Friday, 16 September 2016

"Physical Graffiti: 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition' by LED ZEPPELIN (2015 Atlantic/Swan Song 3CD Reissue – Jimmy Page Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...



"…I Like Your Custard Pie…"

Zeppelin fans have been licking their lips for this one - and almost 40 years to the day (the original double-album was released 24 February 1975) - here it is on Monday 23 February 2015 - clambering up the ascending ledges of my stereo with the big balls of a well-hung King Kong primate sporting a naughty look in his brownstone-sized die-cut eyes (and that's just Side 1). This "40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition" is not without its problems though in my opinion (packaging and questionable extras) - but it is still a thing of double-album beauty - it really is. Here are the forty years gone...

Worldwide released 23 February 2015 - "Physical Graffiti: 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition" by LED ZEPPELIN on Atlantic/Swan Song 8122795794 (Barcode 081227957940) is a 3CD reissue set in Card Repro Art Packaging and breaks down as follows:

Disc 1 (Sides 1 and 2 of the original 2LP set) - 39:25 minutes:
1. Custard Pie
2. The Rover
3. In My Time Of Dying
4. Houses Of The Holy [Side 2]
5. Trampled Under Foot
6. Kashmir

Disc 2 (Sides 3 and 4 of the original 2LP set) - 43:34 minutes:
1. In The Light
2. Bron-Yr-Aur
3. Down By The Seaside
4. Ten Years Gone
5. Night Flight [Side 4]
6. The Wanton Song
7. Boogie With Stu
8. Black Country Woman
9. Sick Again
"Physical Graffiti" was released 24 February 1975 in the UK on Swan Song SSK 89400 and Swan Song SS 2-200 in the USA. It went to Number 1 in both countries and shipped over 8 million copies in the USA alone.

Disc 3 COMPANION AUDIO - 41:32 minutes:
1. Brandy & Coke (Trampled Under Foot) (Initial Rough Mix)
2. Sick Again (Early Version)
3. In My Time Of Dying (Initial Rough Mix)
4. Houses Of The Holy (Rough Mix With Overdubs)
5.  Everybody Makes It Through (In The Light) (Early Version/In Transit)
6. Boogie With Stu (Sunset Sound Mix)
7. Driving Through Kashmir (Kashmir) (Rough Orchestra Mix)

The CD Repro packaging was always going to be a problem on this reissue and in my opinion they've gotten it only half right (at least it's an improvement on those awful Euro repros we had back in the Nineties with their piddly slips of paper on the inside). Let's be blunt about this - arguably "Physical Graffiti" had the most gorgeous LP packaging ever devised for a rock LP and the visceral impact of that for those of us who bought it in 1975 cannot be understated. That's why I find this latest offering so naff in comparison. Aligned with the other reissues - we get an awful blackened rear sleeve where someone has simply blocked out the artwork with blurred images and laughably called it alternate artwork. It's ruined the look of the rear - and the same crap has been done for CD3 on the inside. I also have to stick that peel-off track-list that was on the shrinkwrap onto the back of the cover and it just doesn't look right. The 16-page booklet of black and white and colour photos is over as soon as it starts with barely two pages of credits at the end - no appraisal, no liner notes and no history (you have to fork out huge money for the Super Deluxe Edition to get that). It does feel chunkier with the 3CDs inside and the booklet (I reversed the inner to get the white windows on the rear) but you can't help think that a reissue label of repute like Ace, Edsel, Beat Goes On, Repertoire or Esoteric would have gone to town on this prestigious release and finally given fans something they could really get their teeth into.

And what is this disclaimer bull that Page is putting in the booklets referring to the Companion Audio as being "new material recorded at the time" when its bleeding obvious that these are simply backing tracks with new guitar bits mixed in. Disc 3 has only two genuine outtakes - the short instrumental 1973 version of "Sick Again" and the February 1974 early version of "In The Light" which was originally called "Everybody Makes It Through". The others sound almost identical to me with very slight guitar changes - "In My Time Of Dying" being the worst offender where you have to wait almost the whole song to realise that the first guitar solo bit is the only change - and it's a lesser version. You can't help feel that much of Disc 3 is an elaborate con. There's also been complaints about the quality of the Download/Auto-Rip not being Hi-Res and the vinyl variant containing the same compromised artwork. But let's get to the remaster that is at least better than what went before...

The moment "Custard Pie" hits your speakers - the power of the band wallops you over the noggin - and the new Jimmy Page remaster helps. There's more clarity in the guitar and the whole thing swings better than it did before. "The Rover" has hiss in it that seems more accentuated but it also seems more muscular (what a powerhouse of a song). But then we get the big mother fuyer. "In My Time Of Dying" is a 1928 Blind Willie Johnson Spiritual called "Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed" on Columbia 14276-D (78") - but Zeppelin massively rearranged it - enough for the boys to naughtily claim it as their own (plundering the Blues and not for the first time either). There's even a few seconds of dialogue at the end - "That's The One!" Bonham exclaims knowing he's blasted that sucker as far as it can go. It's a truly awesome piece of Rock and when that guitar solo first kicks in - the drums, the guitar and the bass - at that moment the whole band were undeniably the best in the world. Side 2 opens with "Houses Of The Holy" and again that very subtle remaster difference is evident - and with the drums so forward and loud in the mix - I swear I can hear the squeaking of Bonham's pedals more than I did before (nice). John Paul Jones gets to make his presence known on the funky keyboard backdrop he gives "Trampled Under Foot" (especially in his wicked solo) - but what I can hear more is the overdubbed guitar parts and Plant's ballsy vocals. Bonzo's moment finishes Side 2 "Kashmir" and honestly it sounds much like the "Mothership" remaster to me - huge of course - but I can't honestly say it's any better.

I've always loved the Eastern vibe to "In The Light", the wafting treated acoustic guitars of "Bron-Yr-Aur" and the happy-go-lucky almost childish feel to "Down By The Seaside" - all of which sound much improved. But I'm thrilled to say that the best track on the album seems to have been improved the most - the stunning "Ten Years Gone" which ended Side 3. It's clean, present and powerful - that gorgeous guitar strumming and bass combined sounding so good. And when it goes into that huge riff - wow is the only appropriate response (surely this is Zeppelin at their very best). Can't say I hear a huge improvement in "The Wanton Song" but I'd swear it was produced that way - sounding ever so slightly muffled or contained so that the last passage sounds clearer - doesn't look like that can changed no much you remaster it. "Boogie With Stu" and "Black Country Woman" now sound huge and such fun...

So there you have it - like "Blonde On Blonde", "The Beatles", "Second Winter", "Exile On Main St.", "Manassas" and "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway" - "Physical Graffiti" is one of those vinyl double albums that retains its cool, mystery and magic. And despite some personal misgivings about presentation on this 3CD 40th Anniversary Reissue - isn't it the business to see it back at Number 1 where it belongs...

PS: see also reviews for the 2CD Deluxe Edition versions of "I", "II", "III", "IV", "Houses Of The Holy" and the 3-Disc version of  "Mothership: The Very Best Of" 

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