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Outrider
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He couldn't have timed it better. The high priest of heavy metal, the pontiff of power riffing and probably the most digitally sampled artist in pop today after James Brown, guitar shaman Jimmy Page returns to the rock wars with his debut solo album - not counting the so-so '82 soundtrack of Death Wish II - just as the Eighties Led Zeppelin renaissance goes into overdrive. What better opportunity to reascend to Big Rock supremacy while giving impudent pups like Kingdom Come and the Cult a taste of the lash?

Too bad timing isn't everything. Because Outrider, to be painfully honest, is a whole lotta muddle, a bewildering amalgam of trademark Pagey rifferama, utter lyric banality, thundering instrumental tracks topped off by hammy vocals, tantalizing hints of steaming futurist Zeppelin and sudden U-turns back to the Seventies. The album reiterates familiar gifts and well-documented strengths yet lacks any clear-cut direction or sense of aesthetic mission. Too often Page echoes his past without transcending or building on it.

The opening numbers, Wasting My Time and Wanna Make Love, summarize everything that's right, and wrong, with Outrider. Working from the old Black Dog-Dancing Days schematic of muscular, choppy riffs layered with greasy slide guitar over jolting rhythm changes, Page kicks up a quintessential Zeppelin storm, abetted by drummer Jason Bonham, who does his old man proud throughout the record. The three-way collision of skidding bottleneck sounds, growling wah-wah and stabbing lead work over Bonham's angry whack in Wanna Make Love is classic Page guitarchitecture. John Miles's lemon-squeezer wail, though, has nothing on Robert Plant, and his generic lyrics edge dangerously close to parody. More satisfying are the instrumentals Writes of Winter and Liquid Mercury, which concentrate on riff alchemy and the glorious sound of Page's guitars dogfighting with each other in overdub.

Side two, which features the veteran English white-soul howler Chris Farlowe, is just as problematic. Instead of torching Leon Russell's Hummingbird, Farlowe practically incinerates it, and his idea of sexual innuendo on Prison Blues ("I got my weasel in my pocket.... I'm gonna stick it right down that little hole") makes David Coverdale sound like the Byron of barroom erotica. Fortunately, Page uses Prison Blues to just go ape crazy on guitar. It may sound like Seventies old hat, but it's great old hat.

Were it only matched more often by the shock of the new. What distinguishes The Only One from the rest of the album, besides Robert Plant's guest vocal appearance, is the element of risk. Maybe it was just too much to expect a Zoso for the Nineties on Page's first solo excursion. But Outrider is as much a victim of underachievement as of overexpectation. As a guitar record, Outrider proves Page is still the sultan of slash, the kaiser of krunch. But where he once held the hammer of the gods, he now sounds a bit dazed and confused.

- David Fricke, Rolling Stone
Statistics

Released:
Jun. 19, 1988

Chart Positions:
#26 (U.S.) #27 (U.K.)

Tracks

1. Wasting My Time
2. Wanna Make Love
3. Writes of Winter
4. The Only One
5. Liquid Mercury
6. Hummingbird
7. Emerald Eyes
8. Prison Blues
9. Blues Anthem
Quick Fact

Three additional tracks that were recorded during the Outrider sessions, Judas Touch, Muddy Waters and Train Kept A-Rollin. were amongst the tracks stolen from Page's home.
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This Month in
Led Zeppelin History

March 17, 1969 - A four-song performance is filmed for TV Byen in Denmark (aired on May 19, 1969)
March 21, 1969 - Zeppelin’s debut TV appearance on "How It Is"
March 25, 1969 - Filming session for the Supershow
March xx, 1970 - The band turns down many TV offers worth large sums
March 05, 1971 - Led Zeppelin started a 12-date "Thank You" tour for British fans, appearing at the clubs from their early days and charging the same admission prices as in 1968. The first show was at Ulster Hall, Belfast, Northern Ireland where they played songs from their upcoming fourth album, including the first public performances of Black Dog, Stairway To Heaven, Going To California and Rock And Roll.
March 12, 1972 - Page and Plant rehearse some songs with the Bombay Orchestra
March 25, 1973 - Led Zeppelin finally release Houses of the Holy after production issues with the album cover
March 28, 1973 - Led Zeppelin released Houses Of The Holy in the UK. The album title was a dedication by the band to their fans who appeared at venues they dubbed "houses of the holy". Houses Of The Holy has now been certified 11 times Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for US sales in excess of 11 million copies.
March xx, 1974 - The band decide to release a double album due to the amount of left over studio material
March 29, 1975 - Led Zeppelin saw all six of their albums in the US Top 100 chart in the same week, alongside their latest album Physical Graffiti at No.1. Physical Graffiti has now been certified 16 times Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for US sales in excess of 16 million copies.
March 15, 1975 - Tickets for the Earls Court shows sellout within four hours
March xx, 1976 - Jimmy speaks with reporters mentioning the new album due out called Presence
March 31, 1976 - Presence is released
March 28, 1977 - Zeppelin arrive in Dallas, Texas to rehearse before opening the eleventh tour of the US
March xx, 1978 - Robert and John spend some time hanging around the Midlands
March 26, 1979 - Robert takes lead vocal at a Bad Company gig in Birmingham
March 04, 1980 - John Bonham makes a TV appearance on "Alright Now" with Bill Connolly
March 26, 2006 - Readers of Total Guitar magazine voted the guitar solo by Jimmy Page in Led Zeppelin’s Stairway To Heaven as the greatest guitar solo of all time. The 1971 track was voted ahead of tracks by Van Halen, Queen, Jimi Hendrix and The Eagles. On the 20th anniversary of the original release of the song, it was announced via US radio sources that the song had logged up an estimated 2,874,000 radio plays - back to back, that would run for 44 years solid.
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