Kicking off the second disc of Physical Graffiti with the sound of John Paul Jones’ synth winding around Jimmy Page applying a bow to an acoustic guitar, “In The Light” is perhaps the greatest of all of Led Zeppelin’s art-rock songs.
Not that there were that many, of course: Page and Plant were too enamored with rock and roll basics to drift too far away from them, and — weirdly enough — I think that songs with multi-part structures and tricky time signature changes would have been too limiting for John Bonham, who did his best work banging his drums against a relatively confined space.
So it was always kinda cool to hear the proggish songs they did try: “Four Sticks“,” “No Quarter,” “Kashmir,” and “Carouselambra” (though I suppose that arguments could be made for “Stairway to Heaven” and “Achilles Last Stand”), they never went too far off of the rock and roll reservation.
“In The Light,” sounds at first like yet another mystical, eastern song, especially at the initial riff kicks in after the first verse and it marches down the street sounding for all the world like it’s going to take no prisoners. But that’s merely a misdirection, because it’s really looking for someone who needs their burdens shared.
As you would for me, oh, I would share your load
Let me share your load, ooh, let me share, share your load
(Of course, this song would come across completely differently if Robert Plant was offering to share his load.)
So when “In The Light” breaks down in the middle to reprise the opening synth billows and Robert Plant vocalizations, it almost instantly picks back up into the big Bonham beat that underscores the ongoing unfolding guitar/synth riff that Page and Jones cooked up to sustain it for most of its running time.
And when it breaks down one last time, so that Plant can sing “In the liiiiiight” over a lilting clavinet for a few seconds, before they kick back in with an uplifting riff over which Jimmy Page can pile on a bunch of trilling, disconnected guitar overdubs as the song fades away.
“In The Light”
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