Thursday, March 27, 2008

Waiting on you, Jimmy

On this day in 1993, L.A.-based Geffen Records released an LP, cassette and CD pairing the howl of Deep Purple/Whitesnake screamer David Coverdale with the riffage of Jimmy Page.

The album, simply titled Coverdale/Page, witnessed the merging of two divergent career paths. A symbolic representation of this was the artwork's visual concept as designed by Hugh Syme. It depicted a road sign indicating the merging of one road into another to head off in a single direction.

And it wasn't backward.

Midway through the 1980s, Page found that Paul Rodgers' voice could complement his guitar. After their project ran its course and Page delivered a solo album and the first generation of Led Zeppelin reissues, Coverdale was the next singer he turned to.

Coverdale was a famous British rock singer possessing long, blond hair and a well-known arch-rivalry with Robert Plant to boot. Page's teaming up with him may have been interpreted by some onlookers as a wish that he actually had Plant, and that this was the next-best thing to it actually being Plant. (Others would argue it was the worst thing.)

Personalities aside, their musical collaborations ranged from the in-your-face hard rock of "Shake My Tree" and "Feeling Hot" to the desperation of the Temple of the Dog-like "Take Me for a Little While." One fine track that finds Page's guitar army particularly at home with Coverdale is "Easy Does It"; the musical arrangement on this song may possibly rate as the best of any studio track Page has ever participated in, outside of his days with Led Zeppelin.

Each of the 11 Coverdale/Page tunes, accentuated by the tight rhythm section of Denny Carmassi on drums and Jorge Casas on bass, was crisply produced and mixed by Coverdale and Page with engineer Mike Fraser. They were good foils for Page as he reclaimed the guitar hero status he had established for himself with studio output that had included "Dazed and Confused," "Whole Lotta Love" and "Achilles Last Stand."

Coverdale helped Page to create some new moments like that. On "Don't Leave Me This Way," they serve up a hearty helping of the blues for some of Page's most anguished playing since his solo on Zep's "I'm Gonna Crawl." On "Absolution Blues," the guitarist dishes up an introduction with the mystique of "In the Evening" that highlights the advantages of using an automatic-tuning TransPerformance guitar. This is true vintage Page showing he could still play in 1993 like he could in 1978 -- or 15 years earlier.

Now it's another 15 years later, and Page has just shown the world once again -- at a Led Zeppelin reunion concert, of all unpredictable events -- that he hasn't lost a thing.

Sadly, earlier this month marked 10 years since the last time any album of all-new studio material was released with significant contributions from Page. That was the Page-Plant album Walking into Clarksdale, for which the pair began touring in March 1998.

Ten years gone, and no new Page material has surfaced on album! Here's hoping that changes soon.

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