LED ZEPPELIN — Physical Graffiti

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LED ZEPPELIN - Physical Graffiti cover
3.94 | 103 ratings | 6 reviews
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Album · 1975

Filed under Hard Rock


Disc 1

1. Custard Pie (4:13)
2. The Rover (5:37)
3. In My Time Of Dying (11:05)
4. Houses Of The Holy (4:02)
5. Trampled Under Foot (5:36)
6. Kashmir (8:28)

Disc 2

1. In The Light (8:46)
2. Bron-Yr-Aur (2:06)
3. Down By The Seaside (5:15)
4. Ten Years Gone (6:33)
5. Night Flight (3:37)
6. The Wanton Song (4:09)
7. Boogie With Stu (3:53)
8. Black Country Woman (4:32)
9. Sick Again (4:42)

Total Time 82:42


- Jimmy Page / guitar, mandolin
- Robert Plant / vocals, harmonica, acoustic guitar
- John Paul Jones / bass guitar, organ, piano, keyboards, guitar, mandolin
- John Bonham / drums, percussion

Guest musician:

- Ian Stewart / piano (disc 2 track 7)

About this release

Release date: February 24, 1975
Label: Swan Song Records

Thanks to Stooge, Pekka, Lynx33, diamondblack, Unitron for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

I'm of the opposite opinion of most people when it comes to Zeppelin. You could make one great solid single-disc best of compilation with all the songs I like from Zep's self-titled albums and Houses of the Holy. Though, the latter is when the band was just starting to get good. More variation in songwriting, more experimental, and even more memorable hooks. Physical Graffiti though, that's where they take what that started and just went all out.

One of the few albums that absolutely warrants being two discs, two discs of some of the best hard rock ever put to record. Riff after riff, hook after hook, melody after melody, it never lets up with a weak moment. In My Time of Dying is how you make an 11-minute rock song, it has the energy and intensity of an extended live cut. The heavy raw blues riffing is just relentless, with several great hooks. Trampled Under Foot though, if I had to pick, this might be my favorite Zeppelin song. There's something about funky songs from heavy bands in the 70's that I can't resist, but this was the first of its kind I heard. The ballsiest foot-stomper out there, it's just such an irresistible groove.

The iconic Kashmir just may have had an influence on Rainbow for songs like Stargazer and Gates of Babylon, with its plodding Phrygian climb. The Rover, In the Light, and Ten Years Gone prelude some of the sounds of the following Presence with the balance of hard rock grooves and melancholic melody. Down by the Seaside is basically a chill country song, but not without an intense bridge. The album's finale of Sick Again is another heavy stomper, but there's parts where it sounds like this hard riff and colossal drums are being layered over themselves several times. Have no idea how it was produced, but whatever it is it sounds fantastic.

Even the songs that might at first seem like filler are great, Houses of the Holy I used to think was a weak moment, but now I love it for just being a great hard rock song. While the following Presence is my favorite Zeppelin album, Physical Graffiti isn't far behind at all. The greatest double album in rock as far as I'm concerned.
The blimp is going down...

After a brilliant start to their career with 4 masterful albums, Led Zeppelin were beginning to falter on every release. This Zeppelin album is all the left over stuff that was not good enough for the previous albums. Some of it perhaps should have been forgotten too, especially on side 2. To be fair there are some very good tracks on offer here. "In My Time of Dying" is a blues gem, with Plant at his best, and Bonham is wonderful on percussion. "Kashmir" is well composed with some excellent mellotron swirls from John Paul Jones. "Ten Years Gone" features killer riffing and perhaps it is a showcase for Page's lead guitar dexterity. "The Wanton Song" has some great feedback squeals and accomplished drumming by Bonham. "Houses of the Holy" should have made it to the album of its name's sake.

Other tracks feel like outtakes and almost filler material. Things like "Bron-Yr-Aur" are legendary among fans but when it comes down to it is just an acoustic guitar filler. "Down by the Seaside" is something left over from the "Led Zeppelin III" album that would have ruined it. "Ten Years Gone", "Night Flight", "The Wanton Song", "Boogie with Stu" and "Black Country Woman" reek of filler material, and sound more like outtakes that should have ended up as bonus tracks rather than on an official album. "Sick Again" finishes it all on a high note.

So there it is, an album to sift the gold from the dirt. "Physical Graffiti" will always have its fans as it is after all an album that has caused discussion through the years, and features one of the most striking covers, especially the vinyl version with pull out windows. The building has become rather dilapidated over the years and has lost its sheen, but it is still worth dropping by for a visit.

When recording Physical Graffiti, Led Zeppelin came out of the sessions with slightly more material than they required for a single album. As a result, they decided to put out a double album, with the extra space consisting of songs recorded in previous sessions but which had never made the cut for earlier albums. Usually, when a band pulls a move like this, it makes me profoundly suspicious because it raises a simple but important question: why, when this material wasn't good enough to be put out on an earlier album, is it suddenly good enough to release now?

In the case of Physical Graffiti, the answer is all too apparent: because the new material is so unimaginative, creatively bankrupt and weak that it makes the old rejects look good by comparison. If you really must listen to one of the great proto-metal bands of their day snooze their way through sub-Rolling Stones country-blues-rock then it's a goldmine, but it lacks all of the verve and vitality and life that the Stones invested the likes of Exile On Main Street with. Occasionally the Zeps break out of this creative rut to do something a little different, but this usually amounts to rehashing another song from their repertoire only making it worse. Kashmir, for example, uses the same drum-led sound as When The Levee Breaks, but adds dull, cliched, and unimaginatively applied strings to the mix and removes the aggression and power and apocalyptic dread that enthused that great album closer.

The first disc is devoted to the longer songs on the set, on which the band take a single musical idea and repeat it without any interesting variation until the listener is completely sick of it. The second disc is devoted to shorter songs, which somehow manage to take the sprawling tedium of In My Time of Dying or Trampled Under Foot and squeeze it down into 3-to-4 minute packages. Oh, and it has Boogie With Stu, which has to be the most useless and pointless song the band ever committed to vinyl. I defy anyone to argue that either disc, taken separately or together, is even remotely of the standard of any of the band's first four albums - or, hell, even Rush's Zep-worshipping first album. Or Presence. Or In Through the Out Door. Or Houses of the Holy.

Taken as a whole, Physical Graffiti is good for one thing only, and that's as an explanation for why punk had to happen: so that complacent, self-indulgent rock aristocracy like Led Zeppelin would no longer be allowed to get away with foisting such a lacklustre, slipshod, slapdash product on the paying public. After punk, dinosaur bands like Zeppelin had to work hard and produce decent products to demonstrate that they weren't extinct yet; beforehand, they could put out flabby, wheezy double albums like this and get critically acclaimed for them. I, personally, am not fooled.
Regarded by many Zeppelin fans as the bands finest moment and I'm not going to argue with that. What's surprising about that fact though is that Physical Graffiti, a double album, was not made up of solely new material, but included tracks left over from previous sessions.

The album opens in fine style with two typical Zeppelin Rockers, Custard Pie and The Rover. The latter was recorded a few years earlier in 1970 but was titivated up with a few overdubs by Page to get it up to scratch.

My own personnel favourite from the original first disc is In My Time of Dying which is actually based on a traditional song and had previously been recorded by Bob Dylan. Naturally the Zeppelin version has their trademark stamp on it and after starting as a slow bluesy number steps up a few notches for a bombastic middle instrumental section featuring some great slide playing from Page and Bonhams Bass Drum playing is on top form.

Next up is Houses of the Holy, another strong Rocker left over from the album of the same name which is followed by the funky Trampled Underfoot with good keyboard contributions from Jones and Plant, who is on great form throughout the album sings his heart.

Kashmir which closes the first disc has become a Zeppelin classic with its Eastern tinged riff and simple but effective Drumming from Bonham.

The second disc whilst not quite as consistent as the first nevertheless contains some fine moments. Highlights being the haunting In the Light, Ten Years Gone and some more great Heavy Rock in Night Flight, The Wanton Song and Sick Again. There's a nice acoustic interlude called Bron-Y-Aur and a bluesy stomp called Black Country Woman which is a bit of a throwaway track but amongst such good company I wouldn't complain.

Down by the Seaside, another fourth album leftover which didn't fit in with the mood of that release is a worthy addition here. Boogie with Stu, featuring Ian Stewart of Stones fame sounds like a barroom tune and although fun, is the weakest song on a superb release.

So despite a couple of less than perfect moments a 5 star album and one of the greatest albums ever.

Members reviews

This one seems to be among the best loved Zeppelin albums by fans, as well as a favorite among double albums. Yet, I don't really hear what's so great about it... besides Kashmir, of course. And then, perhaps it's Kashmir in great part the one that makes it sound bad, since the rest of the album sounds nothing like it, so much that it actually sounds out of place within the album... or else, perhaps the order of the songs within the album were not well chosen. I think Kashmir would have sounded much better at the end of disc two, which has many songs that go better with it, and which I particularly like better, and take the last two songs from that disc for disc one, giving the whole album a much stronger end, and making both discs sound much more coherent within them.
Important: I originally posted this review on progarchives, so it is a bit focussed on the progressive side of the album, though it doesn't matter as far as the rating is concerned.

Physical Graffiti is recognized as one of the strongest Led Zeppelin albums, some even say that it is the most "proggy" one. While I definitely agree with the first statement, I'm not too sure about the second one. True, the album runs over a total of nearly 83 minutes. True, 3 of the 15 songs exceed the 8 minute mark. But is that enough?

There is one main point against defining Physical Graffiti as a prog album: There's little variety in the style of the songs. Only Boogie With Stu, which is the boogie the title hints at, acoustic Bron-Yr-Aur and the ballads In The Light and Black Country Woman are different from the rest. All other songs are dominated by strong and heavy guitar riffs, though most of them are more complex than the average hard rock riff of the time. Ok, the intro parts of those songs show some variety, too. And there is of course Kashmir with its string arrangement and complex patterns which certainly qualifies as a prog song.

But of course, and especially on a Heavy Metal site, an album doesn't necessarily have to be prog to get a high rating from me. It only has to be of high quality which is certainly true for Physical Graffity. I already mentioned Jimmy Page's strong guitar work, but the other musicians' performances follow up closely and occasionally surpass him. Especially drummer John Bonham has never performed finer and more energetical than on this album. The same can be said about John Paul Jones on bass and keys and vocalist Robert Plant. He may never qualify as an opera singer, but he did exactly what the song needed in all 15 cases.

I might edit the rating up to a 5 after I've had another quiet hour with Led Zep IV (which will most certainly retain its provisional 5 star rating) to find out whether I feel a difference in quality (and liking) between the two albums. But for now, I go for solid 4.5 stars.

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