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Zeppelin keeps the juices flowing

It's my favorite sentence in David Fricke's notes to "Mothership," the glorious, heaven-sent, furniture-rattling remastered two-disc Led Zeppelin set (Atlantic/Swan Song) that goes on sale today.

And it comes in a parenthetical aside.

"Stairway to Heaven" has become so popular, says Fricke, that there's a backlash: "You can be thrown out of guitar stores for playing the opening lick."

Never mind all those disc jockeys who, once upon a time, loved it because it gave them a nice long bathroom break.

I picture some kid straight out of "Wayne's World," not quite fully recovered from a teen complexion, in the big, classic, ax-filled Guitar World store in L.A. picking up some vintage Gibson Les Paul beauty, proudly playing Jimmy Page's opening lick and having all the guitar-o-scenti in L.A. at that moment suddenly turning on him and whisking him out the door.

Well, I'm with the kid -- sort of.

Jimmy Page is the rock god and riff-maker for us all, the People's electric Thor. More than Hendrix, Clapton or even blue collar swamp riffer John Fogerty, Jimmy Page was the hook-maker sublime.

Released simultaneously today with "Mothership" is another two-disc wonderment: the soundtrack from the 1976 Led Zeppelin concert film "The Song Remains the Same" from Madison Square Garden, now sounding incredible. ("Twenty-three minutes of 'Dazed and Confused?'" singer Robert Plant explains to filmmaker and Zeppelin idolator Cameron Crowe. "Nobody but the Grateful Dead were doing something like that. Nowadays, you're never transported. It's all video assists and 27 cameras, and it's a YouTube clip that'll appear tomorrow.")

I love Led Zeppelin. I leave to my learned colleague, pop music critic Jeff Miers, far more substantial and cogent cogitations on Led Zeppelin in the News' Spotlight section this Sunday. But these four discs have been in my stereo for a week.

They were my favorite way to play musical hooky.

Vintage '70s rock is far from my kind of music. What usually gets my juices flowing is a six-disc set of '70s Miles Davis. Or jazz singer Andy Bey from 10 years ago, appearing for the first time -- or Keith Jarrett from five years ago. Or pianist Yundi Li performing Prokofiev's Second Piano concerto. Or an all-Shostakovich disc by pianist Martha Argerich, not to mention the first complete recording of Virgil Thomson's scores for "The Plow That Broke the Plains" and "The River."

Still, there are rock acts that turn me into an inhabitant of "Wayne's World" like everyone else: the Beatles, the Stones, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Jimi Hendrix and the one some fans still claim as the greatest rock band ever, Led Zeppelin, the paleo hard rock/metal Valhalla-on-wheels that ended when drummer John Bonham drank himself to death. (And a great rock drummer he was, too. Listen to what he does all through "The Song Remains the Same.")

It was Duke Ellington who, immortally, first said there were really only two kinds of music: "good music and bad music." I'd extend that a little and say there is just some music that every time you hear cranked up on your stereo causes you to look up at your speakers and involuntarily mutter "Oh my God."

Right up there, for me, with a ton of classical music and jazz are Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love," "Kashmir" and, especially, the opening 60 seconds of "In the Evening."

It's "holy s---" music and it's just awesome, dude, just awesome.

Just ask Wayne. And Garth.

And me too, man, me too.


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