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Led Zeppelin - Physical Graffiti CD (album) cover


Led Zeppelin


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4.06 | 860 ratings

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5 stars There's been a lot of twaddle written about this album, some of it from people who should know better. No one here, of course.

Yes, some of this material was held over from previous albums. Less than half the double album, actually - seven of 15 songs, a total of only 28:46 out of the 86 minutes. Not because the material was inferior, but because it didn't fit the moods of the porevious albums. LED ZEPPELIN were skilled at constructing albums. Why consider it odd that some gems were held back until they found an appropriate home? I couldn't imagine, for example, Night Flight, Boogie With Stu or Down By The Seaside on IV, could you?

Look, there's nearly an hour of new material here. And what there is, is of the highest quality. The new songs are the heart of this album's progressiveness, as you would expect given when they were written (1974), and are much longer than earlier tracks in their career.

Enough of that. What of the music? Everything you could possibly want in progressive-tinged hard rock. Back is the granite-slab drumming, the extended, searing solos, the myriad of guitar effects, the pounding bass - and added is JOHN PAUL JONES' keyboards, first aired to real effect in 'No Quarter' from the previous half-hearted album. Here JONES lights up the record with fabulous atmospherics, making 'Kashmir', 'In The Light' and 'Down By The Seaside' soar, to pick three examples. And out with the clavinet to rock us with 'Trampled Underfoot'. Oh, there's a full bag of tricks here, four men at the top of their game, confidence at an all-time high, before the heroin got to PAGE and before PLANT lost his son.

Outstanding moments here are legion. After opening with the competent 'Custard Pie' - interesting subject matter, lads - they tear into us with 'The Rover', better by far than any of the tracks from the album it was left off (save 'No Quarter'). Great lyrics, fabulous drumming, pulsing bass, growling guitar. 'In My Time Of Dying' is by far the best blues number they ever did, exceeding even 'Since I've Been Loving You.' This time their humour works, unlike 'The Crunge' from the previous album. And what spine tingling slide guitar! 'Trampled Underfoot' pounds you with it's beat and its double entendres, then clears the way for the slow dinosaur that is 'Kashmir', truly a pillar in the temple of rock. Such breathtaking simplicity and audacity, phased drums overlaying keyboard stabs and mystical lyrics. BONHAM'S runs here are legendary. PLANT sings up a storm, using his voice in ways he'd never again aspire to. This is a sound that has been imitated by great bands - witness OPETH'S 'Beneath the Mire' and PORCUPINE TREE'S 'Sleep Together' for recent examples. For songs such as this were hi fi systems perfected.

Exhausted yet? We're not even half way through. The second disc is a little lighter, with it's progressive moments in 'In The Light' and the simply superb 'Ten Years Gone'. Look, there are progressive outfits who never did anything as proggy as the latter song. The song's midsection (2.30 - 4.50) is pure genius, deliberate discords and all. 'The Wanton Song' reminds us of this band's roots, demolishing our ears with stupendous clouts, stabs and thuds, and PLANT'S best vocal performance ever. I defy you to understand even one single line (apart from 'and the wheel rolls on').

Simple music? Not progressive? Others must be listening to a different album than the one I own. Perhaps the odd time signatures, the interplay of instruments, the musicianship and the incredible songwriting were excised from their copies.

Best album of 1975 by a country mile. Great cover, too.

russellk | 5/5 |


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