It is nice to re-print some album reviews featuring what is now considered classic albums. Here is one more…enjoy!
Kiss your skull goodbye…
Led Zeppelin: “Physical Graffiti” (Swan Song)
Review by Steve Clarke
If you take Led Zeppelin`s fourth album to be the definitive Zep album in the same way that “Sticky Fingers” is the definitive Stones` album – and I know that`s a contentious point – then “Physical Graffiti”, in the same way can be seen as Zeppelin`s “Exile On Main Street”, (and I don`t just mean that they`re both double albums).
Both the fourth Zeppelin album and “Sticky Fingers” saw each band hitting highs it seems unlikely they`ll ever be able to transcend.
Isn`t “Wild Horses” the ultimate Stones` ballad, doesn`t “Stairway To Heaven” represent Zeppelin at their most creative in terms of composition and musicianship? And can you see them topping the outrageous riffola of “Black Dog”, or the Stones writing a rocker that out-does “Brown Sugar”?
But “Exile On Main Street” over-flowed with peerless rock `n` roll, while just missing out on the polish that “Sticky Fingers” had. Likewise, with “Physical Graffiti” and “Led Zeppelin 4”; the former does not quite attain the perfection which the best of the earlier album does.
Coming some two years after the fifth (best forgotten) Zeppelin album, “Houses Of The Holy”, “Physical Graffiti” is confirmation that the group have lost none of their inspiration and ability, even if it did take them a long time to deliver.
The first of the two albums never lets up in its brute force right from Jimmy Page`s opening power-chorded riff of “Custard Pie”, the riff itself reminiscent of Page`s work on The Kinks early records, to Side two`s closing “Kashmir”, where the group assume the posture of a giant earnestly stepping on everything in his wake, John Bonham`s drums being truly gargantuan.
It`s not the kind of music you play before breakfast unless you wake up in a particularly aggressive mood.
“Custard Pie” has all the manic Zeppelin energy you`d expect. Page`s riff never lets up throughout the track`s four minutes twenty seconds, a clavinet complementing the riff. On top is added wah-wah, Robert Plant`s mouth-harp, and a guitar solo that unfolds itself from one speaker before enveloping the whole show.
The side`s closing 11-minute plus “In My Time Of Dying” is a dazzling display of the Led Zeppelin rock machine in full flight.
Page`s arrangement of the blues song is spacier than those of the two preceeding cuts, and his playing almost confuses the listener as to whether he`s laying down power chords, or lightning fast slide phrases.
Going through a lot of rhythm changes, the cut showcases Bonham`s bombastic drumming, and Plant`s multi-tracked vocal has been treated so that it`s as if he was singing across a canyon.
Side two continues the skull-crushing with “Houses Of The Holy”, which features a lethal bass sound, and “Trampled Underfoot” where the nagging riff gets too much to handle.
The nine minutes plus “Kashmir” brings the side to a close. The number is built around a phrase played on what is presumably a mellotron that seems to set out to mesmerise the listener.
If the first album hammers your brain into your skull, then the second record`ll let you think again. It`s by far the most imaginative of the two albums, and with numbers like “Down By The Seaside” and “Night Flight” features new facets of Zeppelin.
“Down By The Seaside”, despite its trite lyricism is a fascinating song in an uncharacteristically relaxed mood, even Bonham`s approach being lighter than usual.
Page plays a lot of Leslie-guitar fills, and just when you think the band are going to head off into one of their hell for leather breaks they slip back into the original rhythm with remarkable ease.
The preceding “Bron Yr Aur” is Page`s acoustic, finger-picking number and is likeable enough with a production that allows the guitars to fan from one speaker to the other.
Side three`s opener, “In The Light” is a Zeppelin tour de force however.
Starting out with a sustained moog phrase that sounds like a bag-pipe drone, another lighter and more melodic series of phrases are played on top, again by a moog, Plant`s vocals zoom in before a cast-iron riff appears, introduced by Page Power chords, and then the whole thing develops into prettiness with another keyboard phrase completed by one of Page`s more melodic runs.
And so onto the closing side which opens with an uncompromising rocker “Meet Me In The Morning” expertly sung by Plant with just the right amount of energy, continues with Zeppelin as the archetypal rock riff kings for “The Wanton Song”, before going into what could have been a throwaway jam, “Boogie With Stu” (Ian Stewart`s on piano), but which ends up as enormous fun, the group exposing their blues roots for “Black Country Woman”, a work-out for acoustic guitars, vocals and Bonham`s ludicrous drums where he gets away with some time-defying tricks, before closing with “Sick Again” which again sees the band as a giant rock machine putting down an incessant riff like only they know how.
There you have it, the new album by the band which you, the readers, voted the best in the world. And if that`s what you think, there`s nothing on this album that`s about to change your mind.
Hard rock lives, and how.
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper and you are free to use it as you like. If you use it on your own webpages – please credit me or put up a link to my blog.
This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), Elton John, NME`s Soul Spectacular, Adrian Gurvitz, Budgie, Leo Sayer, Queen.
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