Physical Graffiti – Led Zeppelin – 1975
Claimed Sales: 16m
First listen?: Yes
Format Listened?: Apple Music
The Double Albums from the 70s era I’ve covered in this series so far seem to follow the same mould, expansive records that attempt to tell two sides of the same story (The Wall), or two different takes on a band’s sound (The White Album). Physical Graffiti doesn’t feel like either, thanks in large part to its use to off cuts of Led Zeppelin’s previous albums it ends up sounding like an extended concert set from a band that have been around well over a decade. It’s an eclectic record, which both helps with keeping variety, but also makes the long run time feel needless, there’s no real reason for this album needs to last an hour and twenty minutes, but it does. There’s definitely plenty to enjoy, from the slow build of standout Ten Years Gone, to the hard rock of both opening tracks Custard Pie and The Rover. The second of these sees Robert Plant’s vocals sound almost ethereal against the band’s huge sound. The album is at it’s best when defying your expectations, such as on Down By The Seaside which flits between a bluesy southern sound and energetic driving rock and back again with ease. The focus remains on solid memorable hooks and riffs, even on a more progressive track like closer Sick Again that constantly jumps around with timing, it’s all about those punch guitar licks and Robert Plant’s soulful but still raw vocal performance. This is no more evident than on the album’s most memorable moment, the sound of impending doom that permeates every second of Kashmir is a thrill on every single listen. As a song it manages to be more of a progressive concept piece than the album itself, blasts of wind and brass, sweeping strings and that never ending build up makes every single second of the song feel necessary. The craft that has gone into this one song alone would make Physical Graffiti worthy of praise and despite feeling overly lengthy at times it’s songs like these that show the band off at their best. It’s actually a shame that the band ended up extending this album to fill that final side of the record, as for me it very nearly stops it from being one of the truly great 70s rock albums.
Will I listen again?: Hopefully yes.
Best Track: Kashmir is the obvious choice here, but it is genuinely music composition at its very best.