Hard to believe that this collaboration between the Led Zeppelin guitarist and the Black Crowes was almost a decade ago, isn’t it? Maybe it was the similarity between “Crowes” and “Crowley” that confused the reclusive axeman enough to get him back onto the stage, but who cares? The combination of great rock band and legendary guitarist was magical…having that rich Zeppelin catalogue to draw upon wasn’t too shabby, either.
Fourteen Zep covers, six blues tracks and two CDs that still snap today. Originally a digital-only release (as referenced in the review below), physical media soon followed for the Luddites among us. The Black Crowes have recently resurfaced with a vengeance and this set could slide right in, especially since their current incarnation features another guitar slinger, Luther Dickinson. Play this one loud!
Here are my words from 2000 as they ran in PopMatters…
The recording and distribution of live music is undergoing massive changes right along with the rest of the record industry. This 19 track, two-CD release may go down in history as the one that convinced everyone that the revolution was not going to be televised, it was going to be made available in digital format. MusicMaker is signing artists and labels up left and right, and a recent deal with AOL guarantees the kind of visibility that will turn conventional business, and even the infant digital download industry, on its ear. But you can read all about that on their website and the various news sources that are available to you. I came here to rock.
The liner notes on my review copy are nonexistent, and I imagine that anything less than the full release will get the same treatment (a typed track listing on the back cover), although buyers should at least get the neat looking cover art. And sure, there are dumb nits to pick—“Shapes Of Things” is listed as “Shapes Of Things To Come”, and all the songs fade out and in (how else could you sequence your own record). But what counts is what is inside the jewel case, and for the most part that’s legendary Jimmy Page sounding genuinely inspired thanks to the prodding of the young turks backing him up. Likewise, The Black Crowes sound like they are having a blast going toe-to-toe with Page rather than treating him like an unapproachable icon. The result is some exciting rock and roll, Zep songs and blues covers that will thrill fans of both artists.
The Robert Plant comparisons will naturally arise, and while Chris Robinson is more of a Steve Marriott man than a Plant guy, he usually hits the mark. Sure, he holds that note in “Whole Lotta Love” for only eight beats, but Plant can’t do that anymore either. And yes, on “Celebration Day” he does run out of steam at the end and sounds more like Bette Davis. But “Your Time Is Gonna Come” faithfully recreates one of Zep’s best moments, and “The Lemon Song,” “Hey Hey What Can I Do” and “Heartbreaker” are all major league keepers. And even though it’s jarring to hear “Heartbreaker” without “Livin’ Lovin’ Maid” racing in a half-beat afterwards, it’s one of the highlights of the record. The keyboards add a great fullness to the three guitar lineup; songs like “Sloppy Drunk” and “Shake Your Money Maker” just plain rock.
The minimum purchase is any five songs for five dollars, with additional songs one dollar each. “Oh Well” and “What Is And What Never Should Be” have even popped up as promotional freebies. But considering that the price of this collection is far less than any of your Crowes or Zep bootlegs, the sound quality is immensely superior, you can check out samples beforehand, you can order it piecemeal and (most importantly) the artists are not being screwed out of money in the process, what are you waiting for? Go get Live at the Greek now.
Check out some clips at Amazon.