Review Summary: "So the world is spinning faster, are you dizzy when you're stoned?"
Many bands have attempted to produce a double album in their career. Pink Floyd and The Beatles pulled it off, and George Harrison even got a triple album to work. While Physical Graffiti isn't the best double album around, it certainly is very entertaining and worth a listen. Keep in mind that this is considered to be Zeppelin's masterpiece (with the exception of Zoso, of course).
A few years ago when I first attempted to listen to this great work of genius, I wasn't nearly the Zeppelin fan I am today. In fact I was only a (dare I say it?) singles fan. So all I was really interested in was, you guessed it, the singles. The hits. Then I went out and got this album for myself a year or so ago, and man was I blown away. I mean AMAZED. This album really has it all. There are the huge heavy rockers, the quiet mellow ballads, some Eastern-influenced heavy metal hitters, acoustic numbers. This is probably Led Zeppelin at their most diverse and maybe even best.
Of course, everyone knows the mighty "Kashmir". Its DADGAD guitar tuning, its orchestration, its mystical lyrics. And the fact that it's eight and a half minutes long. Now, I'm all for Zeppelin's long songs, but I'm just gonna come out and say it: this one wears thin on me. It's a great song, but there's really no soloing, that riff can kind of get annoying in the wrong mood, and lets face it it's too lengthy. Still it is one of the classic Zeppelin numbers, and fortunately there are five other songs on disc one, each one seeming to surpass the next. "The Rover" is a flat-out MONSTER. A grooving riff, outstanding rhythms, and one of Jimmy's best solos too. This all adds up to being a classic, but sadly this song isn't recognized as much as it should be. That's a common trend on this album, especially the second disc. There are many underrated gems, which can be a good thing seeing as that way the listener hasn't grown tired of hearing these phenonmenal tracks on classic rock radio over and over and over. Really, that's a plus for whoever is hearing this for the first time.
"Custard Pie" adds another cool riff, while "Houses of the Holy" gives off a tone that makes you want to get up and move. Really I'm not sure why it wasn't used on the album of the same name, as it would've fit right in on there. No matter, though, as it gives Graffiti another great one. Speaking of great ones, "Trampled Underfoot" is a funky, John Paul Jones keyboard driven foot-stomper that's sure to delight, and "In My Time Of Dying" is an eleven-minute plus epic that was clearly influenced by delta blues legends. Page and Plant play together, if you will, at the slow parts as Robert moans "In my time of dying....want no one to mourn." I believe this is one of the songs Zeppelin "stole" although they do what they do best after "theivery" by making it their own. Yes, the song can get repetitive, but really it's a jamming song that even features Jimmy playing slide guitar.
As outstanding as the first disc is, it's arguably part two that gets the job done. More Eastern influences open it with "In The Light" that's probably my favorite "long song" on the record (under the category of eight minutes and up). Its another of the bands forgotten jewels that really stsrts disc two off in the right direction. If you're a fan of previous Zeppelin rockers such as "Heartbreaker" and "Black Dog" then look no further for more. "Night Flight", "The Wanton Song", and "Sick Again" each pack a wallop with swaggering guitar riffs and powerhouse drumming from Bonzo. "Bron-Y-Aur" is the shortest song, a two minute acoustic instumental where Page can shine yet again. "Down By The Seaside" is slow but worth a listen, while "Ten Years Gone" easily makes my all-time top ten for Zeppelin and is my favorite on the album. Its beautiful guitar work in the beginning, mixed with the loud and strong band that comes in behind add up to an amazing tune. The solo is perhaps the best Jimmy has ever played in terms of instrumentation and passion. He doesn't just shred his notes; he plays them tonefully and with heart and soul. Plant's voice gets to me after the solo when he cries
"Do you ever really need somebody, really need 'em bad?
Did you ever really want somebody, the best love you ever had.
Do you ever remember me baby? Did it feel so good?
Cause it was just the first time, and you knew you would."
These lines seem to choke me up a bit and Plant sings them excellently. This song really demonstrates the bands ability to rock hard and seem loud, even when they're playing softly. Unfortunately, all great things must come to an end, for after this masterpiece and the previously mentioned unknown classic "The Wanton Song", the boys deliver filler. Even more depressing is the fact that the two (yes, two) filler songs appear back to back. "Boogie With Stu" is frankly a boring song that lacks quality production and sounds like a slowed down version of "Rock 'N Roll" without the intensity, while "Black Country Woman" doesn't fair much better and leaves me uninterested and ready for it all to end. Thankfully, aforementioned "Sick Again" ends the double album in a bang and makes the listener regret wishing for it all to end.
Yes, the double album can boost popularity and fanbase, but it can also bring a band straight into the ground. With Led Zeppelin you knew the latter wasn't going to happen. Although two or three songs could have been omitted entirely, there really isn't anything to complain about on this one other than filler. It's true when they say this one has something for everybody. Just don't make the mistake I once did of not giving this whole album a chance, as it is probably their best album behind II and maybe Zoso.
-In My Time Of Dying
-The Wanton Song
-Ten Years Gone
-In The Light
-Ten Years Gone
-Some songs can get boring and repetitive
-Filler towards the end