Picks and Pans Review: Outrider

updated 08/01/1988 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/01/1988 01:00AM

Jimmy Page

It was getting hard as the years went by to remember the reasons why Jimmy Page once held such an exalted reputation as the guitarist with Led Zeppelin. Maybe he gave us amnesia with his subsequent output in the Firm—a group whose execrable recordings also tarnished vocalist Paul Rogers. With his solo debut, however, Page restores some of his Zep rep. He sure never lets you forget he's a guitarist. From the opening notes, Page's playing is in your face, and there's a raucous tone to it. This album's whole first side is laced with rude guitar riffs, rumbling chord structures and whiplash slide work. It's serious sonic mayhem, and it's about as easy to ignore as a drunk trying to make his way past you in the cramped row of a theater. John Miles sings on (and/or co-wrote with Page) most of these hard rockers, the best of which is Wasting My Time. The Zeppelin heritage surfaces, too. Most of the drumming is by John Bonham's son Jason, who obviously inherited some of his late father's instincts for assaulting the skins. Robert Plant comes back to write and sing The Only One, a rocker that goes by like a high-rise elevator with its cable snapped. The second side of Outrider isn't as striking. With Chris Farlow handling three of the four vocals, the style is more raw and bluesy, but it mostly comes across as sloppy and misconceived, especially a cover of Leon Russell's Hummingbird. Page has clearly lost some of his chops. You won't find the genius of Led Zeppelin here, although he comes pretty close on the instrumentals Liquid Mercury and Writes of Winter, very close on his this-joint-can't-hold-me solos for Prison Blues. Outrider nonetheless constitutes by far the best work he's recorded in years, and that's a blessing. (Geffen)

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