was on purpose, just to show how the band sounded during these moments.

The opener "Custard Pie" is of course not at all on par with its first five colleagues (the openers I mean). A good funky song but not at all a great number.

"Trampled Under Foot" is my favorite from this weak album : great rhythm, catchy riff. I guess that zillions of fans were expecting more of these type of tracks. Good keys break (no wonder since Jones co-signs the song). The "highlight" on this rather poor album.

"Ten Years Gone" sounds like "The Rain song". Not bad actually. On this one, it appears as a moment of relieve in this complete mess. A nice little ballad which won't revolutionize rock music. But again, since "Graffiti" is so weak, any average number sounds almost like a great one.

I would have preferred to get a chronological sequence of tracks. It would have been easier to figure out the evolution (?) of the band. Anyway, when I listen to this album (which is not too often actually), that's what I do : I rearrange the tracks as such.

"The Wanton Song" is another of these poor funky-hard-rock numbers. We remain in the boring mood, I'm afraid.

The closing number "Sick Again" (that's mostly the feeling one gets while listening to this double album in a row) is one of the best of the whole. But that's not really enough for a double Led Zep effort.

As I say in my intro, this should have been a single album. But even so, it wouldn't have been a great one. Just average. But extending this to almost ninety minutes is a torture for the ears and a pity for the fan that I am. So, basically, thirty-two years after the vinyl purchase I still have the same feeling : poor. Incidentally, I re-purchased it under its CD version (I must be a masochist).

Several new tracks clearly marked a new direction for the band : hard-funk-rock. it will be even more investigated in later efforts. During an interview available on their DVD "Led Zep", Robert will talk about this album. He will explain that it would have been a pity not to release the old stuff, because they were too good for that (?). As far as I'm concerned, the world wouldn't have missed anything, should have they remained "lost" forever.

Since this interview was taped in the catacombs of Forest National just before their concert in Brussels (January 1975) and so far my only Led Zep live experience, I have a bit of sentimental feeling about it (the interview, I mean). The concert as such was not really great. Brussels was used as a base for rehearsals for their US tours (as were The Netherlands). So, the band was not really running well and the track list was not all that great. Still, I have seen Led Zep and listened to "Stairway" live.

IMO, it's the weakest Led Zep album. Almost eighty-seven minutes of boring and repetitive stuff. I think I have listened to it in its entirety about ten times (of which six or seven for the purpose of this review only). I definitely not recommend this one at all (neither for newcomers nor to the casual fan).

AT THE TIME OF RELEASE, NO ONE WOULD HAVE EVER CONSIDERED THIS ALBUM AS PROG OR PROG RELATED. NOTHING HAS CHANGED IN THE MEANTIME. IMO, IT IS ONE OF THE POOREST ALBUM OF ONE OF THE GREATEST BAND OF ROCK HISTORY.

Still this album will peak at the first spot of the US and UK chart. Each of their previous record will re-enter the top 200 US charts (unseen event so far).

Two stars.

ZowieZiggy | 2/5 |

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