I just got the new remastered version of Led Zeppelin’s classic double LP Physical Graffiti. The LP originally came out when I was just graduating from high school. I can’t remember if I got my copy as a graduation gift or I bought it myself, but it was definitely a revelation. I already had a couple Zep records but Physical was a sonic sledgehammer. The first two sides were relentless in one way or another. You were either pummeled by “Trampled Under Foot (called by Rolling Stone magazine “the hardest rock ever played by humans”) or raised to the roof by the enormous push of “Kashmir”. There were a few acoustic songs on the next two discs to offer some respite from the thunder and we did get the sweet country balled “Down by the Seaside” (with a tremendous rocking bridge) and the textured “Ten Years Gone”. But the album ends with the thoroughly decadent and devastating “Sick Again”, which featured John Bonham offering up a series of drum rolls that threatened to destroy speaker systems across America. By the time I got to college there was hardly a room in my dorm without a copy.
I went through a couple vinyl copies of PG over the years. The first time around on CD it was a botched effort with the songs sounding fine but so much of the in-between song chatter lost in the remaster. The second reissue seemed thin and a little distant. The tracks that appeared on the Led Zeppelin boxes in the 90s suffered the same fate. But like all the remasters that have come out in the last year and a half, this one gets it right. The wallop of that ridiculously muscular rhythm section is right up in the mix. Jones’ bass is far more audible but yet balanced with Bonham’s mayhem. The acoustic guitars are crystal clear, the keys glimmer, and the electric guitars are properly coated with a layer of great greasy distortion but ring like bells. And about it all Plant soars, singing above that mighty wall of sound like his life depended on it.
As I was typing this I had the second disc playing and “Sick Again” had just started. My wife pushed open the door to my office. “I.Just.Can’t.Take.Anymore.” Well hell darling, you didn’t exactly deal well with it in our college days either. Rock on.