Led gets physical

REWIND FEBRUARY: it’s a six organs blowout, but who brought the bums in?

I’d hoped to have got at least one proper review done this month – something from the vault, something overlooked or worth revisiting (to be filed under REPLAY, watch this space), but guess what? Not done yet. So, with no Oxford gigs attended in Feb, we lurch on to another Rewind and this time, we’ve got four words to guide us:

Zep. Led. Physical. Graffiti.

Aaaaaahhh …….rock’s colossi. Suck it up, breathe it in and hold it for a sec coz first, we’ve got a quick detour: Ben Chasny’s calling.

Yep, Chasny’s portal to the outer dimensions – aka Six Organs of Admittance – are back with new album Hexadic, and even though we’re well used to his/their transcendent voyages that are as delicate as they are incendiary, Hexadic is a very different beast in that it is a beast. No hypnotic mantra-thons, no dronechant headtrips and barely a clean pick to be heard because Six Organs have plugged in, noised up and blown out big time with a record of abrasive, freestyle axe. Hexadic is strong stuff, be warned.

Speaking of Chasny, what about the melodic contrast nudged in by New Bums? Can’t say I’d heard of it/them either until a well-placed CD sticker (thank you Truck Store) revealed his name and caught my eye, sealing the fate of the bums: sold. N.B., as I’m sure they’re never known, are Ben Chasny and Donovan Quinn, and Voices in a Rented Room is their album from last year on the Drag City label. Wholly un-Hexadic – in fact, wholly un-Organs bar the odd touch on It’s the Way and Welcome to the Navy – Voices is a short set of low-key lower-fi acoustic tales that sneak inside your head without fuss or ego.

Right then. On to the big one: LZ’s PG.

On Feb 24 1975, Physical Graffiti began its journey to becoming the most revered of the Zep canon. Even the title is one of the best ever.

On Feb 23 2015, 40 years gone, the same record gets the remaster/reissue treatment in Jimmy Page’s latest project.

And yet, there’s nothing to say about this record. Everything’s been said or just cannot be articulated, and as a Zep fanboy who’s once again in thrall to In the Light’s voodoo orchestration, The Rover’s drag-riff menace ET AL, I’m not even gonna try. Better instead to acknowledge that this is a record of power … a deep power that, even now, seems to be more than just musical. Page is guarded about his magick of those days (he won’t tell, see Mojo’s interview) and maybe it’s irrelevant anyway, but the mystery remains and so the mythology exists.

So, I’m not reviewing the album. Instead we’re gonna go sideways with Physical Graffiti Redrawn, the CD that comes with this month’s Zep/Graffiti-led Mojo mag. Yes it’s a Led covers album but, from what I’ve picked up on so far, Redrawn has tons more going for it than these things usually manage.

First, it’s the whole of Physical Graffiti, start to finish. You know exactly what’s coming, but at the same time, you don’t.

Second, the bands have been given tracks that the Mojo crew specifically thought they would do justice, like White Denim hammering out Custard Pie … who wouldn’t wanna hear that???

And third, the whole Redrawn thing is even more of an excuse – if you really needed one – to immerse yourself in Graffiti again, reissue or not. Treat it like a warm up.

But to get back to the bands and their covers: who nails it?

We’ve mentioned ‘em already but White Denim step right up, trading their on-the-brink chaos for a sparse (for them) robo-funk lockdown with sci-fi psyche finish. Emerging Mali stars Songhoy Blues plot their own route through Kashmir, Son Little strips the urgency out of Trampled Underfoot, and musicians’ musician Duke Garwood takes Night Flight into the dusk and the dust. Perhaps best of all is Miraculous Mule’s In My Time of Dying which, like semi name-bros Gov’t Mule, wallows in heavy southern blues ‘til the sweeping gospel Americana flips it right around.

Those are just a few of the gifts offered up by Redrawn – less rock for sure, but a fresh take and a spot-on late-night listen. Hats off to Mojo, tracklist below if you need it.

‘til next time!

Physical Graffiti Redrawn (Mojo CD, April issue, out now)

Custard Pie – White Denim

The Rover – Blackberry Smoke

In My Time of Dying – Miraculous Mule

Houses of the Holy – The Temperance Movement

Trampled Underfoot – Son Little

Kashmir – Songhoy Blues

In the Light – Syd Arthur

Bron-Yr-Aur – Laura Marling

Down by the Seaside – Max Jury

Ten Years Gone – Michael Kiwanuka

Night Flight – Duke Garwood

The Wanton Song – Rose Windows

Boogie With Stu – Kitty, Daisy & Lewis

Black Country Woman – Hiss Golden Messenger

Sick Again – Sun Kil Moon