Jimmy Page and Robert Plant
Walking Into Clarksdale (Atlantic Records)
By: Bernadette Giacomazzo
The good news is: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant really don't have that much to prove. This dynamic duo was, as any halfway coherent rock fan knows, one-half of the original, legendary Led Zepplin lineup.The better news is: They don't *try* to prove anything.
For those of us who either know or remember the Led Zepplin experience,Page is the artist, and the guitar is his tool of the trade. Each lick,each note, each crunch, tells a story. Who among us, after all, cannot name at least *ONE* Zepplin song based solely on the guitar solos? Even those children of the Nineties, the prepubescent wanna-be children of design who worship Hanson in a zombie-like trance, will know at least ONE Zepplin song by the summer's end -- GODZILLA, the techno-marvel of a movie brought to you by the makers of INDEPENDENCE DAY, features a token Puff Daddy song("Come With Me") which samples the cosmic score of "Kashmir" (is nothing sacred?). Whatever keeps that song together(it sure as hell ain't Puffy's monotone rap), you can be sure that the score -- and Page -- had something to do with it.
But don't discount Robert Plant's role in the Zepplin experience. To his credit, at least he didn't duet with the washed-up hair-metal lead singer of Whitesnake(unlike Page). He had a strut and a swagger unlike no other --a cocky Brit among all cocky Brits(move over, Liam Gallagher). While Mick Jagger preened all day and tried to look cool, Plant had a natural knack for self-assuredness, and it came through in each line of each Zepplin song(cf. "Misty Mountain High", "D'Yer Maker", "Goin' to California","Dancin' Days", and of course my personal favorite "Kashmir", to name but a few). With his long blond mane and heroin-thin body, Plant could -- and did-- achieve rock god status with the blink of an eye.
But on "Walking Into Clarksdale"(not to be confused with "Last Train to Clarksville"), the first thing you notice is that this is *NOT* Led Zepplin. This is Page and Plant. Then again, perhaps all so the better --after all, it would be sort of pointless to re-create Zepplin without John"Bonzo" Bonham; when it comes to music, the whole is definitely much greater than the sum of its parts. I mean, why do you think the Aerosmith and Metallica machines work(albeit a bit rusty) after all these years?
"Walking Into Clarksdale", for all it's worth, should be enjoyed as the Page and Plant experience. They work pretty well together, as evidenced in the first release, "Most High". Plant again tries to achieve rock-god status, and instead achieves Cerrunos-like transcendence(Cerrunos, for those of you not up on your Celtic pantheon, is the Supreme God of All Things). Page's guitar again echoes right along. In this same vein, Plant travels the high road with "Shining in the Light", a bombastic, strangely introspective song.
My other two favorite tracks are "Blue Train" and "Burning Up." Of all the songs, these two come closest to the old-time,kick-you-in-the-seat-of-your-pants rock'n'roll that seemed to get flushed down the toilet with the dawn of the No Doubt era(yech, my skin is crawling). Yes, it smells like reheated teen spirit, but at least these guys act their age. You cannot, repeat CANNOT(with all due respect to all musical genres), leap tall musical buildings in a single album a la"Bridges to Babylon" if you've only been scaling the wall just a few years before -- if it ain't broke, you know...
The bottom line? Though Page and Plant embrace their past, they live in the present. They can see that rock today needs a real kick-start to get going again, and if means giving the kids a dose of the original formula, so be it. Be warned -- if you want a Led Zepplin album, don't come to WALKINGINTO CLARKSDALE(you want my advice on the definitive Zepplin album?"Physical Graffiti", thank you very much). But if you want some back-to-basics rock, from two of the pioneers, by all means, come to this album. Rating ***(out of ****)