Goodbye Mr. Zeps


Jimmy Page & the Black Crowes’ Live at the Greek is everything you’ve been told was loathed (as in, “We mean it, m-a-a-an!”) in mid-’70s metal: And make no mistake, buddy boy, this is a tight heavy metal recording. The “guitar until the world obeys!” comes to you via three—as in “Southern Rock”—axe-slingers. All that Middle Eastern drone/muezzin call from the minarets/when the old cricketeer leaves the crease/Indian raga atmosphere from Led Zep is swapped for a type of distinctly ‘Merican steel boogie the musclemen in Blackfoot and Hydra practiced during the disco era. Foghat Live, for another analogy, is Wire’s Pink Flag compared to Live at the Greek‘s Marshall law.

The rhythm section is heavy Memphis rather than heavy Midlands; the cover of “Shapes of Things” sounds as much like Blackfoot on a rampage in a Jersey bar as it does Yardbirds. And while the grandeur of Zep riff is the featured hook throughout, it’s wild-eyed, Southern companions who conduct the reading. In other words, this is the music of fighting as rock and roll opera. Here the descending zzzzz in “Whole Lotta Love” is a razor knife or screwdriver being dragged across wound steel. Makes sense, the Crowes’ Robinson brothers being notorious for their love of taciturnity and disagreement.

Need to apply another test? Play it for your spouse. My significant other squinted and chewed her lip. Women always liked Zep in my courtin’ years, or, at least, they said they did. However, many of the ones I knew weren’t reluctant at all to loudly announce they detested heavy Southern boogie: too much fisticuffs and steroid, stink of alcohol-soaked flooring or overfilled urinal. Zero “Kashmir” and sexy, doe-eyed, blond mystic guy. (Yep, I hear you. It’s not a hard’n’fast rule. Show us your tits, dear readers.)

There are no teary admonitions for “Stairway” on Live at the Greek, perhaps edited out in favor of the more Sturgis BoozeFighter MC feel. “Mellow Down Easy” is what ZZ Top could’ve done on the live side of Fandango, but didn’t: stamping, dancing boots, rather than a hog-calling competition. Then Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer get cited. And blimey if Jimmy doesn’t seem generally pleased by the commotion, too, happy to be a metal Willie Dixon to the Crowes’ Fleetwood Mac. He’s beaming at the effort, clapping a fellow bandmate on the back. Looking like a faculty member of a Brit prep school, now very pleased his students can defend their reputations properly.

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