The 1980s were not kind to Jimmy Page’s reputation. The death of John Bonham, the dissolution of Led Zeppelin; Page’s efforts with the Firm; and his poor showings with the survivors of Zeppelin at various high profile gigs all helped to tarnish his guitar hero credentials.
All was redeemed on October 12, 1994, when MTV debuted Unledded, reuniting Page with Robert Plant, his sparring partner and vocalist in Zeppelin. Both men were in fine form, and Page sailed effortlessly through the gig, perhaps because many of Unledded’s songs were Zeppelin-era efforts reworked.
Inspired by the massive sales of last year’s Led Zeppelin DVD, Warner has finally released Unledded on DVD, under the unwieldy title of No Quarter: Unledded.
Flash has always been a key element of Page’s visual style, which helps explain the battery of guitars he used in Unledded: an Ovation 6/12 doubleneck; a custom-made acoustic tripleneck, which adds a mandolin to the mix; and several conventional six string acoustics. Page plays three Les Pauls as well: his classic 1959 sunburst (Number One) on several songs, and his B-Bender-equipped axe on “Thank You.”
For the climax of Unledded – an orchestral reworking of “Kashmir” – Page deployed an early-’90s Gibson Les Paul goldtop with the TransPerformance self-tuning system, allowing him to switch from DADGAD for the body of the song to standard tuning for the hard-rocking outro.
Viewers with five-channel surround systems will be in for a treat: engineer Kevin Shirley used a much more expansive mix than last year’s Led Zeppelin DVD. Not surprisingly for a recording with a Page co-production credit, on the outro of “What Is And What Should Never Be,” he sends Page’s power chords swirling around the front and rear speakers. Throughout the DVD, percussion and strings frequently appear out of the rear channels, enveloping the viewer into the sound.
The bonus materials include an MTV interview on a London street that aired concurrently with the show’s debut; a wild version of “Black Dog” that combines Australian didgeridoos along with Page roaring away with some sort of harmonizer on his guitar; and the “Most High” video from 1998’s Walking into Clarksdale followup CD. There’s also a stunning version of “The Rain Song,” seen originally only on the laser disc version of Unledded.
If you enjoyed last year’s Zeppelin DVD, you’ll enjoy Unledded. Now if only Page and Plant could remember John Paul Jones’ phone number and get the mighty Zeppelin airborne again!
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Jan. ’05 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.