With reports flying around that Jimmy Page and Robert Plant may finally cave in to public demand (and an incredibly lucrative payday) and play as Led Zeppelin at this year’s Desert Trip festival in southern California, we thought it would be fun to revisit one of that duo’s finest acoustic guitar-based live performances: A mid-’90s version of their epic ballad “The Rain Song,” which originally appeared on Led Zep’s tremendous 1973 album, Houses of the Holy.
As you may recall, on the the original recording Page layers both acoustic and electric guitar throughout the tune, and Zep bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones plays sweeping Mellotron “strings” under the guitars and Plant’s plaintive vocals. Well, on this take from Page & Plant’s summer 1994 MTV Unplugged appearance (sans Jones, and pointedly not billed as Led Zeppelin), Page plays glistening acoustic only, and this time there is a string section on hand to give the background textures both the richness and nuance the song deserves.
An album culled from the Unplugged sessions called No Quarter: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Unledded, came out in November 1994, entering the Billboard album chart at Number 4. Interestingly, though, it did not contain “The Rain Song.” That recording did not emerge commercially until a decade later, on a pair of tenth-anniversary expanded CD and DVD releases.