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"Walking Into Clarksdale" -- appraised


Funny you should mention "Walking Into Clarksdale" -- I pulled it out of my
CD rack this morning for the first time in many months and listened to it on
the way to work on my CD walkman. 

It's not a perfect album and some of it reflects the speed with which the
band wrote and recorded the material. But I still think it's a great album,
and one that grows in stature with repeated listenings. Ah, if only they'd
excised the wretched "Burning Up" from the album. They ought to have made
that a B-side at best, and replaced it with "The Window," a truly
jaw-dropping B-Side that they included on the single of "Most High." I can
only imagine that "The Window" was recorded after the WIC sessions (the
track isn't 'produced,' by Steve Albini) and was too late to be included on
the album. But this emotionally charged, atmospheric gem (with lyrics copped
from Moby Grape) is well-worth seeking out.

But there are many highlights on "Clarksdale" -- listen to the intimate
vocal and gorgeous minimalist guitar solo of "When I Was a Child" or the
dynamics of the moody "Blue Train" which starts out with a great bass groove
before Page rips into it. "Most High" baffled me the first time I heard it,
which was just before I saw P/P play a very special gig at the Shepherd's
Bush Empire in London. But that track, with repeated listenings, reveals its
magic and inventiveness. I also love the title track which features great
work by Page (it was even better live).

Two other great tracks that are too often overlooked: "House of Love" is one
of the record's best songs. It  sounds like something off Physical
Graffitti, except that production, or virtual lack thereof, is quite muted
so it doesn't immediately stand out. But the song has a great Page riff,
which sounds like it is being strummed on a 12 string, over a Michael Lee
drum loop. Another underrated track is "Please Read the Letter," which has a
very 60s feel to it. I love the way that Plant becomes increasingly insist
and urgent in his vocal as he implores his lover to read his letter.

There are a few missteps on the album -- "Shining In the Light" is a
terrific melody and the part where Plant's voice melds with melotron before
the second chorus gives me shivers. But the song lacks a third verse proper.
" "Upon a Golden Horse" has a second rate vocal -- and that's coming from
me, a huge Plant fan. "When the World Was Young" is OK, but it never quite
gels somehow. It was better live, but I feel this song needed a few added
spices and ingredients. "Heart in My Hand" is excellent -- again, better
live. But the track was recorded before the lyrics were properly finished
and Plant admits that he mumbled through the unfinished spots. Those are
nitpicks -- overall this is still a good album, but one that could have done
with a few more months of preperation perhaps.

(Any one else out there like "Walking Into Clarksdale," or is it just me?)

As for the "Gallows Pole" CD single: what you get is what it says on the
box. Limited edition, but not rare. "The Rain Song" on part one of the CD is
OK, but not stellar, which is why it is a B-Side. I believe it is included
on the official video release of Unledded too, if memory serves. 

And, speaking of Plant/Page B-Sides, a little more difficult to find, but
essential to own is Part 1 and Part 2 of the "Shining In the Light" CD
single which was released in Europe. There are excellent live versions of
"No Quarter" and "Walking Into Clarksdale" on one of the CDs, and the other
has an astonishing live version of Page and Plant doing "How Many More
Times" (with an excerpt of "In the Light") also from that phenomenal
Shepherd's Bush show. It kicks off into high gear with Plant piercing the
air with a momentous scream before the Michael Lee explodes into action.
And, of course, Pagey even gets the `ole violin bow out and promptly wrecks
it! Good stuff.

Stephen Humphries

The Christian Science Monitor (www.csmonitor.com)
Boston, MA 02115

> ----------
> From:         AylaKat@xxxxxxx
> Sent:         Monday, October 15, 2001 10:28 PM
> To:   zeppelin@xxxxxxxx
> Subject:      Gallows Pole
> There was this thing I picked up in this used/abused record store...
> Oh, by the way, I went to the Led Zeppelin section first, like we all 
> discussed, and this is how I found it...
> It was a Jim and Bob "Part 2 of a 2 part limited edition picture disc cd
> set" 
> called Gallows Pole, and it has Gallows Pole, Four Sticks, and WIAWSNB on
> it. 
> It's got a pic of them all chyllin with the middle eastern folk on a
> blanket, 
> and Bob's barefoot (BLARGH) and they're all just chyllin.  And its got
> this 
> little paper CD inside that says "Part one of a two part limited edition 
> picture disc cd set including gallows pole, city dont cry, & the rain song
> available now ppdd1... and i'm a bit curious because TRS is my favorite
> song 
> ever.
> In any case, if anyone can tell me just what this is, if its really
> special 
> or not, and how I can bag part one, can you drop me a message?
> Big Kat, she who is really beat and is sorry about writing poorly
> P.S. just to see what everyone was complaining about, I picked up Walking 
> Into Clarksdale too.  Hell, it was only four bucks, why not?  And worst
> case 
> scenario, I sell it back.