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*** PAGE & PLANT, "Walking Into Clarksdale," Atlantic

April 19, 1998|Sandy Masuo

The bluster of their Led Zeppelin days has abated a bit, but the music Robert Plant and Jimmy Page have concocted since re-teaming in 1994 is no less engaging--from the rearranged Zep classics on "No Quarter" to this batch of all new material. Though they start with many of the same basic ingredients that went into Zeppelin, Page, Plant, bassist Charlie Jones and drummer Michael Lee take a rootsier approach that highlights the reflective spirit of these songs.

Plant's vocals and Page's guitar work are subtle and varied, shifting from the gentle, reverberant reverie of "When I Was a Child" to the thrashing, feverish pitch of "Burning Out" and the swagger of the title track. "When the World Was Young" ebbs and flows between dreamy, wistful verses and a radiant chorus that Plant delivers with a more poignant edge than he packed in his "Stairway to Heaven" days. "Most High" churns with the same intoxicating Middle Eastern elements that fueled "Kashmir," but with a more low-key, simmering intensity.

Page and Plant have always drawn inspiration from blues tradition, which maintains that great players only improve with age; whatever pyrotechnic appeal they've lost over the years, they've gained in emotional depth.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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