The second incarnation of my blog
Based on the top 100 albums in Rolling Stone magazine’s top 500, I have set myself the challenge of hearing and appraising each album. I hope to be surprised and educated along the way.
Led Zeppelin return at number 73 with Physical Graffiti having appeared already at number 79. It was released in 1975 as a double album after a two year break. The band had recorded eight songs which stretched the album beyond the typical length of an LP so they made Physical Graffiti a double album by including unreleased tracks from earlier recording sessions.
The opener Custard Pie is a blues rocker that just sets the scene. But the next song The Rover, is a great track that is far more complex and is both heavy and melodic at the same time. Side A of disc 1 has only 3 songs (as does side 2) and concludes with In my time of dying which is over 11 minutes long. It’s a bit of a rambling mess – powerful, but clearly built from jam sessions.
Houses of the holy is a radio friendly song with some crisp guitar and is followed by another song that I assume was a radio hit in the USA but Trampled Underfoot that doesn’t sound like Led Zep’ at all, but it’s a fine track all the same.
The classic Kashmir grows and grows over it’s 8 minutes and 32 seconds. There are so many sounds within this song, but it all revolves around a simple few notes and is so powerful and impressive.
Side A of disc 2 is surprisingly lightweight. It kicks off with In the light which is an odd song that is quite twee in places and doesn’t do much for me and neither does Bron-Yr-Aur, clearly outtake from 5 years previously. Down by the seaside sounds like any middle of the road country-pop band of 1975 and only improves when the tempo increases. Side A is saved by Ten years gone with its layers of guitars. It is a dreamy track that drifts from gentle noodling to rock riffs. A great find.
It’s odd that the final 5 tracks aren’t that strong. In fact a couple are forgettable (Night flight and Boogie with Stu) which shows that this could have been paired down. As with so many double albums (and there have been a handful already on my list), I just wonder how great a single album would have been instead. The performance and production are so layered, that a double album is a lot to take in at once.
My brother had this album and I remember being fascinated by the cleverly designed sleeve and inserts. I now read that the complexity of this design led to delays releasing the album in North America.
It was on for a sturdy 7/10 until the last “side”…
My rating: 6/10
Standout tracks: The Rover, Kashmir, Ten years gone
Listen to the album here.
See the Top 100 here.