Call it fate. And if it isn’t fate, call it graduation time for the Black Crowes. As decade-long students of the ’60s and ’70s Southern fried-blues-R&B-rock ’n’ roll preservation society, on paper, it would seem like a natural fit for the Crowes and Jimmy Page to join forces. Throughout their decade-long history (on the road and in the studio), the Black Crowes have firmly cemented their reputation as troublemakers, fashion martyrs and, most importantly, consummate songwriters.
In 1995, a mutual admiration society was forged when the Atlanta quintet shared a series of European festival dates with Page and Robert Plant. Already a fan of the band, Plant had made an earlier introduction by bringing Pagey down to the Crowes’ headlining gig at Royal Albert Hall. In the summer of ’99, Page was asked to spearhead a charity gig at the Café De Paris (in London). Finding himself in need of a pick-up band, he got the Crowes, who came highly recommended via friend-photographer Ross Halfin. With only one rehearsal to speak of, the band squeaked onto the tiny stage and provided Page with the necessary fodder to revisit his legacy.
A seed was planted.
Live at the Greek is a faithful bookend to a brief Page-Crowes tour that hit New York, Boston and LA. Notwithstanding the controversy generated by its initial Internet-only release (through Musicmaker.com), Live at the Greek proved to be a veritable music-Internet success. Now with this retail rerelease, the CD is available at every brick-and-mortar record store.
Everything about this rerelease spells music. Everything about it spells event. Playing out their vinyl fantasies, the Robinson brothers have put together a dream set. With little fanfare, Page and Crowes get straight to work as they unleash “Celebration Day” and “Custard Pie.” As the show swerves through exemplary versions of “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” “Ten Years Gone,” “Out on the Tiles,” an apocalyptic “In My Time of Dying” and covers of B.B. King’s “Woke Up This Morning” and Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well,” it’s like Nirvana never happened. Side note: Crowes songs were also included — however, due to previous contractual obligations, they were unavailable for this release.
Throughout, the three-pronged guitars of Page-Robinson-Freed, along with Steve Gorman’s Bonhamesque drumming, take these songs back in time and rekindle the vigor and electricity with which they were originally conceived. And with Black Crowes singer Chris Robinson stamping his own brand of Southern charm onto these tracks — without ever aping the masters — this release is a win-win proposition for any rock ’n’ roll fan.
John Franck writes about music for the Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.