Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"The Infinite Monkey Theorem," Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love "Coverdale • Page"

To paraphrase...if you put 100 monkeys in a room with 100 instruments, 4 of them will eventually churn out a cliche-ridden, innuendo-filled, riff-heavy hard rock album that almost everyone will mock. And I say that with all...ahem...you know...due respect.  Such was the case of Jimmy Page and David Coverdale and their rhythm section of original Montrose drummer Denny Carmassi and Gloria Estefan's bassist...that's right...Jorge Casas in 1993. 

And while I will not even begin to defend David Coverdale's hair or any Whitesnake videos with or without Tawny Kitaen, if you know me by now, it shouldn't surprise you that I am here to celebrate and defend 1993's "Coverdale • Page" release, as well as the simple pleasures of a big drum sound and just about anything that sounds like Led Zeppelin."

Here's Stephen Thomas Erlewine's AMG review, which belies the 4 1/2  out of 5 stars the record was given:

Everything about Coverdale/Page, right down to the goofy copping of the Presence artwork, is an attempt to recapture the pompous majesty of Led Zeppelin. It doesn't succeed, of course, but it does leave all of the Zep clones in the dust. Although Jimmy Page plays better here than he has since 1979's In Through the Out Door, there is a conspicuous lack of solos. If you've never liked David Coverdale, his performance will not change your opinion. Both fare better on the rockers; the power ballads tend be slightly tedious. Essentially, Coverdale/Page boils down to a guilty pleasure at its best moments ("Shake My Tree," "Pride and Joy," "Absolution Blues"), but never quite rivals the bold experimentation of Led Zeppelin.

Sounds more like a 2 1/2 -3 star write up to me. Actually, I think the review is dead-on, except I always have trouble with the term "guilty pleasure." I feel no shame when listening to this record. I don't feel guilt when I think something is good... and I think this record is good. Yes, every song is a Led Zeppelin rip off, but so what? Every Zep tune was a rip off of something else anyway, right? (I don't really believe this completely. I'm just attempting some preventive quelling of the LZ Hate Squad.)

"Coverdale • Page" goes to eleven. Hell, it goes to twelve and thirteen. It's pompous and silly. You can hear the hair. It sometimes out taps Spinal Tap. But, all of that is just not enough to dismiss some great playing. Plus, it's got a good beat and you can dance to it. Some of it.

(I love music. I can't help it.)

At the risk of oversimplifying, I can't complain about a record like "Coverdale • Page," even with its shortcomings and smatterings of unintentional laughs. Why?  Because people like Lana Del Rey and the members of Coldplay exist. That's why. And I definitely can't help myself, even at my age, when my arms begin to form a very subtle air guitar during "Shake My Tree."

I'll get around to lighting some scented candles, opening up a container of hummus, steeping some green tea, and kicking back all introspective-like with a Nick Drake record. (No, I won't.)  For now, gimme a shot and a beer and a record that is much better than most want to remember or admit.


Scott said...

So I finally meet the other guy who bought this record! Ha! Still have this cd, Sal, although I must admit to having not listened to it in many years. Funny how we old Zep fans would, and still, snap up any recording with JP, RP, and even JPJ, always hoping to recapture that old magic that was LZ.
Zep was my first rock concert ever at age 17 on May 18, 1977 in B'Ham, Al. It was only a couple months later that Plant's son died, so I was fortunate to see that tour, as I feel they were never quite the same after that terrible tragedy.

Albert said...

Hold on Scott...I would be # 3....a cd so buried somewhere in my house a judge might claim it legally dead..but I trust Sal's instincts implicitly, and the review doesn't hurt....so it will be found, the dust blown off of the jewel case and...I'll probably hate it, but I'll have to hear for myself....and that line about Page's reluctance to solo has dogged EVERYTHING he's done since Zep....infuriating and true.....

Bulletins From Mars Hill said...

Great article. I remember being really excited as I rushed home from town with my CP CD in my pocket. I also remember the disappointment when I played it. For me it was a marriage made in heaven. I loved LZ and I loved Whitesnake (At least the early version of it) I had worn out at least one copy of David's first solo album and was addicted to North Winds. (Not quite sure why now) Anyway it was a mayo embarrassment as far as I was concerned. As I listen to it now, directed there by your post It does stand up quite well. Although it could have been so much better, with more light and shade added to the mix. I once read that Page only did to get Robert's attention and to encourage him to work with him once more.

FD13NYC said...

I remember this offering from back then but vaguely. Don't think I owned it, I'm not sure, maybe. If I did, it probably got traded in or sold in a whoosh. Kind of lost faith in Page (who happens to be one of my favorite guitarists) with The Firm and the Outrider soundtrack.

As for Coverdale, he did a very good job on a few Deep Purple LPs which I really liked. Burn and Stormbringer kicked ass. While Come Taste The Band was good too. Whitesnake, well, never really got into, except maybe the Tawny Kitaen video.

What I really don't remember is Coverdale trying to do his best/worst Plant impression. Can't recall him being able to get up that high vocally. Sounds as though the tape or his vocals were sped up or something. I don't know. Anyway, anyone still owning this piece of weirdness, enjoy!

cmealha said...

I've always loved this album and have enjoyed it without apology since it was released. It's the best thing Page has done since Zep and the closest anyone has come to the sound and power of Zep since Bonham's "Wait for You", for which I offer not aplogies either. Analyze it all you want, but it grabs you by the balls and doesn't let go, in a good way.

Anything Should Happen said...

As I said on Facebook, Coverdale is hard to love, it's the Cock Rocker that he became and his Lord Of The Manor musings away from the studio (which incidentally is where you prefer him to be).

Having said that this album is ok, it's not as bad as you want it to be and not great enough to keep digging it out.

Coverdale's two Whitesnake albums at the end of the Seventies stand up really well even now.

They got lumped in with the NWOBHM tag and they were far better better than that, great blues rock.

But then he went and AOR'd them years later so that birds could drape themselves over cars and he could style his hair all Michael Bolton like for the MTV shows.

You always feel that he's a major disappointment, that voice should be on much much better stuff.

Get him with someone who insists that he doesn't write the songs, in a four piece and tell him just to sing and it'll all be alright.

Anything Should Happen said...

BTW Bulletins, I like Northwinds too.

Paul in Brentwood said...

Thanks, Sal! I've always liked C/P and it's Zeppesqueness. I know many people struggle with David "Cover-version" but the album stands on its many strong tracks. Shake My Tree rocked so much that Page was even able to get Plant to sing it on the '95 tour. Kudos, Jimmy!

wardo said...

I maintain that this album was directly responsible for the Page/Plant collaborations of the mid-'90s. (And the end of those collaborations led to Page "working" with Puff Daddy and the Black Crowes.)

Here's my take: http://everybodysdummy.blogspot.com/2010/09/jimmy-page-robert-plant-1-dueling-solo.html

Sal Nunziato said...

@ Wardo

That's fantastic!

Sammy said...

amazing...as much as i listened to led zep, that was the first time i ever heard coverdale-page. so, what's not to like?

Scott said...

Speaking of Zep, they finally have some decent videos of the '02 Arena show up on Youtube. The sound is really good on them. Look for the ones labeled multi-cam.