Physical Graffiti (1975)


 
Disc One 1. Custard Pie 2. The Rover 3. In My Time of Dying 4. Houses of the Holy 5. Trampled Underfoot 6. Kashmir Disc Two 7. In the Light 8. Bron-Yr-Aur 9. Down By the Seaside 10.Ten Years Gone 11.Night Flight 12.The Wanton Song 13.Boogie With Stu 14.Black Country Woman 15.Sick Again

 

Most hard rock fans will tell you that they really like Led Zeppelin. However, if they’re not that familiar with the band, one glance at the track listing on this double album won’t reveal much familiarity – with the exception of Kashmir of course. Serious fans are a bit more enlightened. In fact, most hard-core Zeppelin fans (including me) rank this album as the best of their best. Even some band members themselves have stated such sentiments.

Part of the delight comes from the sheer volume. When they went into the studio to record this album, they had no intention of making this a double album. A problem arose when the material that they did want to include was slightly longer than what would fit on a single album. So they just dug up several leftovers from previous albums, tacked them on, and released one of the best double albums in the history of rock and roll (that’s my opinion, of course).

Even though this is their longest album, the music here doesn’t sound quite as eclectic as one might think. It’s mostly straight-ahead rock and roll. Sure, there are exceptions, but even those that might bleed into a different genre retain a lot of the ingredients that go into a straightforward rock tune. Take In My Time of Dying for instance. Lovers of this tune know that this song is not really an original – yet a blues song covered by Blind Willie Johnson and Bob Dylan among others. The song retains its blues roots, but it doesn’t take long until the band rips into familiar territory and stamps the tune with their heartily rock influence. Same can be said for the one ‘hit’ song Kashmir. Yes, the song does have “Indian” influences throughout, but no one would mistake this for an indigenous tune that might have originated from the actual place.

The entire record is very powerful – even when they slow things down a bit such as Down By the Sea or the quick acoustic piece Bron-Yr-Aur (not to be confused with Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp from Led Zeppelin III. The two were, in fact, recorded around the same time). My personal favorites are the country-ish Black Country Woman and the infectious Boogie with Stu (with the late-great Ian Steward on piano).

Perhaps the fact that there isn’t much here that is well known is why the record is so special to me. As I’ve mentioned in other reviews of this band’s work, it can be very easy to get tired of Led Zeppelin with masses of the band’s material being played on ubiquitous “classic rock” stations all over the country. The fact that one can’t hear many of these songs any place other than the actual album is one of its charms.

For whatever reason, the band would slowly fade after this record. No one knew it at the time, but personal tragedies would start to tear at the band, and they would only record two more albums before calling it quits for good. They would never put out a record close to being this good again.

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