Friday, 31 July 2009

Jimmy Page: Outrider (1988)

A well-balanced selection with some prime nuggets

Warning: this article is a review of a 1980s rock/blues album!

Jimmy's debut solo album appeared in 1988 when he found himself between collaborations (The Firm and Coverdale-Page). "Wasting My Time" sets off with a suitably upbeat riff, John Miles on vocals sharing the punctuation with Jimmy's clean chords during verses, bottleneck guitar at the end of the line. Inevitably, comparisons with certain Led Zeppelin recordings will be made (particularly so when one lineup contains Robert Plant, and Bonzo's son Jason Bonham, in "The Only One", a Page/Plant composition - turn up that guitar echo, one notch past Eddie Cochrane). In this case, the tempo and the production can be traced squarely to the closing track of Physical Graffiti, but the song stands out on its own.

"Wanna Make Love" - with that title, you'd probably expect just the rockalong boogie that Jimmy starts off playing. His heavy rhythm work is loud and prominent, expertly framing John Miles' strutting sexual lyric. But wait for the chorus, and this axeman's gotta hooge surprise in for yer! He can hardly race to the end-of-the-bar riff quickly enough, prior to _s_t_r_e_t_c_h_i_n_g_ out the tension before the next crashing windmill stroke. And that tension, in these multiply-pregnant pauses, seems to heighten and lengthen with each repetition. This is the same dramatic combination of timed interruptions and whammy bar work that he used to such great effect on "For Your Life" (on Zeppelin's "Presence" album), but here it's taken to its absolute limit. Three such breaks in particular, taken near the end of the song, sounds so deliriously dazed and climactic - well it works for me. This track has genius.

"Writes of Winter" is a workmanlike Page instrumental employing various guitar textures and the trademark start/stop switches; though it's more of a journey by road, than anything evocative of winter. On the opposite side of the Page/Plant jewel lives "Liquid Mercury", another masterly instrumental study in musical punctuation.

Leon Russell's "Hummingbird" is given a blues makeover, with Jimmy's ambling and ponderous accompaniment to this beautiful love song lending extra depth of field and colour to Chris Farlow's emotional rendition. The master session guitarist can be heard wrapping around each line of the song, never obtrusive; the first solo is similarly understated, fitting the mood of the song perfectly. Don't worry though, the second solo is pure Page (it's his album after all).

"Emerald Eyes" is the last of three instrumental tracks sprinkled uniformly between the blues and rockers. This is a guitar ensemble arrangement built on a backbone of double-tracked twelve-string acoustics, with electric and synthesizer melodies and counterpoints; once again quite restrained and purposeful, delightful, engaging.

The album concludes with two great original Jimmy Page / Chris Farlow compositions. In "Prison Blues", Jimmy combines and continues the traditions and the well-worn paths of classics like "You Shook Me" and "Since I've Been Loving You", by stepping on the brake pedal and letting the blues slide and glide. Zepheads, you'll know exactly what to expect from note #1, and Jimmy delivers once again. Finally, "Blues Anthem" sounds like an old standard of the genre, but ain't; it just happens to be so perfectly conceived and realised, it sounds like it's been around forever. An arrangement of strings, a soulful electric solo, Chris' perfect reverence for his subject, and Jimmy the production wizard with just the right levels on the "echo" and "sadness" sliders, make this a blues you will come back to. All said, a very well-balanced album, with some priceless chunks of gold.

First published on, 26th September 2000.

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