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Led Zeppelin: Physical Graffiti - A Classic Album Under Review
Led Zeppelin Physical Graffiti - A Classic Album Under Review
Actor: Led Zeppelin
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
NR     2008     2hr 0min

This DVD is a documentary film about the build-up, making, release, and - crucially - music contained on this most revered of albums. With the aid of rare and classic performances, scarce interviews, seldom seen photograp...  more »


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Movie Details

Actor: Led Zeppelin
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Sub-Genres: Pop, Rock & Roll, Documentary
Studio: Video Music, Inc.
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 07/08/2008
Original Release Date: 01/01/2008
Theatrical Release Date: 00/00/2008
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 2hr 0min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 4
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

An insight look at Led Zeppelin's "Physical Graffiti" by the
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 07/30/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"The bit after the colon in the title of "Led Zeppelin, Physical Graffiti: A Classical Album Under Review," serves to indicate that this is not a DVD where you get to hear Led Zeppelin talk about the double-album that is considered to be their best effort, but one where journalists, critics, and the like do most of the talking. There are some clips of Led Zep playing songs from "Communication Breakdown" to "Kashmir," but except for one clip of John Bonham talking about their music and a couple of snippets from an interview back in the day with Robert Plant, the band lets their music make the case for them. So have your CD of "Physical Graffiti" at hand (or the vinyl version so you can enjoy the art design), because just getting a taste of some of these songs is not going to be enough after watching the DVD.

The thesis of the review is that this 1975 album is that it represented every aesthetic element of Led Zeppelin's career, traced all the way back to when Jimmy Page was playing with the Yardbirds; Chris Dreja, one of the other guitarists in the group is one of the talking heads here, and sounds in on Page's creation of his new group. Also sounding in on the album are author Nigel Williamson ("The Rough Guide to Led Zeppelin (Rough Guide Reference)"), rock journalist Malcolm Dome ("AC/DC: The Encyclopaedia"), author Dave Lewis ("Led Zeppelin: The Complete Guide To Their Music"), and author Neil Daniels ("Robert Plant: Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Page & The Solo Years"). The only talking head who was actually there at the creation is Ron Nevison, who was an engineer on the album, but there is Maggie Bell, formerly of Stone the Crows, and one of the first artists signed by Led Zep to their Swan Song label.

The look at the fifteen songs on the album basically goes chronologically, but more in terms of when they were recorded than how they appear on the album. So we being with the seven songs that had been recorded for the group's previous three albums, "Led Zeppelin III" ("Bron-Yr-Aur"), "Led Zeppelin IV" ("Night Flight," "Boogie with Stu," and "Down by the Seaside"), and "Houses of the Holy" ("Black Country Woman," "The Rover" and "Houses of the Holy"). The second half of the DVD is devoted to the eight tracks Led Zeppelin recorded at Headley Grange in early 1974: "Custard Pie," "In My Time of Dying," "In the Light" (where Rooskby makes the case for John Paul Jones being responsible for some of Led Zep's riffs, e.g., "Black Dog"), the funk of "Trampled Under Foot" (which became a rare Led Zep "single"), the good old rock 'n' roll of "The Wanton Song," the introspective "Ten Years Gone," "Sick Again" (think "Almost Famous," from which there is a clip), and finally "Kashmir" as the quintessential Led Zeppelin song. The case is made that since "Kashmir" comes at the end of side two it is the halfway point of the album, but I have to say that when I bought the album it ended up being the last song because with vinyl you play sides 1 and 3, then flip and do 4 and 2.

For me the best insights come from guitar expert Rick Rooksby, who pulls out an acoustic or electric guitar as necessary and Rooksby plays "Down by the Seaside" to show how it was clearly inspired by "Down by the River" by Neil Young and makes the song like it could have come off of "Harvest." Then he turns "The Wanton Song" into a cabaret jazz number. The review relishes being able to trace these songs back to their origins, showing how "Boogie with Stu" does not simply go back to "Ooh My Head" by Richie Valens, but back to "Ooh My Soul" by Little Richard. "In My Time of Dying" goes back to Blind Willie Johnson's "Jesus, Make Up my Dyin' Bed," which was covered by Bob Dylan on his debut album. As for the charges of plagiarism that have been brought against Led Zeppelin, Rooksby points out that the blues contains myriad examples of borrowing, and that when the basic materials are 12-bars played with three basic chords, similarities are inevitable. Lewis chimes in by noting things have come full circles with lots of groups taking Led Zep's riffs without attribution today.

There are some interesting insights from the others as well. Dome argues that the group did not have the greatest musicians in the world, but the greatest musicians in the world for Led Zeppelin, and Nevison argues that Bonham always followed the lead guitar rather than the bass, which made for a unique approach to a rhythm section. Both the previous five Led Zep albums and the group's tense relationship with the British critics are examined as setting the stage for "Physical Graffiti." The profile on manager Peter Grant is a bit overlong to make the simple point that he took care of everything else so that the band could focus on the music, but overall you find out some interesting things about each of the songs on the album. The more you know about music the less you will probably be impressed by what you find here, but for us regular folks this was a pretty informative "review. " The extras on this DVD are pretty sparse. Nevison talks about his work on the Who's "Quadrophenia," and there is a 25 question trivia quiz about the album (fair warning: listening to the documentary does not provide all of the answers)."
Very Good Overview of Zep's Best Album
Tommy Tandori | Reading England | 07/21/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"There's no doubt in my mind that PG was Zep's finest hour - 4 sides [vinyl junkies] of out and out sonic head music - incorporating funk, folk, blues and rock n ' roll. This dvd goes through every track included on the record and breaks down the structures, the stories bewhind the songs, includes behind the scenes footage and tells the story of the album's production with the engineer / co-producer at Headley Grange, Ron Nevison. A really neat film and some beautiful digi style packaging to boot.
Greatest Rock 'n Roll Album Ever!
George Fernandez | Folsom, CA. | 05/05/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I found this documentary fascinating & very well done. The first 20 minutes was a recap of how Zep came to be which if you're Zep Head you've already gone thru this many times before. The last 60 minutes is the "meat" of the documentary, I like how each song is broken down by several Rock critics, the Engineer who did most of the work on the Epic Double Album & a very intuitive guitar teacher who has written several books on guitar playing. I like how they bring out the orgins of each song & how they became the finish product. I espeically liked the guitar teacher actually demonstrating guitar chords of some of the songs. It really shows the "Genius" in Jimmy Page's guitar playing & how intricate some of those chords really are. An avid guitar player would have trouble putting some of those chords together. That's what makes Jimmy Page so incredible. It also shows how great the other players were & as a whole made the Band without a doubt the Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Band ever & it's not even close! I woud put this right up there with "How The West Was Won" DVD set. I would HIGHLY recommend buying this awsome documentary."
Stephen P. Sauer | 12/17/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"At 90 minutes in length, the main feature on the DVD Physical Graffiti: A Classic Album Under Review outlasts Led Zeppelin's magnum opus itself. Along for the ride are some very credible experts; while the DVD includes the narration of the BBC's Nicky Horne, commentary from author Dave Lewis and insight from engineer Ron Nevison, perhaps the biggest insights come from Chris Dreja.

The man who was originally a rhythm guitarist with the Yardbirds but switched to bass so that Jimmy Page could take over all guitar duties, Dreja speaks from an insider point of view as someone who knew firsthand what Page's intentions were with forming Led Zeppelin. He was, after all, along for the ride. He opted out, pursuing photography, and John Paul Jones stepped into the role. But could Dreja have been a member of Led Zeppelin? He gives a resolute answer in the negative:
"The Yardbirds would've never been Led Zeppelin. ... What the Yardbirds were was a wonderful breeding ground of crazy ideas and free form, and of course Jimmy absorbed all that from us. I don't blame him for taking them into the Zeppelin and making them tight and rock and heavy. It was an obvious thing for him to do, and he was lucky enough to find one of those rare things in the world. It's like the Beatles. There are so few bands that have that mix of players that just feed off each other and create [such a] unique sound. It's really rare, and I think Jimmy really hit the jackpot there."

Also helping provide the context of the scene into which the album was released is a focus on the formation of Swan Song Records, on which the release of Physical Graffiti followed that of a disc by Bad Company. A live version of that band's title song included here rocks, and archival footage of live work from another Swan Song artist, Maggie Bell, shows how easily she could have been confused with Janis Joplin. Bell is also shown in modern day, speaking in her thick Scottish burr about her love of Led Zeppelin manager Peter Grant.

Led Zeppelin's label was doing well despite the group being treated poorly by the British press, an idea expounded upon by author Rikky Rooksby. He explains this was not necessarily a bad thing but probably a "healthy" attribute:
"I think one of the greatest things about the British critics is that we're not exactly cynical, but we do tend to take the attitude -- well, you know -- 'That was your last record. What matters is whether the next one's any good.' We don't allow people to rest on their laurels. We treat our sportsmen in the same way as [we treat] our rock stars, in that respect."

The DVD then transitions into the analysis of all 15 songs in an order other than sequential but one that is logical to their presentation. Among the highlights to be found are the mentions of influences of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young on "Down by the Seaside," Stevie Wonder on "Tramped Under Foot," and Bert Jansch on "White Summer" and, vicariously, "Kashmir." Each instance of an influence being mentioned gives way to an actual live performance of the material that inspired Led Zeppelin. While Lewis is praising "Sick Again" for its lyrical content, Nevison has a great revelation about a noise from which the song title is derived. Also featuring part of a performance of "Ten Years Gone" at the Knebworth Festival in 1979 that was left off of Led Zeppelin's official DVD in 2003, the enjoyable moments in this documentary are aplenty.

This disc, released in 2008, also includes a nice special feature with Nevison explaining how he came to work on the Who's Quadrophenia album and the Tommy movie soundtrack. Its inclusion here is due to connection between both the Who and Led Zeppelin using Ronnie Lane's mobile recording studio, which Nevison built and naturally engineered. Another special feature is a quiz based on material found on the DVD. I scored 22 out of 25 on my first try; can you beat me?"