* Prices may differ from that shown
Almost tenatavely pairing up for 1994's 'No Quarter' project, Page and Plant thought it a good time to build on the original work they had done for that album, which was mostly re-workings of old Led Zeppelin songs in new contexts. Those sessions had yielded a handful of new compositions, which weren't ground-shatteringly awesome, but did have a bit of atmosphere and spark. 'Walking into Clarksdale' was the next step in the Page/Plant project, a studio album recorded a couple of years later of entirely new material. Could they recapture the old magic that worked so well in their youth?
Yes and no. This is a very mixed bag of a record, with some trong material rubbing shoulders with the, quite frankly, lame and forgettable. It's no surprise that Plant comes across as the dominant force on this album, as he had been quite industriously working away at his solo career almost as soon as Led Zeppelin had split nearly twenty years previously; Page, on the other hand, hadn't been anywhere near as active. It's tinged with the slightly ethereal, experimental strokes that came to be Plant's hallmark, rather than the bold and memorable guitar work that one expects from Page.
Highlights are 'Blue Train', a muted, almost tender piece of lyricism from Plant as he recalls the death of his son. 'Please Read The Letter' gained a bit more exposure after Plant re-recorded it with Alison Krauss for their mega-selling 'Raising Sand' album; this version is rockier and still has plenty of atmosphere. 'Most High' swirls with plenty of mystique around some Eastern modal lines, and plenty of associated spook. It's probably the most memorable track on here, although quite why they used synths when the authentic sound of an Eastern ensemble was available for their previous album is a bit puzzling. 'Heart in Your Hand' sounds a bit like an homage to Duane Eddy, with reverberating, twangy sounds in the background, and a fine, half-whispered delivery from Plant. He's in pretty fine voice throughout; not roaring like the leader of pride as he once was, but he doesn't overstretch himself and he emotes and varies his range throughout.
Yet there are just as many boring or ropey songs that either should have been shortened or cut altogether. 'Burning Up,' 'When I Was a Child' and 'House of Love' are all pretty forgettable fare - this album is another victim of the CD age, where the benefits of editing seem to have been forgotten. Annoyingly, the two non-album tracks from these sessions, 'Whiskey from the Glass' and 'The Window' have bags more atmosphere and would have made much better inclusions. And weirdly, given the title and its connections to Delta blues, there isn't much of a blues influence on here. Only the title track has that sort of slant, with Plant half-rapping over a bluesy bit of riffing. There's more of Plant's obsession with the East and World music than from their blues-pilfering days of old. Although it does feature a brief explosion half-way through that really does sound like Page finds his mojo, albeit only briefly.
In essence, this is more of a Robert Plant solo effort, where Jimmy Page turns up as more of a session musician. His contributions are nowhere near the memorable, cutting, or multi-layered guitar parts that made Led Zeppelin albums so memorable and full of character. It also suffers from a weird direction from the producer's console - it all sounds a bit, err, spongy. Not sure if that accurately conveys the feel of it, but it really lacks the unique combination of grit and clarity that one would expect from these two. Perhaps if Page had produced it, instead of getting Steve Albini to do it, it might have sounded a bit more fulfilled.
Not a bad record, but not a great one. It's worth a go, but just don't expect 'Physical Graffiti' from this.
Walking Into Clarksdale is the most recent effort from principal forces behind 70's hard rock group Led Zeppelin.
Robert Plant has certainly been the most interesting member of Zeppelin to produce work of quality after the break-up of the group after the death of John Bonham. Page spent most of the 80's in a drugged up haze, only coming out of the woodwork to score films for Michael Winner. However, when MTV started making their Unplugged series it became apparent that Page and Plant may well be making sweet music again together.
Unledded was the results of the guys getting back together, but that was just rehash of some classic Zep material with an Eastern twinge. What the fans really wanted was new material and it wasn't long before Page and Plant got working a brand new album in 1997.
By all accounts the album took 35 days to record and was recorded and mixed by Steve Albini. Albini seemed a strange choice at the time having been chiefly known for mixing grunge artists Nirvana and The Pixies. But oddly, his off-kilter approach to two legendary rock gods proved an excellent choice. He certainly manages to blend the subtle (and not so subtle|) elements of Page's guitar with Plant's voice incredibly well. This is mainly highlighted on the song 'Blue Train'.
When I first head Walking Into Clarksdale back in 1998 I was initially very disappointed. I suppose I was wanted the epic sound of Zeppelin, but apart from belters like 'When the World Was Young' the album was quite a soft melodic affair.
However, listening again to the album over ten years later again I was taken aback by its crisp fresh sound and really enjoyed the album once again.
Highlights for me are the brilliant single 'Most High' with its synthetic drum beat and rhythmic sound. Its an instant classic and is featured song on my 'pod. Other excellent tracks are the catchy ; Shining In The Light' which wouldn't be too far removed from being on Physical Graffiti.
Some of the slower tracks are also really good. As I mentioned before Blue Train is brilliant as is 'Heart in Your Hand'. 'Please Read the Letter' is also a very good song which Plant has improved upon on the recent Plant/ Krauss album where it's folk/rock chorus is changed to country and western.
If you are a Zep fan , then this album is well worth listening to. It might not be for everyone, but it's a slow burning classic.
Walking Into Clarksdale is available now from Amazon.co.uk for £4.98 and £1.09 from their marketplace.
1,"Shining in the Light" - 4:01
2,"When the World Was Young" - 6:13
3,"Upon a Golden Horse" - 3:52
4,"Blue Train" - 6:45
5,"Please Read the Letter" - 4:21
6,"Most High" - 5:36
7,"Heart in Your Hand" - 3:50
8,"Walking into Clarksdale" - 5:18
9,"Burning Up" - 5:21
10,"When I Was a Child" - 5:45
11,"House of Love" - 5:35
12,"Sons of Freedom" - 4:08
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Shining In The Light - Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, Steve Albini, Charlie Jones, Michael Lee
2 When The World Was Young
3 Upon A Golden Horse
4 Blue Train
5 Please Read The Letter
6 Most High - Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, Steve Albini, Charlie Jones, Michael Lee, Jim Whelan
7 Heart In Your Hand
8 Walking Into Clarksdale
9 Burning Up
10 When I Was A Child
11 House Of Love
12 Sons Of Freedom