Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti

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  • Physical Graffiti finally returns to the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on all FOUR sides of this killer double album
  • Transparency, the other side of the Tubey Magical Richness coin, is key to the better pressings of this album, as well as many of our other favorite demo discs
  • Of course the main attributes that set the best copies apart from the also-rans are size, energy, weight, vocal presence and an overall freedom from grit and grain, and we guarantee that this copy will do better in all of these areas than any you have ever heard
  • 5 stars: ” Physical Graffiti captures the whole experience of Led Zeppelin at the top of their game better than any of their other albums.”

*NOTE: On side three, the intro to Track One, In The Light, plays Mint Minus Minus, but the rest of the side is quieter.

A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume .

If you’ve been waiting for a seriously powerful Kashmir Experience, today is your lucky day.

What the Best Sides of Physical Graffiti Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1975
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Those Double Album Blues

I want to make one thing clear: some of this material is never going to be Demo Disc Quality. Many tracks are well-recorded and have the potential for superb sound but, as with virtually every double album we’ve ever played, there are a lot of loose ends here.

That said, songs like In My Time Of Dying, The Rover, Houses Of The Holy, and Ten Years Gone can sound amazingly good on the best copies.

What We’re Listening For on Physical Graffiti

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

Other Options

Most domestic copies have smeary, sub generation sound with way too much tape hiss and not nearly enough energy.

The Classic is tonally correct, but it’s dead as a doornail. Where’s the life of the music? It’s not quite as bad as their Houses of the Holy, but it certainly ain’t one of their best either.

Learning the Record

For our shootout for Physical Graffiti we had at our disposal a variety of pressings that had the potential for Hot Stamper sound. (Skip the British pressings by the way — never heard a good sounding one.)

We cleaned them carefully, then unplugged everything in the house we could, warmed up the system, Talisman’d it, found the right VTA for our Triplanar arm (by ear of course) and proceeded to spend the next hour or so playing copy after copy on side one, after which we repeated the process for side two.

If you have five or more copies of a record and play them over and over against each other, the process itself teaches you what’s right and what’s wrong with the sound of the album. Once your ears are completely tuned to what the best pressings do well that the other pressings do not do as well, using a few carefully chosen passages of music, it quickly becomes obvious how well a given copy can reproduce those passages. You’ll hear what’s better and worse — right and wrong would be another way of putting it — about the sound.

This approach is simplicity itself. First, you go deep into the sound. There you find a critically important passage in the music, one which most copies struggle — or fail — to reproduce as well as the best. Now, with the hard-won knowledge of precisely what to listen for, you are perfectly positioned to critique any and all pressings that come your way.

It may be a lot of work but it sure ain’t rocket science, and we’ve never pretended otherwise. Just the opposite: from day one we’ve explained step by step precisely how to go about finding the Hot Stampers in your own collection. Not the good sounding pressings you happen to own — those may or may not have Hot Stampers — but the records you actually cleaned, shot out, and declared victorious.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Custard Pie
The Rover
In My Time Of Dying

Side Two

Houses Of The Holy
Trampled Under Foot
Kashmir

Side Three

In The Light
Bron-Yr-Aur
Down By The Seaside
Ten Years Gone

Side Four

Night Flight
The Wanton Song
Boogie With Stu
Black Country Woman
Sick Again

AMG 5 Star Rave Review

Led Zeppelin returned from a nearly two-year hiatus in 1975 with the double-album Physical Graffiti, their most sprawling and ambitious work. Where Led Zeppelin IV and Houses of the Holy integrated influences on each song, the majority of the tracks on Physical Graffiti are individual stylistic workouts.

The highlights are when Zeppelin incorporate influences and stretch out into new stylistic territory, most notably on the tense, Eastern-influenced “Kashmir.” “Trampled Underfoot,” with John Paul Jones’ galloping keyboard, is their best funk-metal workout, while “Houses of the Holy” is their best attempt at pop, and “Down by the Seaside” is the closest they’ve come to country. Even the heavier blues — the 11-minute “In My Time of Dying,” the tightly wound “Custard Pie,” and the monstrous epic “The Rover” — are louder and more extended and textured than their previous work.

Also, all of the heavy songs are on the first record, leaving the rest of the album to explore more adventurous territory, whether it’s acoustic tracks or grandiose but quiet epics like the affecting “Ten Years Gone.” The second half of Physical Graffiti feels like the group is cleaning the vaults out, issuing every little scrap of music they set to tape in the past few years.

That means that the album is filled with songs that aren’t quite filler, but don’t quite match the peaks of the album, either. Still, even these songs have their merits — “Sick Again” is the meanest, most decadent rocker they ever recorded, and the folky acoustic rock & roll of “Boogie with Stu” and “Black Country Woman” may be tossed off, but they have a relaxed, off-hand charm that Zeppelin never matched. It takes a while to sort out all of the music on the album, but Physical Graffiti captures the whole experience of Led Zeppelin at the top of their game better than any of their other albums.

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