Zeppelin guitarist refuses to sing the blues
By EMMETT MALLOY
Scene Music Critic
Poor Jimmy Page. The former Led Zeppelin guitarist and rock guru is just itching to play some Zep songs but none of his old bandmates are interested. Although frontman Robert Plant was up for a mini-reunion a few years back, he now prefers playing English pubs with an oldies-blues cover band. Ex-bassist John Paul Jones — who was left out of the Page-Plant tour — is currently enjoying success with his debut album and first solo tour. So instead of singing the blues, Page has teamed up with the torchbearers of southern-fried boogie, The Black Crowes.
Recorded last Oct. 18 and 19 at L.A.'s Greek Theatre, the double live album, Live at the Greek: Excess All Areas, features some of the best and rarest of the Zeppelin catalog, in addition to some old blues standards. Although some may regard the collaboration as a cheap shot at nostalgia, the performances on this album exceed all the expectations that any Zep fan would have of the project. The septet — featuring a keyboardist and two guitarists in addition to Page — actually succeeds in achieving the full effect of Zeppelin's layered, complex sound — a task that not even Led Zeppelin itself could accomplish in a live environment. The Crowes fully capture the mastery of Zeppelin, with everything from the chaotic interlude of "Whole Lotta Love," to hard-driving riffs of "Sick Again" to the bluesy jams of "The Lemon Song." Much credit should be given to Crowes lead vocalist Chris Robinson who manages to strike a nice balance between Plant's and his own distinctive style. Also deserving of merit is bassist Sven Pipien who absolutely shines on the Zep classic "What Is And What Should Never Be."
But this album features some obscure covers that demonstrates the strength of the camaraderie between Page and the Crowes. Reaching way back into his past, Page leads the group on a cover of "Shape Of Things To Come" by his pre-Zeppelin band, The Yardbirds. Even more fascinating, the Jeff Beck (whom Page replaced when he joined the band) rendition is covered, and the song is interestingly driven by some tough metal muscle instead of the usual pop and psychedelia elements associated with the original. Covers of BB King's "Woke Up This Morning" and Willie Dixon's "You Shook Me" explore Page and the Crowes' rich blues influences.
The biggest shame about this album is the lack of Crowes material. Due to a clause in the band's record contract, the Crowes were forbidden from releasing any of their songs on the album. Although performed in concert with Page on lead, such Crowes gems as "Hard to Handle" and "Remedy" were not allowed to be included.
Overall, considering the lack of live Zeppelin albums, Live at the Greek: Excess All Areas is perhaps the best thing to have happened to Zeppelin fans in a long time, and it demonstrates that Jimmy Page has not lost his incredible touch and ability. As for The Black Crowes, this collaboration shows how incredibly adept the band is at its craft. One final note: Live at the Greek: Excess All Areas is only available at www.musicmaker.com. At the Website, one may purchase the album as a download in Windows Media or as a double CD. The option of buying all the songs or just a few selected tracks is available with the CD.
All Scene Stories for Tuesday, May 2, 2000