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ALBUM REVIEW : Failed Alchemy of Jimmy Page

June 19, 1988|CHRIS WILLMAN

** JIMMY PAGE. "Outrider." Geffen.

Just in case any impressionable youngsters still want to mythologize Led Zeppelin at this late date, the late band's two leading lights are doing everything in their power these days to appear as plain old lusty mortals.

Neither singer Robert Plant nor guitarist Jimmy Page seems much interested anymore in houses of the holy or stairways to heaven or Aleister Crowley. Plant is just "a tall cool one (who's) built to please." Page--on his first solo album (not counting film scores)--has his lead vocalists singing such profundities as "The way you walk, the way you talk / Makes me so damn hot."

But then, it's not often that you can make out what the three vocalist/lyricists employed by Page on this effort are singing at all, which is just as well. "Outrider" is a guitar album--in case anyone was in suspense--and one that sounds more like a noisy demo tape than the kind of slick product that comebacks are made of.

Even though this is far, far closer in sound to Led Zep than Plant's hit "Now and Zen," it's such a messy collection that a lengthy Top 10 run seems like a longer shot for Page than it was for Plant.

Side 1 consists of five driving and sometimes crazy rock numbers; Side 2 is blues-oriented and a bit more orthodox. To supplement the one vocal from Plant himself, Page employs singers John Miles (who cops Plant fairly blatantly) and Chris Farlow (who has a more technical and soulful style). Add to that mixed lot three instrumentals undistinguished by anything other than their metronomic tricks, and you've got an album that passes the Nostalgia Test but barely musters a C-minus on the Objective Merits Exam.

Not that the anarchy at work here is entirely discouraging. The almost punkishly unpolished, devil-may-care spirit of "Outrider" bodes better for Page's integrity (if not necessarily the preservation of his talent) than the dull corporate rock of his last group, the late and unlamented Firm. If Page is going to burn out musically, this album gives evidence that he's prepared to burn out on his own terms.

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