Jump to content

Stairway To Middle Age


Recommended Posts

Stairway To Middle Age - Two Led Zeppelin veterans stage a mature reunion

Time - April 20, 1998

Author: Christopher John Farley

Guitarist Jimmy Page , 54, and vocalist Robert Plant, 49, both former members of the '70s megagroup Led Zeppelin, seem to amuse each other constantly. It's nothing verbal, nothing too overt--nonetheless, when you meet them, there always seems to be a smile playing about their lips as if they were both in on a secret joke. The pair's new CD, Walking into Clarksdale--their first full album of newly written collaborative material since Led Zeppelin first broke up in 1980--has a similar vibe. When you hear Plant's aching vocals paired once again with Page's tough, tight guitar work, you can sense an understanding, a secret, shared discourse. Indeed, according to Page, many of the songs on Walking into Clarksdale were recorded in "one or two" takes. The pair were going for spontaneity, and the effort paid off. Despite the weight of their history--bands like Pearl Jam have borrowed from them, movies like This Is Spinal Tap have parodied them--their Walking into Clarksdale is a relatively loose-limbed, unencumbered affair. There are no sprawling Stairway to Heaven-type pieces here, only songs that are for the most part relatively modest and direct. This isn't hard rock, but it is solid.

Shining in the Light, the album's first song, is one of the best offerings. It's a mellow, midtempo rocker flavored with restrained yet forceful guitar work from Page. Their rambling, agreeable Blue Train is another strong track; it's a wise, mature song that builds carefully to its climax without the excesses that have sometimes plagued their work. Led Zeppelin was often about power and showmanship; Page and Plant, in this album, rely on emotional depth and craftsmanship.

The album fumbles when it overreaches. Most High, a rocker that's meant to evoke the sounds of the Middle East, lacks a focus. And the album's finale, the raving Sons of Freedom, is a discordant, fuzzed-out mess. The disc was recorded and mixed by Steve Albini--he also worked on Nirvana's album In Utero--and his personal love for noise rock comes through too strongly here. Page and Plant are better off when they follow their own, time-tested instincts.

The pair say they're happier as a duo than as part of a megagroup (neither of them talks to Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones very much, and drummer John Bonham died in 1980). "This is what we like," says Plant. "It doesn't attract the same attention. It suits my years and my ambition." Plant also says that although "the best place to find us is in a bar," they don't party as hard on tour as they once did. "We control it now," says Plant. "Before, it was rather amorphous--we couldn't stop it." Walking into Clarksdale is the sound of two men whose hearts still run wild but who also understand, most of the time, when to stop and stroll.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...