Welcome to the 6th installment of my Led Zeppelin studio album reviews! These are tandem reviews with my amazing wife, Sarah who is posting her own reviews over at Caught Me Gaming. So be sure to check out her write up on Physical Graffiti right here!
As for me, I can sum up Physical Graffiti like this:
There is a spectacular single disc album that is drowned out in a bloated double disc.
As a Led Zeppelin Album: 4/5
Compared to the Rest: 4/5
It took me a while to get into Physical Graffiti. Not only did I find the double disc to be intimidating, the tunes felt a little all over the place. I got Use Your Illusion I & II vibes from it. I would be having a better time if they had weeded out the filler.
It wasn’t until I got my dark green 2003 Ford Ranger that I really dove into the album. It was the first vehicle I had with a CD player! The first disc I spun in the drive was of course Highway to Hell, a “dark green” album to match my truck. I can’t remember exactly why I grabbed Physical Graffiti next but… I immediately appreciated how that first disc sounded on the road.
Custard Pie, The Rover, In My Time of Dying… my goodness… what an opening set of tunes! Especially In my Time of Dying. Page’s slide guitar work on it is sublime.
Next came Houses of the Holy, which I thought was weird that their previous album was named the same. It wasn’t until much later that I found out how the band recorded 8 new tunes for the album in 1974. A few of them were epic in length and they all totaled up to an album and a half. So, they decided to
bloat beef up the track list with several outtakes from previous album sessions and make Physical Graffiti a double.
THAT explains why it feels uneven.
I have no issue with the next two tunes that make up for the rest of disc 1, Trampled Under Foot and Kashmir . It is not until we get to the 2nd disc where it gets bumpy.
Most of it is good. Ten Years Gone, Night Flight, The Won Ton Song, and Sick Again are all keepers. Black Country Woman is a little bare bones, but it still very much on my good side.
What I would cut is In The Light, Bron-Yr-Aur, Down by the Seaside, and Boogie with Stu. The first three are the opening tracks for disc 2. So, you can see how we’re not off to a great start. Even though In The Light and Down by the Seaside have their moments, the weaker parts really drag. And Bron-Yr-Aur and Boogie with Stu are straight up filler.
I suppose four weak tracks from a double album isn’t too bad at all, but I still feel if they stuck to only the songs they recorded for Physical Graffiti in ’74, they would have a killer line up:
1. Custard Pie
3. In My Time of Dying
3. Trampled Under Foot
5. Ten Years Gone
6. The Wanton Song
7. Sick Again
This could rival Houses of the Holy as my favourite Zep album of all time! The only tune I dropped from the ’74 sessions is In The Light. And I would miss The Rover. But, it would become the killer must have track for 1984’s “Coda II”.