Monday, June 15, 2020

Led Zeppelin: Physical Graffiti (1975)

Release Date: February 24, 1975

Active Members: Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, John Bonham

Produced by Jimmy Page

Side One: Custard Pie; The Rover; In My Time of Dying

Side Two: Houses of the Holy; Trampled Under Foot; Kashmir

Side Three: In the Light; Bron-Yr-Aur; Down by the Seaside; Ten Years Gone

Side Four: Night Flight; The Wanton Song; Boogie with Stu; Black Country Woman; Sick Again

Led Zeppelin's 1975 double album Physical Graffiti marked a creative peak for the band, displaying a range of styles with valuable contributions from all involved. Everything that's great about Led Zeppelin can be found on this album, from their bombastic blues driven rock to mystical folk. About half of the songs were outtakes from previous albums, reworked and given new life on this fantastic record.

"Custard Pie" opens the record on a hard rocking note, their trademark blues on steroids featuring an exuberant harmonica solo by Plant. "The Rover" points the way to 80s metal with its vague Sci-Fi landscape and industrial sound. The eleven minute "In My Time of Dying" muses on youth and death, in another feat of epic powerhouse rock. "Houses of the Holy" is a more melodic track, a smooth listen and a come on to Satan's daughter adding a Gothic overtone. "Trampled Under Foot" was inspired by Funk, hard driving and aggressive. "Kashmir" became on of the definitive Zeppelin tracks, inspired by a desert drive Jimmy Page took through Morocco. Its hypnotic rhythms showed off the band's versatility as recording artists.

The second disc begins with the staggering "In the Light," which is more in the prog rock tradition with its synth driven rhythm celebrating pagan themes of nature worship, as if attempting to conjure some ancient magic. "Bron-Yr-Aur" is a soft acoustic folk song, serving as an interlude. "Down by the Seaside"  is another pastoral in the Neil Young mode, Plant's vocal is especially pleasant here. "Ten Years Gone" is an onslaught of surreal riffs, a distant cousin to "Kashmir." 

"Night Flight" is a more traditional rock song with more irresistible riffs. "The Wanton Song" talks of witchcraft, while "Boogie With Stu" is another hypnotic retro blues/rock featuring Ian Stewart on piano. "Black Country Women" hints at exhaustion with life on the road. The closing track "Sick Again" reflects on the sorrows of decadent life when surrounded by groupies. The backstage antics of Led Zeppelin are well covered in Hammer of the Gods by Stephen Davis.

The double album holds a certain mystique in rock history, the Holy Grail many bands aspired to. Physical Graffiti is one of the masterworks in that tradition, not weighed down by excess nor pretentiousness. The music speaks for itself.

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