not even a dime

No Quarter: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Unledded (Atlantic)
Jimmy Page and Robert Plant

By Mark Clark

Here's one from the be-careful what-you-ask-for department.

Zeppelin fans have been clamoring for metal icons Jimmy Page and Robert Plant to reunite (preferably with bassist John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham, John's son, on drums) practically since the band broke up 14 years ago. The gang has actually reunited twice, once for Live Aid and again for Atlantic Records' birthday bash. Plant contributed vocals for two tracks on Page's Outrider solo album.

But until now, the two men primarily responsible for some of the best heavy rock ever recorded had been unwilling to reunite for a substantial project. No Quarter, sadly, shows why.

Whatever chemistry the duo had 20 years ago is apparently gone. The three original songs included here are forgettable at best. And most of the Zeppelin classics on the menu are mindless retreads that offer few new insights.

The duo retool "Nobody's Fault But Mine," transforming it into a folky foot-stomper with a vague Middle Eastern flair. "Kasmir" re-emerges with a dirge-like intro and some added percussion. And the title cut — originally a showpiece for Jones, who apparently wasn't invited to the party — is laden with strings in lieu of Jones' church organ. But, for the most part, the songs sound just like they did in 1975. Or '71. Or '69.

At least they had the good sense to avoid chestnuts like "Stairway to Heaven" and "Whole Lotta Love," focusing instead on more obscure acoustic material. Four of the album's 13 tracks come from the unfairly overlooked Led Zeppelin III, one of the group's weakest-selling efforts.

Plant is in good voice, but seems to be pressing a little too hard, especially on the schamltzy "Thank You" and a new song, "City Don't Cry." Page obviously lacks the quick fingers of his younger days, but he finds a way to say more with fewer notes. His soulful solo on "Since I've Been Loving You" stands up against any in the Zeppelin catalog. Moments like that one, however, are lamentably rare.

Perhaps in the wake of this embarrassment, Plant and Page — and fans — will realize that a rock band is no more immortal than a ripe melon. Want further proof? Compare any Rolling Stones album recorded this decade to, say, Let It Bleed. Or check out the Eagles' lame new material.

Allow me to express a minority viewpoint here: I love Led Zeppelin and I don't want my affection for the band diminished by sub-par projects like this one. I already endured Coda, after all. I also would prefer not to see the ex-Beatles reunite or Elvis Presley to return from his hideout in Peru. When they were active, they were the best and they left us a legacy of wondrous recordings.

Let's leave it at that.