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Led Zeppelin - Physical Graffiti CD (album) cover


Led Zeppelin


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4.06 | 861 ratings

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5 stars

I did more for you baby than the good Lord ever done, I went downtown and bought you some hair and the good Lord never gave you none -- Saunders King

For Led Zeppelin, it was always about the blues. Not just because that's where rock had sprung from or there was so much to be inspired by, but because it was one of the most emotionally expressive forms of music to emerge in the 20th century. The group's background in, gleaning from, and mastery of music from the American deep South was acute and it allowed them a unique window into its spirit and past, a coveting so thorough it was often mistaken for thievery. If anything, Zeppelin added to the blues more than they stole from it, at least more than most other white bluesmen.

Rebecca, Rebecca, get your big legs off me. It may be sending you baby, but it's worryin' the hell out of me. -- Big Joe Turner

From Tutwiler, Mississippi and Springfield, Missouri, down in Brownsville, Texas over to Newton County, Georgia, south to New Orleans, into Memphis and up to Chicago, the Blues came from those who had something to say but little means with which to say it, and it was this urgency Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Bonham and John Paul Jones had tapped into. As weathered and tattered as their first two LPs were, Physical Graffiti - their sixth studio issue - was the most loyal in its reverence for all things blue. A celebration of African American folk music zapped with Thor's hammer, polished enough for us to notice but filled with the spontaneity and feeling so important to the songs. Gospel, ragtime, rhythm talk, spiritual, swing, country, soul-- even field hollering, a proto-blues form, can be heard in Robert Plant's electrifying vocals. Though best remembered for classics as 'Kashmir' or 'In the Light', it's the rest of the material that defines the music here and with a sound that sometimes reflects classic period Rolling Stones (a third of the tracks were cut at the Stones' mobile studio), Graffiti is one of the band's most consistent and finest-sounding works.

I'm going fishin' baby, and I've got a long long pole. Yes I'm going fishin' baby, and I've got a long long pole. Fishin' with you baby, in a very deep hole -- Tom Archia

The men's blues of 'Custard Pie' is salacious and dripping with fluids, Jimmy Page's craggy Les Paul and the throaty howl of Plant's harp, barnyard thud of Bonzo's bass drum and hi-hat, all pounded out by JPJ. 'The Rover', a track that would likely bore if it came from any other band, invites us in and tempts us to get up and dance but epic funereal 'In My Time of Dying' knocks us back down with a maudlin gospel that highlights Plant's genius for the floating lyric tradition, climaxing with a typically mesmerizing riff from Page sewn together by Bonham's booming syncopation. A bit of Texas honkytonk for 'Houses of the Holy', full of character and texture. At times you can almost hear the scratches and pops of an old blues record. 'Trampled Underfoot' pumps its way to the front, a dominating bit that shows the group's development of tone, emotional content and rock styling, and got a lot of radio play in the states as I recall. And the evocative 'Kashmir' ends the first disc with visions of sparse lands, red skies, purple light, and travels of the spirit. Orgasmic at times, it reveals Page&Plant's fondness for Middle Eastern musics and became a favorite for countless fans and non-fans alike.

Mama move your false teeth, papa wanna scratch your gums -- Champion Jack Dupree

'In the Light' picks-up from where we're left with a vibration of synth and Plant's call to awakening knitted brilliantly into Jimmy Page's bluenotes and rocking steady all the way through, Jones's counterlines on bass and John Bonham's patient timekeeping, in kind with 'Over the Hills and Far Away' from 1973 and one of the best things in their catalog. Jimmy Page gives us a well-earned break with gossamer 'Bron-Y-Aur' as it swirls around in our head delighting us with the magic of one man and a guitar. 'Down by the Seaside', though lazy and almost Grateful Dead-like, is not that bad and wakes up in the middle with a driving rock beat. Page's dreams of guitar armies - later to be fully realized on the magnificent Presence - are displayed in 'Ten Years Gone' with a roughly layered approach he'd honed by 1975, the driving power of this group pushing it all forward, making it work through sheer will. 'The Wanton Song': c'mon, how can you not like this? Simple perfection spat out by the greatest hard rock band the world has ever known-- ooh, in the darkness can you hear me call? Yeah I thought so. 'Boogie With Stu', the only questionable addition to an otherwise brilliant album, swings through and juxtaposes a mandolin solo on top of a raggy piano. More pissed-off Men's Blues for 'Black Country Woman' and things close on drunken 'Sick Again', Plant stumbling with Joe Cocker seizures as he confronts the craziness around him.

Here were four men who had a musical and personal chemistry that most musicians would literally kill for at the height of their physical power and ingenuity, and a record of rock music so good it occasionally defies reason. Physical Graffiti is the other White Album, and a treat every time it is spun that continues to reveal its treasures.

Atavachron | 5/5 |


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