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Jimmy Page | Black Crowes | Live at the Greek | Excess All Areas | review | rock | Lollipop
Jimmy Page and the Black Crowes
Live at the Greek: Excess All Areas (MusicMaker.com)
by Brian Varney
I have this friend named Fes. He's the sort of guy who has everyone's attention whenever he speaks. He's pretty much the local authority when it comes to rock music, i.e. what makes the grade and what doesn't. Fes calls the Black Crowes "America's finest rock'n'roll band." I thought about that after he said it. And even though their batting average isn't as good as it could be (by my count, they've made one great album, three good-to-decent ones, and one awful one), he's right. Their albums aren't always strong, due mostly to inconsistent songwriting, but there is no question about their ability to rock.
And that is why this album is such a great idea. Jimmy Page joins the Black Crowes for two CDs full of Led Zeppelin songs and some old blues and '60s rock classics. No longer is songwriting a concern. In fact, my only concern was that the Crowes wouldn't be able to rise to the challenge. America's greatest rock'n'roll band or not, Led Zeppelin's shoes are some pretty big ones.
I shouldn't have worried. In fact, it's amazing how well the band steps into the songs. They're able to play songs I've heard a million times and make them sound different, but still good. Chris Robinson is particularly impressive -- though his natural vocal range doesn't come near Robert Plant's, he doesn't try to emulate Plant at all. He sings the songs in his natural voice and makes it seem like they've always been that way.
They take on all the usual Zep cuts (though they had the smarts not to try "Stairway to Heaven"), and they make them sound great. Still, my favorites from this set are the less obvious choices: "Ten Years Gone" and "Sick Again," two lost cuts from Physical Graffiti, the majestic version of the Yardbirds' "Shape of Things to Come," and the tough, swaggering take on Fleetwood Mac's "Oh Well."
There's no question that this could've been very bad. In lesser hands, it might've been a flatulent, boring bar band massacre of a bunch of great songs. Instead, it turns out to be a hot, live testament to the continued staying power of these songs, and a beat-ass rock'n'roll record. Whaddya know -- Fes was right again.