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TV REVIEW : Plant, Page in a Low-Key Reunion on MTV

October 12, 1994|CHRIS WILLMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Robert Plant and Jimmy Page may have waited past the point of anticlimax to reteam, but it may be that anticlimactic aura that's part of the appeal of their unassumingly enjoyable MTV special tonight.

The former Led Zeppelin leaders' 90-minute "one-time reunion" show, popularly billed as "Jimmy Page/Robert Plant (Unledded)"--or, as it's identified in the title cards, "No Quarter"--seems less like forced event-programming reanimation than a casual resumption between fated consorts. There's not an overriding urgency to their pairing here, but it doesn't have the faux informality of a lot of the "Unplugged" shows on which it's partially modeled, either. More often than not, they do get the lead out.

Eight of 12 songs included were performed before a live audience on a London sound stage dressed to resemble the "Unplugged" sets, though very little of the music is in an acoustic or duo format. Here, a band that includes the young rhythm section from Plant's usual touring band bashes convincingly through a few of Zeppelin's more balladic or bluesier numbers, and on the thrashier tunes is joined by the smallish London Metropolitan Orchestra and the Egyptian Ensemble, who add all varieties of oud, tabla, et al. to the Anglo-Eastern tableau.

Four tunes were shot live on exotic location, rather the way '70s concert movies had bands rocking out at Pompeii. "No Quarter" is taken in a lush forest, though the voice and acoustic guitar are so heavily filtered that the effect is none too woodsy; "Nobody's Fault but Mine" is Euro-blues in a rock quarry; two more numbers have the duo doing extended riffing on the streets of Marrakech as the locals clap or play along. (The best juxtaposition has Page at his most lunatic fiddling with an effects box, while a Moroccan kid holds his fingers in his ears.)

There are slightish new tunes slipped in, but nothing that would suggest Plant and Page were inordinately interested in expanding the Zep-classic canon. The reason to tune in here is to hear "Four Sticks" or the inevitable capper "Kashmir" excitingly revived with the latent Eastern flavor made orchestratively blatant, or just to rediscover the un-updated beauty of "Thank You."

For those not cable-ready, a bound-to-best-sell soundtrack arrives in early November.

* "Jimmy Page/Robert Plant (Unledded)" premieres at 10 tonight on MTV, with repeat airings Saturday and Sunday.

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