Classic Rock Review

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Led Zeppelin Physical Graffiti (1975)

graffitiFrom donignacio.com

According to Led Zeppelin lore, these guys had written too much material for their follow-up to Houses of Holy, so instead of cutting some material, they decided to expand it to a double album. Usually, that entailed filling the album with a ton of unused (and weaker) material from earlier albums. The result is one of the more scattershot and less “revolutionary” Led Zeppelin albums, but I’ll be a monkey’s great-aunt if I don’t find this thing to be entertaining.

This was planned to be a back-to-basics album as the progressive rock ambitions of Houses of Holy didn’t seem to pan out too well. This is an album filled with simple riff-rockers more or less. Not that I didn’t want musicians to expand their boundaries a little bit, but we all have to face the facts: Riff-rock was just their strength. There’s nothing finer than hearing these guys rip out a catchy riff over and over again while Robert Plant wails over it like he does (although he seemed to already lose some of his range since the classic days, which is surprising).

I had a copy of this album for quite some time, but I’ll admit that I never actually sat down and listened to the whole thing until I wrote this review. The reason I kept this album around was for one reason, and one reason only: “Kashmir.” I am with 99 percent of the rock ‘n’ roll population who thinks that’s a tremendously cool song. They come up with that ascending chord progression riff that sounds so epic that it should have been in a soundtrack to a ’50s movie in Technicolor starring Kirk Douglas. That epic. Even Bonham’s rather simple drumming seems larger than life! Robert Plant of course sings stuff over it, but even that doesn’t destroy the good mood.

Another song that wins me over for its badassery is “The Rover,” which is little more than a really awesomely played riff. Did we really want anything more from them? The album closer “Sick Again” is another one of my favorites. It’s little more than a dumb and dirty riff, but it’s catchy and I can actually get caught up in it. “The Wanton Song” features such a quickly played riff that it smacks me around and forces me to pay attention, and that constitutes another highlight.

There are a couple of oddball songs in here, which I appreciate, since it keeps this 15-track album from growing too samey. Although I’m not much of a fan of the nine-minute psychedelic/new-agey song, “In the Light.” There’s some interesting elements to it (such as a nicely done bendy synthesizer solo at the beginning), but that song seems to drag on for waaay too long, and its heavy guitar sections just seem flat to me. One of the album’s good oddball songs must be “Trampled Underfoot,” which contains such a tight and catchy groove that it forces me to tap my foot with it. John Bonham deserves credit for his inventive drum sounds in “Boogie With Stu” and “Black Country Woman,” which would have otherwise been boringly ordinary.

“In My Time of Dying” is another highlight that I feel the need to point out mostly because it is the sort of song that I thought I would have hated. It’s an 11-minute piece filled with nothing but bluesy licks, minimal drum beats, and Robert Plant sounding like he’s improvising a melody. But somehow, they keep those bluesy licks consistently interesting, so it doesn’t completely lose my attention.

A lot of Led Zeppelin fans consider Physical Graffiti to be their best. While I’m not with them on that assessment, I can see where they’re coming from. This is where Led Zeppelin started to lose some of their (honestly misguided) artistic ambition and just concentrated on songs that are fun to listen to. Sure, there is that weird exception (“In the Light”) and maybe a few songs that could have rocked out more (“Ten Years Gone”), but all in all this is right on the money.

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May 20, 2013 - Posted by | Led Zeppelin Physical Graffiti |

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