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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Led Zeppelin

Physical Graffiti

Review by Gary Hill

When Led Zeppelin went in to record their fifth album they didn’t plan to do a double disc set. It just sort of turned out that way. They had recorded eight songs and the music was too massive to fit on one LP so they added in some previously unreleased gems recorded during their tenure to fill it out. The result is a disc that is quite strong, but perhaps a little uneven. The newer material does seem like a natural bridge between the classic fourth album of the group and the one they were to record next, Houses of the Holy. The song “Kashmir” might be the best track they ever recorded and it’s worth the price of admission all by itself.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
Custard Pie
A cool rubbery rock groove makes up this track. It’s very much in keeping with the type of music found on the fourth Zep disc, but also has a lot in common with Houses of the Holy. There’s some especially tasty guitar soloing and we also get some harmonica.
The Rover
Percussion starts this off and it’s even more rubbery than the one that preceded it. This is a real killer and works through a number of changes. John Paul Jones’ bass does a lot of the driving, but there’s no denying the power of the killer distorted, processed guitar line. It’s a very bluesy track and one that really has a lot of both the fourth album and Houses of the Holy woven into it.
In My Time Of Dying
Based on some killer slide guitar, this is an extremely bluesy jam that’s very tasty. It’s always been a favorite of mine. I’d say that it’s definitely related to the type of music found on “When The Levee Breaks” and the Houses of the Holy album, but it’s taken to a whole new level. They create several section and musical motifs during the course of this but never lose the intensity or fury.
Houses Of The Holy
This one really feels like it would be quite at home on the album of the same name. It is definitely a precursor for that type of sound and is a great song.
Trampled Under Foot
A classic Zep tune, this has received a lot of airplay over the years. It’s one that hasn’t suffered from saturation in the collective consciousness. I like this track a lot. It’s bouncy and quite tasty and feels a like the sound that would permeate the next disc, Houses of the Holy.
Kashmir
Led Zeppelin created a lot of exceptional music over the years, but this one might well be the biggest and baddest of them all. It has an epic feeling to it. The mystical, Eastern musical elements are simply awe-inspiring and the riff is one that has inspired many a musicians over the years. There’s an extremely good chance you’ve heard this track so I won’t go into too much detail except to say that this soaring, building piece of music was incredible the day it was released and it remains so today. Everything just works so well. It’s worth the price of admission here by itself. 
Disc 2
In The Light
Here’s another killer. This feels a bit like something from the fourth album, but again it also seems to predict the direction that the band would move into next. Still, there are a few portions of this that remind me a bit of early Black Sabbath. The cut runs through a number of varying sections and there’s even a little bit of Beatleseque riffing here and there. I’d even say that there are a couple points that make me think of Yes. The intro seems to predict the opening of In Through The Out Door’s “In the Evening”.
Bron-Yr-Aur
Just over two minutes in length, this instrumental is a pretty and intricate folky acoustic guitar solo. It’s quite complex and tasty.
Down By The Seaside
A mellower groove, this is a rather countrified number that both calls to mind the band’s third album and seems to predict some of the music they would produce next on Houses of the Holy. There’s a bit of a gospel texture to this at times and a retro keyboard sound. Overall I’m not as blown away by this one as I am by some of the other music here. It’s OK, but definitely not a standout. That said, the harder rocking section that takes it later goes a long way towards bringing the quality up. 
Ten Years Gone
This starts off in a mellow motif, but quickly moves out to a more rocking, but still quite slow moving, sound. It drops back to the mellow for the first vocals and the cut makes great use of dynamic variety by alternating between the mellower and harder rocking modes. It also has quite a few varying motifs. It might not be quite as strong as some of the other stuff here, but that’s more about how powerful that music is than it is about a weakness in this one. It’s definitely superior to the one that preceded it.
Night Flight
“Night Flight” feels like a hold over from the third album. It’s a great piece of music and a nice change of pace, but it definitely has an older Zep texture to it.
The Wanton Song
Here’s another that really feels like a link between the sound of the fourth disc (that preceded this one) and Houses of the Holy which would follow this. It’s a hard-edged and rather raw grind with some killer guitar sounds.
Boogie With Stu
This percussion dominated number is an old school back porch blues type cut. It’s probably an out-take from the time of Led Zeppelin III.
Black Country Woman
Here’s another that feels like it probably came from the time period in which Zep’s third album was released. It’s got an old school blues element to it and is based on acoustic guitar sounds.
Sick Again
They close the set with a hard rocking bluesy jam that’s a bit like “In My Time of Dying” but not as strong. That said, this is certainly not a slacker and it’s gritty and has some great performances from all involved. It’s just that the other track is such a powerhouse that this pales in comparison a bit.
 
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