REVIEW: Coverdale/Page – Coverdale/Page (1993)

COV PAGE_0001COVERDALE-PAGE:  Coverdale-Page (1993 Geffen)

Following the demise of Whitesnake and the failure of Zeppelin to mount a 1991 tour in support of their first box set, it was almost inevitable what happened next. It was something that many Zeppelin fans feared. Lead Snake David Coverdale, who was once derided as “David Coverversion” by Robert Plant, joined Plant’s erstwhile bandmate Jimmy Page in a new supergroup. Geffen’s John Kalodner (John Kalodner) helped facilitate this move which should have generated sales over 10 million units. Unfortunately another thing also happened in 1991: grunge.

The shame of it is that Coverdale-Page is a stunning rock album.   For years it haunted my bargain bins, simply because of the hard rock stigma that permeated the 1990’s.  Many fans refused to listen to it, others simply chose to mock superficial elements of it, such as Coverdale’s man-shrieks.  The fact that Page was looking and sounding great should be enough to warrant multiple listens by any serious rock fan.  He hadn’t released any new material since 1988’s Outrider.  As for Coverdale, it was a chance to get back to his bluesy rock roots, something he expressed a desire to do shortly after Whitesnake’s dissolution.

The studio band weren’t hacks either.  Ricky Phillips had played bass with Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain in Bad English, and he’s been in Styx for ages now.  Drummer Denny Carmassi was in Montrose (that’s him on the cover of the classic 1973 self-titled record) among many stellar bands, and he later did a stint in Whitesnake itself.  Coverdale and Page co-produced the album with veteran Mike Fraser.

Finally, the most important elements were also in place:  the songs.  11 songs, most in the 5-6 minute range, make up Coverdale-Page.  Those expecting or even hoping for a Zeppelin album were bound to be disappointed.  Despite the “Coverversion” nickname, Cov the Gov is his own person and persona.  Singing over Pagey’s classic Zeppish riffs does not a Zeppelin make.  Rather, Page and Coverdale comingle over their common ground, and naturally there are elements that have a Whitesnake aura.  To expect otherwise would be folly.

“Shake My Tree” was the perfect opener.  Pagey’s tricky little licks have that familiar sound, immediately.  Then the great lothario Cov the Gov starts howlin’…the stage was set within the first minute of the album.  The closest comparison I can think of would be “Slow An’ Easy” in terms of overall vibe.  Just replace Moody’ slide guitar with Jimmy’s intricate chicken pickin’.  David’s lyrics were as naughty as ever.  It must have burned Robert Plant’s ass to have to sing it when he reunited with Jimmy later on himself.  He seemed to be freestyling it quite a bit with David’s lyrics, barely sticking to the words at all!

“Waiting On You” would have been a radio-ready single.  It has that kind of smoking hard rock riff, a killer of a chorus, and great vocals.  Coverdale’s no poet, but I dig his words.  “Ever since I started drinkin’, my ship’s been slowly sinkin’, so tell me what a man’s supposed to do.”  Well, let me tell you David.  1) Drinking and boating is against the law, just like drinking and driving.  2) Put on your goddamn life vest!

I hesitate to call “Take Me A Little While” a ballad.  I mean, it is a ballad, but it’s also a pretty good bluesy workout for David.  It’s a little classier than the average “power ballad”, because hey…it’s Jimmy Page.  It doesn’t sound like other ballads by other bands, because not too many bands have Jimmy Page.  His playing and writing are unlike anyone else’s, he is one of the most recognizable musicians in rock and roll.

“Pride And Joy” was the first single, and what a single it was.  It starts off swampy and acoustic, before Jimmy’s big Les Paul announces its presence with some big chords.  Then David’s back in lothario-land, seducing “daddy’s little princess, Momma’s pride and joy.”  Despite the lyrics, the song’s still a stunner.  “Over Now” is also cool; a thinly veiled attack on Tawny Kitaen.

You told me of your innocence,
An’ I believed it all,
But your best friend is your vanity,
And the mirror on the wall.

It doesn’t get any nicer from there, but musically this is one of the most Zeppelin-ish songs.  While you can’t compare it to any specific song in the Zeppelin oeuvre, but it’s there in that slow relentless drum beat, the orchestration, and Pagey’s unorthodox guitar.

The closest thing to filler on Coverdale-Page is “Feeling Hot”.  It’s not outstanding, but it does show off the faster side of Jimmy’s playing.  It’s akin to “Wearing and Tearing” but with naughtier lyrics.  Once again it is Jimmy’s playing that I’m tuned in to.  That continues with “Easy Does It” which begins acoustically.  Like most acoustic moments on the album (and like Zeppelin), Jimmy’s guitar is recorded in layers, giving it real heft.  This all changes halfway through the song, when Jimmy’s Les Paul once again takes center stage.  Then it transforms into a bluesy prowl.

Possibly the most commercial song is “Take A Look At Yourself”.  Not a bad song, but definitely the most “pop rock”.  It’s probably closest to a Whitesnake song such as “The Deeper The Love”.  Had the year been 1990 or even 1991, “Take A Look At Yourself” would have been a top charting single everywhere.  David seems to have cheered up with new found love here.  However the heartbreak is not over.  “Don’t Leave Me This Way” is about as earnest as it gets.  At 8 minutes, it’s also the most ambitious song.  It’s the centerpiece of the album.  It sounds at once like it’s the most sincere song, showcasing some of Jimmy Page’s best post-Zeppelin guitar work.   As for David, he’s never sung better.

“Absolution Blues” begins similarly to “In The Evening”.  Fading in are layers of atmospheric guitars as only Jimmy plays them.  These give way to the fastest, heaviest song on the album.  It’s also one of my favourites.  You you can hear the elements of Jimmy and David separately, but working together.  The song goes through numerous changes before returning to that riff.  If you thought Jimmy Page had already written every great riff in Led Zeppelin, think again.  It’s “Black Dog” sped up to ludicrous speed.

Album closer “Whisper A Prayer For the Dying” is as cheerful and uplifting as the title alludes.  It’s has an epic quality and length like “Don’t Leave Me This Way”, but this time the lyrics are less personal and more topical.  David laments the innocent casualties of modern warfare, and refers to politicians as “bodyguards of lies”.  While certainly not profound, it’s refreshing to hear Coverdale change the bloody subject away from the female of the species every now and again.  Profound or not, I’m certain that it was heartfelt, and musically it kicks ass.  It’s also a perfect album closer for a dark and brooding record like this.  So there.

Hugh Syme (Rush) did the artwork.  Say what you will about the bland cover itself, but I like the way he used the “merge” sign much like the “object” was in the artwork for Presence.  And like many Zeppelin albums, there are no pictures of the artists anywhere.

The year 1993 was not a kind one to singers of Coverdale’s ilk.  Most of his competition had been replaced by Chris Cornell, Eddie Vedder, and Kurt Cobain.  One way or the other, the Coverdale-Page tour was not doing enough business and the plug was pulled.  David has since mentioned that he and Page had more songs, enough to get started on a second album.  He’s also expressed a desire to release those songs on some kind of deluxe edition reissue.  I hope that happens.  I’d buy Coverdale-Page again.  It would only be the third time.

4.5/5 stars

More COVERDALE at mikeladano.com:

Snakebite – Come An’ Get It – Slide It In – Whitesnake (1987) – Live at Donnington – Good to be Bad – Forevermore

More ZEPPELIN too:

Self-titled box setBox Set 2The Complete Studio Recordings

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33 comments

  1. I really like this one. I remember being really surprised an album of this type came out at that point in time. I think the snobbery about Cov the Guv playing with Page was pretty embarrassing. If Blackmore thinks you’re good enough then you can share a stage with anyone as far as I’m concerned! I guess for many people Cov was already being pigeonholed as a Glam Metal guy.

    But anyway I think Cov/Page has eveh got better with age. Last time I listened to it I got right into it, even the filler sounds better these days!

    Maybe Page should do an album with JLT next?!

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    1. Maybe he should! But I think he is rather busy now with Zeppelin happenings…

      I agree about Cov being pigeonholed. But the saturation of Whitesnake in America, where they were virtually unknown 4 years prior, probably sealed that deal.

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      1. Yeah, I mean I understand why it happened but it was still annoying. 1987 was his biggest success so you’re bound to become known for it but, over in the UK especially, there was still a lot of bitching from people that knew better.

        On the other hand, he did make a clear, calculated bid for US stardom and that kind of thing has a habit of rubbing people up the wrong way.

        And as far as the Plant “Coverversion” jibes goes, I always took that as fairly tongue-in-cheek. He seems to have quite a mischevious sense of humour in interviews. But people always seemed to say 1987 was a Zep rip-off here and I always thought that was an exaggeration.

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        1. 1987 sounds more like Thin Lizzy than Zeppelin to me.

          Over here, because Coverdale was suddenly the new and exciting thing, there wasn’t an immediate backlash — that didn’t happen until Slip of the Tongue which was even more calculated.

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  2. There was much talk about this record here on your site a long while ago. I couldn’t tell you what post it was on, but I ended up buying this CD on your recommend, and loving it. Just great blues rock that sounds like it came outta some smoky barroom. I find Cov’s raspy vocals a bit much – I mean, if it’s affectation, please stop. If your voice really is that shredded then, well, fine. There is definitely a Zep feel to it, despite it all (Listen to Pride And Joy, I mean, come on). Even the drums sound like something Bonham would have done on most of these tracks, I dunno. But none of these things are bad things. It’s a killer rawk album, and it’s nice to hear Jimmy playing again. Sounds great in the car. I have you (and our HMO, I think) to thank for this one.

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    1. Probably a Deep Purple review — which is what inspired me to tackle this review, all the discussion going on. I think it turned out rather well — I like this review! I’m glad I did it.

      I think the rasp was the way Cov’s voice was at the time. I don’t know if he’s since recovered some of his voice, but the rasp is less to my taste.

      Jimmy hasn’t done a new studio album since (I think) 1998 or so. That’s a shame.

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  3. Actually, now that I think of it… my main complaint about this album is the bit in Pride and Joy where he sings “pour your ocean over me”. When I saw the video and heard it without a lyric sheet I was convinced he was singing “pour your horseshit over me”. I’ve never been able to unhear that.

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    1. BWAHAHAH!

      Today they were talking about Sloan on the radio. Specifically the line “And the joke is when he awoke is, his body was covered in Coke fizz.”

      Apparently many have mis-heard the lyric as “goat jizz” or “goat piss”.

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  4. Excellent positive review of a well-deserving album. I’m one of those that ignored this LP initially, only picking it up a few years bag on the cheap, but I must agree with all here that it is great. I’d also buy it again if it is reissued with “new” tracks.

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  5. Fantastic release at a time in music when this style was not current…it has stood the test of time ….for me it’s all killer no filler…..I’m sure Covs raspyness comes from all those friggin Marlboros he smoked….too bad they never bought this over on tour to North America…would have caught this show for sure!

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    1. Deke it’s just a shame…I have nothing but respect for Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, etc…but the effect of those bands was also to create this fashion called grunge. And as fashion comes and goes.

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  6. I’m with you on this one, Mike. Always thought it was a good album – I was surprised to read so much criticism back in the day.
    Anyone know the circumstances/context of Plant’s ‘Coverversions’ jibe? I’ve come across references to this before, but it seems a touch undignified and a bit out of character for RP. (He’s one of the most gracious and appreciative musicians I’ve ever seen perform.)

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    1. It does seem rather out of character doesn’t it? Meanwhile I’ve heard Coverdale refer to Deep Purple as “Deep Pimple”. I’ll have to read the latter chapters of Hammer of the Gods again, I know the Coverdale Page era (and Page and Plant too) are covered in a later reprint I have.

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  7. YES!!!!! So glad you’ve shed some light on this magnificent album. I’ve been trying to convince fellow rock fans to listen to it for two decades, usually to no avail. To me it’s pretty much what Zeppelin would have sounded like if Bonham hadn’t died and Plant’s voice hadn’t lost an entire octave. The key element that makes the album rock hard AND swing is the amazing Denny Carmassi. A lot of drummers have copied Bonham’s heaviness, but few have combined that with his often-overlooked sense of dynamics & subtlety. Of course it didn’t hurt that Page was on fire throughout the album. I know Fraser is credited as a co-producer, but this has all the elements of a Jimmy Page production. Glad you agree that “Feelin’ Hot” is filler. I rarely skip songs when listening to albums, but if time is of the essence, that’s one I could easily pass by.

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    1. Thanks for this comment Rich, I really appreciate your kind words. I also appreciate your insight to the drumming. While I can’t really speak in technical terms, I can speak in terms of vibe. Denny has the right “vibe”.

      It really did have all the elements of a Jimmy Page production. I’m sure Fraser was a helper, a facilitator, and I’m sure he learned a lot from Page.

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  8. In Europe Whitesnake were big way before 1987 hit the streets and we all knew that Cov had a big Zep thing going, so the Cov / Page collaboration wasn’t really that unexpected. Or maybe it was a bit unexpected, but when it happened it wasn’t really this big “What??” thing, if you know what I mean.
    I love this album and I really thought that this would sell shitloads so that’s why it was really disappointing when it only lasted for one album and a short Japanese tour.

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        1. The Whitesnake deluxes were all deeply flawed. However, this would be harder to screw up. There aren’t B-sides to include, no alternate versions from different territories, etc. Any unreleased material would be completely new to me. It would take a real Rob Ford to F this one up.

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      1. Yes, me too. I thought it was too expensive as well. Besides, I’m notthat big on bootlegs unless I attended the show myself.

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  9. Scrolling through many your reviews here, a little like the album am a bit late to this review/thread but better late than never ;)

    I was a huge fan of the Whitesnake albums that preceded this recorded and if memory serves me well I wasn’t aware of this release until a month or so after release date when I went to a local court to throw some hoops (poorly too, but the exercise and focus assisted with a restful days sleep after long nightshifts) when a local group were blasting this record over their portable (remember those) stereo. The song was Feelin’ Hot so have never tired of the tune regardless of its typical lyrical naff and agreeing it being less ‘hot’ than most the album…

    Anyway, I agree with others above this one has aged rather well and in a perfect world would have and should have sold squillions, a sophomore back when would’ve been very interesting.

    So hope for a Deluxe version, a few unreleased demos about youtube and whatnot suggests a Deluxe re-release with unreleased material would bury the recent Whitesnake Deluxe releases.

    Good review too with nice song descriptions inspires getting this one back in the stereo!

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    1. Thanks! Glad you enjoyed this review. I really enjoy revisiting this one every once in a while. I hope now that the Zeppelin series is coming out, this will be something Jimi does next.

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