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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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The Whistler
Prog Reviewer
3 stars (Bron-Yr-Aur part 3.5)

To paraphrase American author Mark Twain, "a classic is something that everyone wants to own, but nobody wants to actually listen to." From this point of view, I can safely state that Physical Graffiti is a classic album...because I don't see how anyone can sit through the entire thing! It's real friggin' LONG, baby, and in multiple senses of the word.

This album follows a similar logic of Houses of the Holy; you know, try to diversify the sound a little bit. However, although there are a few styles showcased here, most of them you've heard before. In fact, I count only one real departure from the standard sound. So, if they can't craft new styles, the least they can do is dig up some old styles and play them all REALLY LONG. You're going to hear that line a lot in this review.

Still, I swear that there is at least an album's length of decent, nay, incredible (by Zep standards at least) material here. However, because this sucker is split among two discs, you have to bog through some grade A mire to get there.

Opener "Custard Pie" is a decent heavy blues, but how come the riff is showcased on a synth? Jimmy's just sticking with the power chords. Oh well, I'm sure they'll clear this up later on in the album. As it stands, a nice enough rocker, with a bizarre, talk box solo...unless it's a synth. Well, carry on.

And, on one of the Zep's most infamous albums, with one of their most infamous songs, I give the dubious honor of best track to..."The Rover," a dumb little song that NO ONE'S EVER HEARD OF! BWA-HA-HA! Sorry. Seriously though, "The Rover" contains some real cool, medievally riffage, and one of Page's most charming solos ever. Feel free to ignore the lyrics, if you so choose ('cept the ones stolen from Roger Waters. Low blow Robbie. Heh).

"In My Time of Dying" is actually a pretty good number. Might be a little slow for some tastes, but I've no problem with Led when it's slow 'n bloozy. Great workout for Bonham and Page, even if it probably doesn't deserve an eleven minute running time. They even knew about that; listen in at the very end.

"Houses of the Holy" is a decent hard rocker with interesting guitar work, and the usual kinda cool but kinda stoopid lyrics. "Trampled Under Foot" is an interesting funky rocker toe tappin' for sure, but does it have to be so long? Gets a little repetitive after a while, until J. P. Jones steps in with a keyboard solo to break it up.

Anyway, "Kashmir" is definitely a highlight. The tune is solid, the ascending riff is classic, and it invented the genre of "Middle Eastern Metal Epic" (seriously though, where'd it come from? Must be Page's Yardbirds influence; remember "Still I'm Sad?"). Of course, can't be the best, 'cause for one thing it's too long again...and in the middle of all the mystical imagery, Bobby just can't help himself, and starts wailing, "BABYBABYBABE, oh, ain't no denying." Poor lad, it's a sickness you know. Anyway, other than that, good atmosphere, cool use of orchestra and synth (or are they all synths? You tell me), distorted guitar and drums. And what, the hell, aside from the babybabes, the lyrics are petty cool; maybe it is the best thing on the record.

Side...three opens with "In the Light," which continues the Eastern promise in the synth driven introduction, but then turns into a rather noble, albeit still synth driven, rocker. Probably don't need to be so long either, of course. "Bron-yr-Aur" is a cute lil' instrumental acoustic number that has very little to do with the "Stomp" one. Much less "stompin'," in fact, and far more pastoral and medieval.

But "Down by the Seaside" is just plain oceanic pop atmosphere by Led Zep? Oh well, it's pleasant, if not remarkable. Kinda bloozy too. Also kinda cool when it heats up in the middle, but then it goes on! But "Ten Years Gone" has absolutely no reason to be that long. It does nothing in its six and a half minutes other than bore me.

"Night Flight" is another slower, not so harder, number. Nice organ, but if anything makes it especially worthwhile, it's that Plant actually sounds resonant for a minute at the start. "The Wanton Song" blasts on with what sounds like the power of the bad ole days, but it doesn't really go anywhere. And when the instrumental bits comes in, you wonder if that riff was all that powerful after all.

However, I rather like "Boogie With Stu." It's a fairly attractive retro rocker, with some nice piano lines, clever acoustic guitar, and some really catchy drumming. In fact, I'm sort of disappointed Bonzo didn't launch into some kind of rhythmic solo at the end. Likewise, I'm somewhat fond of the similarly minded "Black Country Woman." I mean, it ain't no great shake, but the lads are having fun (dig the studio noise), and I'm having fun too.

Sorta wished we'd ended with it, because "Sick Again" is a rather lackluster blues rocker. I mean, the last two numbers were hardly classics, but they were interesting damn it! This? Nothing particularly bad, but nothing Stand Up-ish about it. Sorry.

So the basic problem with Graffiti is that its numbers are legion; the track list is endless, they all sound somewhat the same, and they either go on forever, or they SEEM like they go on forever. And trust me, that means that listening to the entire album at once could give even the most dedicated Zepster a headache pretty quick...well, unless you're one of "the faithful," who believes that Robert Plant craps gold bricks.

I still give it the 3.5 score because, well, nothing is THAT atrocious. The songs, even if not memorable, are rarely unbearable, and certainly toe tappin', if not headbangin'. The musicianship is all good at least; Bonham bashes like a madman, and Page, when he gets a spot, shows off well enough. Jones dicks around with synths when the need arises. And Plant...uh, you like Plant's wailings? Get this puppy.

And besides, some of the stuff is great. "Kashmir" and "The Rover" are pretty awesome, and could rank among some of their, if not best, most interesting, material. In fact, that's where the true gold bricks lie (rather than up Robbie's ass); in the unusual stuff, like "Boogie" and "In My Time." The rockers? You've mostly heard 'em before, 'cept less lame. Stick with the freaky crap, just don't expect genius, merely entertainment. Uh, assuming that it's not TOO long.

Hmm...consider it this way, that the first record is a weak four, and that the second a strong three. Compromise, see? Except, that's probably conditional, since I still have to listen to the whole damn thing to get to that second CD, but I swear that the better material is on the first disc, which in hindsight, might not be a four anyways. Oh well. Use your own judgment. Just make sure you have A LOT of time on your hands...

The Whistler | 3/5 |


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