This week marks the 40th Anniversary of the release of Led Zeppelin’s double album, Physical Graffiti, the iconic band’s sixth release overall. The event on Tuesday was also marked with the release of a remastered special deluxe edition, part of a process begun last summer to reissue the band’s studio albums after undergoing extensive digital processing to enhance the recordings in a way more suitable to the modern market. Having listened to the newest version of the album, a three CD set that includes seven never before released tracks that are earlier or alternate versions of some of the elections on the album, I highly recommend it as an addition to any Led Zeppelin fan’s collection.
Even if you have not been fan of the band since the 70’s you should give this one a listen. Compared to the material released in February 1975 the vocals and guitar work feel more prominent giving a better spacial image in stereo even when compressed into a digital format. You’ll want to listen to the 40th Anniversary Edition on headphones, seriously. The remastering has transformed the music in a way that, regardless of how many previous times you’ve listened to the music, it’s like hearing the songs for the first time.
Most people have heard the guitar riff from the song Kashmir, one of the longer selections on Physical Graffiti. It features guitar virtuoso Jimmy Page playing his Gibson Les Paul with violin bow giving the song a unique quality. Rapper P. Diddy, a.k.a Puff Daddy (Sean Combs), recorded Come With Me for the soundtrack of the 1998 movie Godzilla along with Jimmy Page performing the guitar riffs of Kashmir.
Physical Graffiti is a collection of blues oriented rock music for which Led Zeppelin is well known. By the time of album’s original release Led Zeppelin had already attained superstar status. The album appeared on Led Zep’s private label, Swan Song Records, for example, giving the band a level of creative control over their work afforded to only a few bands at the time. They were playing sold out stadiums and arenas all over the world. Hardly anyone of my generation didn’t know who they were and also, barely a person did not have some opinion of the band and their music.
Physical Graffiti has the feel of a culmination effort, showcasing the talents of each of the band’s members: Jimmy Page on guitar, Robert Plant on vocals, John Paul Jones on bass and keyboards, and John Bonham on drums. As musicians they fused their individual talents to create an album that, from start to finish, defines who and what they were together. I have always felt that Physical Graffiti was an inflection point for the group. They released several albums after, and many of the songs yet to come were great performances, but for me this always felt like it captured the band at their peak. Having purchased the album shortly after its original release in 1975, at the time I was a Freshman at Purdue University and played it was on a pair of Infinity 1001A loudspeakers in my dorm room. Listening to the remastered version last night was almost like experiencing time travel in a way.
Although I was a fan of Led Zep since the release Whole Lotta Love off the band’s second album, I did not own every one of the band’s albums until after the release of Physical Graffiti. As my tastes had matured to a greater appreciation of blues I was prompted to discover the band’s early work on the first and third albums. Houses Of The Holy, the band’s fifth album, had been my previous favorite, with Over The Hills and Far Away second only to the fourth Album’s Stairway To Heaven as my favorite Led Zep song. Rock and Roll and Black Dog, also from the fourth studio album, and D’yer Maker, from Houses Of The Holy, tend to be the other Led Zep songs most people know. But Physical Graffiti marked Led Zeppelin’s experimentation with a variety of musical styles and recording techniques producing a collection of tracks that, from start to finish, prompted me to dub the entire album onto my reel-to-reel so I could listen to it straight through without having to flip to the over side of the disc. Yes, do you remember having to do that with LPs?
Page’s guitar work on Physical Graffiti is reason enough to get this updated version of the album, but his is hardly the only great performance. As a bassist I’ve always loved John Paul Jones’ work and it’s difficult to be a bassist and not key on the percussion. John Bonham’s style was always driving and lent the signature, often times counter-rhythmic, backbeat to the music. Plant’s vocal work on every song delivers.
The bonus tracks on CD 3 feature Brandy & Coke (An initial rough mix of Trampled Under Foot), an early version of Sick Again, an initial rough mix of In My Time Of Dying, a rough mix of Houses of The Holy, Everybody Makes It Through (In The Light) – an early version of the song In The Light, the Sunset Sound Mix of Boogie With Stu, and Driving Through Kashmir (a rough mix of Kashmir). The previously unreleased material is interesting to anyone who wants to hear how the music evolves during the recording process. Also, Plants vocals are a little more up front on some of the tracks than the release versions.
#LedZeppelin #JimmyPage #RobertPlant #JohnPaulJones #JohnBonham #SeanCombs #PuffDaddy #PDiddy #Kashmir #PhysicalGraffiti #Godzilla1998 #70sMusic