Physical Graffiti: Deluxe Edition
“Changes fill my time,” Robert Plant sings on the extended country-soul drama “Ten Years Gone.” It was a fitting sentiment. Led Zeppelin’s relentless, searching bravado across their first five albums — out of Delta and Memphis fundamentals through psychedelia, Welsh-country romanticism and North African fantasia — climaxed at the twin peaks of this 1975 double-LP set. Physical Graffiti was a deluxe edition in itself: eight epic-length tracks from sessions in the winter of 1974, fortified with outtakes going back to 1970. The effect was a dynamic, integrated mural of roots, textural leap and pilgrims’ memoir — the most complete record Zeppelin ever made. The next one, 1976’s Presence, was pure frenzy, produced in deliberate haste; 1979’s In Through the Out Door was unfinished rebirth. Physical Graffiti, in its cocksure energies and determined reach, was Zeppelin’s last, swaggering masterpiece.
Plant and guitarist-producer Jimmy Page were Zeppelin’s travelers, imprinting their passages through India, Morocco and Egypt on the monumental ascension of “Kashmir,” the long prayer-call entrance to “In the Light” and the raga-inflected skid of Page’s slide guitar in the thundering prewar blues “In My Time of Dying.” Bassist John Paul Jones and drummer John Bonham were instigating drivers too. Jones, on clavinet, is a hyperfunk rhythm section unto himself in “Trampled Under Foot.” Bonham rightly got a co-writer’s credit for “Kashmir”; his caravan march, exploding in cannon-fire rolls, wreathed in Jones’ sandstorm orchestration, is a large part of the hypnosis.
The bonus disc here has a low ratio of surprises, considering the album’s original risk and bounty. But there are two of note: a rough mix of “Houses of the Holy” that vibrates with Jones’ thumping bass; and an early sketch of “In the Light” with an intimacy rare for Zeppelin, in any year.