“Physical Graffiti” by Led Zeppelin - album review

features in: Album Chart of 1975Album Chart of the Decade: 1970s1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die external-link.png

TJR says

Their tenure at Atlantic now at an end, “Physical Graffiti”, delivered in February ’75, was the first on their own label, Swan Song. Cock-rock-riffage dominates, despite the oft-repeated claims that this set is some sort of dazzling pot-pourri of pop, funk, blues and folk with several sub-genre offshoots. According to Robert Plant, of all the albums Led Zeppelin released, Physical Graffiti represented the band at its most creative and most expressive, and is his favourite Led Zeppelin album. Similarly, guitarist Jimmy Page considers this album to be a “high-water mark” for Led Zeppelin: “It’s always a case of getting together and feeling out the moods of each of us when we meet with instruments for the first time in six months. We began as always, playing around and fooling about for two days, playing anything we want, like standards, our own material or anything that comes to us, and slowly but surely we develop a feel that takes us on to the new material.

Initially intended as an 8-track single LP, the runtime was so great that it was decided that they’d be better making it a double, giving a platform for favoured tracks which had not made the cut on previous releases. There was one outtake from Led Zeppelin III, three from Led Zeppelin IV, and three from Houses of the Holy, including the unused title-track itself. Interestingly, some of the best tracks on this set stem from these afterthoughts. “Bron-Yr-Aur”, the shortest piece ever recorded by the group at just over 2 minutes, is a delightfully tranquil little thing, recorded by Jimmy back in 1970 acoustic solo, and suitably named after the cottage in the mountains of Snowdonia in Wales where they had been based for the Led Zep III sessions. Here, Jimmy reveals his inner Bert Jansch / John Martyn to great effect. “Boogie With Stu” (named after Stones manager and pianist Ian Stewart who gets a co-writer credit) was recorded way back in January ’71 at the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio. Said Jimmy Page: “Some of the things that happened there, like “Boogie with Stu” where Stu turns up and plays a piano that's totally unplayable, were incredible. That was too good to miss because Stu wouldn't record, he wouldn't do solo stuff. All of these things wouldn't end up on albums as far as other people were concerned, but they did with us.” This irreverence is much more like it.

On the very next track, “Black Country Woman” (recorded in May ’72 during the Houses of the Holy sessions) an aeroplane can be heard above prompting recording engineer Eddie Kramer to ask “Shall we roll it Jimmy?” to which Robert Plant replies: “Nah, leave it, yeah.” Relaxed and informal, the mandolin-led stomper is a sure-fire winner all-day long. Despite my hankering for the casually glorious aspect of Led Zepp’s psyche, it’s an other-worldly Rock Epic which absolutely steals the show. “Kashmir” is utterly majestic, orchestrally fusing western rock with the richness of traditional Arabian music. Robert Plant reckons it to be the “definitive Led Zeppelin song… it possessed all the latent energy and power that wasn't heavy metal. It was something else. It was the pride of Led Zeppelin.” I usually don’t trust artists to review their own material – but I agree with Mr. Plant on that one.

The Jukebox Rebel

A1 [04:15] 4.3.png Led Zeppelin - Custard Pie (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant) Rock
A2 [05:39] 5.1.png Led Zeppelin - The Rover (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant) Rock
A3 [11:08] 6.9.png Led Zeppelin - In My Time Of Dying (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, John Bonham) Rock
B1 [04:04] 5.9.png Led Zeppelin - Houses Of The Holy (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant) Rock
B2 [05:36] 4.5.png Led Zeppelin - Trampled Under Foot (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones) Rock
B3 [08:37] 9.8.png Led Zeppelin - Kashmir (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Bonham) Rock
C1 [08:47] 7.0.png Led Zeppelin - In The Light (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones) Rock
C2 [02:06] 7.5.png Led Zeppelin - Bron-Yr-Aur (Jimmy Page) Folk
C3 [05:15] 5.7.png Led Zeppelin - Down By The Seaside (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant) Folk Rock / Americana
C4 [06:34] 5.2.png Led Zeppelin - Ten Years Gone (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant) Rock
D1 [03:38] 5.8.png Led Zeppelin - Night Flight (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones) Rock
D2 [04:08] 4.8.png Led Zeppelin - The Wanton Song (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant) Rock
D3 [03:52] 6.5.png Led Zeppelin - Boogie With Stu (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, John Bonham, Ian Stewart) Blues / Rhythm n Blues
D4 [04:24] 7.7.png Led Zeppelin - Black Country Woman (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant) Blues Rock / Soul Rock
D5 [04:42] 4.7.png Led Zeppelin - Sick Again (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant) Rock

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