Physical Graffiti [release date 2/2475] After hectic touring from 1968-1973, the band took stock of their career and embarked on a somewhat leisurely approach to releasing a follow up to “Houses Of The Holy”… For their sixth album, Led-Zeppelin issued “Physical Graffiti” a sprawling two LP set encompassing a wide variety of styles. Rockers, folk, blues and multi layered epics. They recorded eight tracks for the “Graffiti” but realized they had enough for an LP and a half. It was expanded to include tracks that never made it to the previous five releases. It was released on the band's "Swan Song" label which is unlike The Rolling Stones Records as it included other artists such as The Pretty Things, Maggie Bell and Bad Company among others. It also was in line with the band's quirky humor. If you cant make it on "Swan Song" well... Side One "Custard Pie" – This is a great opening to the set. It borrows heavily from Bukka White’s “Shake ‘Em On Down” filled with razor sharp guitar licks with a dirty harmonica solo from Plant. Jones and Bonham establish a hard backbeat for Page and Plant to ride on. "The Rover" – Here is a Plant song about the band’s travels all over the world and a plea for peace among everyone. I liked the pacing on this song. Not too fast…not too slow. I wished they played this live as it had promise after listening to a rehearsal version prior to the 1973 U.S. Tour. "In My Time of Dying" – With lyrics borrowed heavily from Blind Willie Johnson’s “Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed” this is just the band letting off steam by playing live in the studio. Plug in the instruments then have a go at it. Very intense work-out culminated by a coughing fit from Bonham at the end of the track. Strangely enough, the first CD release of “Graffiti” had this bit edited out then restored on the re-issue. After his car crash, Plant was too spooked to play it again live though it was resurrected in the 1977 U.S. Tour. Side Two "Houses of the Holy" – Recorded for the album of the same name yet left out, it is a reference to the places they played. It grooves along complete with a Motown like chorus. A mid-tempo song much like “The Rover”, it never overwhelms the listener. "Trampled Under Foot" – Besides the one that follows, this is one of my favorites on the set. It features great clavinet work by Jones which has origins off Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”. Bonham at first thought it was too “souly” and did not rock enough so he altered the beat. Live, it takes on a different feel as a trade-off between Page and Jones with rotating multi colored lights bathing them both. Based on Robert Johnson’s “Terraplane Blues” the lyrics spout sexual innuendos using the car as a methapor even though Plant’s vocals are hard to decipher being buried a bit deep in the mix. "Kashmir" – Although Page stated “Stairway” as their marriage song, Plant feels this composition shows what the band is really all about. Hypnotic riffs wrapped around a Morrocan swirl of synthesizers and string parts punctuated by Bonham’s bass drum, this was THE first song that I ever listened from Zeppelin which instantly captivated me. “Let me take you there…let me take you there” and it sure did! In concert, the band once hilariously screwed up the song in the middle portion in one particular show in Zurich 1980 but when they did it right it delivered a powerful wallop from start to finish. Side Three "In the Light" – I find this track a bit of an extension of “Kashmir” though it seems to drone on courtesy of Jones. It comes off dark and foreboding but eventually it picks up. Personally, I was not really keen on this song even after many listenings. It seems to just languish. "Bron-Yr-Aur" – A very lilting, pastoral, solo Page acoustic instrumental, I picture miles of green grass and rolling hillsides. After the sonic assaults of the previous tracks, it is a welcome break. Very pretty, gentle on the ears…I always find it enjoyable to listen to. "Down by the Seaside" – Led-Zeppelin goes country? No, not really. It is an easy going track that reminds me of “That’s The Way” and “Tangerine” from III. "Ten Years Gone" – This was originally a Page idea built from his home studio it has a very melancholy feel. Plant added lyrics telling a story of a former love that asked him to pick between her and his music. Well, we now all certainly know what happened. It definitely wasn’t Maureen. I find the forlorn sentiments and tone as its major charm. Side Four "Night Flight" – I don’t know quite to make of this tune not understanding what the lyrics are all about. Supposedly about a draft evader so what is it? A heavy handed response to Monkees’ “Last Train To Clarksville”? It is a nice enough song though it is not one that I will play on first choice. It chugs along but not really memorable. Sorry Jonesy. "The Wanton Song" – A track that Plant revisited from his Band Of Joy days with Bonham, I find it akin to “Custard Pie” with its stuttering structure. It is primal…unapologetic pushed along by Page’s incessant riffs. "Boogie with Stu" – A light-hearted romp in the studio with Ian Stewart, the legendary Stones side pianist. It is really “Oooh, My Head!” by Ritchie Valens. Apparently, the Zeppelin management contacted his mother Mrs. Valens to ask permission but quickly backed off when she demanded royalties, the band changed the title and went on with it anyway. Plant’s relaxed vocals shine through as if he's singing in a bar. "Black Country Woman" – Folksy, humorous tale of a woman’s cruel deriding of a man. I love how Bonham’s bass drum kick propels this song as it swings. Being conceived outdoors in the garden at Stargroves, recording engineer Kramer even left on a plane flying overhead. "Sick Again” – Really good closer to the album, it is a fine rocking tune with Plant’s biting, cynical view of the L.A. groupie scene. “One day soon you're gonna reach sixteen, Painted lady in the city of lies” Grinding, repetitive, counterpointing riffs piled on top of each other… I love the live versions of this track especially how Jones and Bonham lock in rhythm where Page and Plant do a call and response leading to a Page solo. In Conclusion: Not as ballyhooed or overplayed as the untitled fourth album, “Graffiti” is my numero uno choice in Zeppelin’s canon. The band really went to town in offering a veritable smorgasbord of aural variety. I think of it as a larger than life band given an oversized canvas. There is really no running theme or style but it is an offering that threw everything at the listener including the kitchen sink. Then there is the album’s cover. It looks and feels even heavy with its die-cut design, the picture sleeves filled with photos both the bizarre and obscure. Oh, there are photos of some of the band members along with manager Richard Cole in drag. Apparently, they did it one evening as a send-up yet much to their chagrin they found out that Stevie Wonder was in the room while they traipsed around.