II LED ZEPPELIN Physical Graffiti Swan Song SS 2-20Ó
Latch onto this, just for a self-indulgent second. The scene is a chromium plated office somewheres in the old U.S. of A. "Let's get a big expensive album to coincide with the big American tour. A double package, with a fun cover like LedZepIII. Gotcha." And the result, Led Zeppelin fans, is the overblown vinyl waffie that is Physical Graffiti.
Two record sets have the infuriating habit of resolving themselves into one record's worth of choice material, and one record's worth of filler. Physical Graffiti avoids that trap, by breaking down into two sides of crap and two sides of filler. And it's right down the middle, sides one and two are suitable for burning, three and four are suitable for skimming, the cover is suitable for framing.
I was not a Blimp fan, and still only enjoy one of their albums unreservedly, the fourth album with the runic title. Everybody loves "Stairway to Heaven," especially me. But while that song showed tremendous creative promise, Physical Graffiti shows that the group had their fingers crossed all the time. There are four extended cuts (over six minutes) that are nothing but bores. "In The Light" and "Ten Years Gone" have the kernels of good musical ideas, but they're flabby. "In My Time of Dying" an old spiritual that Messrs. Page, Plant, Jones and Bonham have chosen to claim as their own composition, is eleven minutes long and improves greatly if played at 78 rpm. "Kashmir,"however, doesn't. It sounds like it was recorded underwater.
I liked the acoustic bit on "Bron-Yr-Aur," but that is all it is - a shtick. "Down by the Seaside" is probably the cutest song they've ever done. "Night Flight" is the only authoritative rocker around, but nothing when compared to "Living Loving Maid," "Rock and Roll" or "Black Dog." "Boogie with Stu," featuring the Stones' third-string keyboards man, lan Stewart, on piano is reminiscent of the midpoints on Jamming with Edward. Same level of recording quality.
It took LedZep four albums to catch up with their legend, and only two to lose it again. "Trampled Under Foot" says it all.
--Paul J. Grant