With the music press concentrating on the grunge bands in the early nineties, the Coverdale / Page project came as a surprise. The album seemed to come out of nowhere (there was little interest leading up to its release). With no massive tour and little exposure on MTV, it seemed to disappear as soon as it came out. Before we knew it Page teamed up with Plant for “Unledded” and Coverdale reformed Whitesnake for a tour for Greatest Hits.
Their brief tour of Japan in December yielded several unofficial titles of the Tokyo and Nagoya shows. A four disc set titled Western Daze (Hard Knockers HSP-2621~4) came out with the two Osaka shows on December 20th and December 21st.
Two Days In The West on Cannonball covers the same two shows but with improved sounding tapes. Western Daze was good, but the Cannonball is much better. The same taper recorded the two and both are uniformly excellent stereo recordings capturing the energy and hilarity of each performance.
Steeped in obscurity as it is, Coverdale recently spoke about the project and revealed previouslyu unknown details. In an article called “David Coverdale Reflects: Going in Through the Out Door with Jimmy Page” published for Jam Magazine Online, David Huff writes:
“With his personal life in shambles, and his professional career in a state of flux, the singer seriously considered opting out of the music business to become a country gentleman. A phone call from his agent in London changed everything. Would David be interested in taking a meeting with Jimmy Page? The invitation was too intriguing to pass up. … The Coverdale / Page project would revitalize the spirits of both musicians. Though the album was mostly overlooked by the grunge buying public at large, for those fans longing for the good ol’ rock and roll days of the ’70s, this album was an instant classic. Jimmy Page rediscovered his inner Led Zeppelin, and was musically brilliant. Coverdale wrote some of the smartest lyrics of his career. Unfortunately, the one thing that would have the won public over – a world tour – would never see the light of day, (outside of a handful of select dates in Japan).”
Coverdale mentions in the article that “We were preparing to go on the road two to three weeks after our album was released in March of ’93. The record blew out of the box if you remember. This is the ’90s. You didn’t release an album and wait around to see how it sold. You jump on it. The whole arrangement for the Coverdale / Page project was to go directly to the theatres, to the stage, and nothing, not even a whisper, came from Jimmy’s manager when the album was released. It was one of the singularly most frustrating periods of my professional career.”
And that the Japan shows came about because they “were supposed to be the end of our six-month tour. We were going to cover the world in six months. Everybody who would have wanted to see Coverdale / Page would have seen it. I finally talked to Jimmy directly, and told him it would be a shame if we didn’t at least play live once. The seven dates in Japan were tentatively still booked. Since Jimmy hadn’t been to the country in 20 years, he agreed to perform the shows.”
Osaka Castle Hall, Osaka, Japan – December 20th, 1993
Disc 1 (57:25): Absolution Blues, Slide It In, Rock And Roll, Over Now, Kashmir, Pride And Joy, Take A Look, Take Me For A Little While, In My Time Of Dying
Disc 2 (59:26): Here I Go Again, White Summer – Black Mountain Side, Don’t Leave Me This Way, Shake My Tree, Still Of The Night, Black Dog, Feeling Hot
The Coverdale / Page tour started with four shows around Tokyo. On December 2oth it moved to Osaka for two nights before ending in Nagoya on December 22nd. The first Osaka show can be found also on the first two discs of Western Daze (Hard Knockers HSP-2621~4) and audience shot footage was released on DVD on Pride & Joy (no label) in 2008.
Cannonball use an excellent recording. The audience are strangely subdued throughout the performance and Coverdale tries very hard to whip them into a frenzy. One can almost hear a pin drop as they walk onstage to start the show with “Absolution Blues.” They continue with Whitesnake’s “Slide It In” and Led Zeppelin’s “Rock And Roll.”
Coverdale sounds wired, constantly shouting “domo arigato.” After “Rock And Roll” he singles out Page, saying “Here’s a song now, Jimmy Page will introduce it.” Instead of saying anything, he spits out a few power chords as an introduction to “Over Now.” It is one of the better songs from the new album and its similarity to “Kashmir” lends it to segue directly into the Zeppelin classic.
“Pride & Joy” is from “the collaboration album” and was the biggest single, hitting #1 on Billboard earlier in the year. It’s a fantastic mash-up of styles and is a compelling live piece. Guy Pratt plays a brief bass solo as an introduction to “Take A Look.” Page is again given the task of introducing a song and calls “In My Time Of Dying” as a song from “the annals of rock history. Let’s see if you can remember this one. Let’s see if I can remember it too.”
Before “Here I Go Again” Coverdale says to those who have never heard the song ”where the fuck have you been the past couple years???” It is one of the best examples of metal-pop to come out of the eighties and is a highlight of both Osaka shows. Afterwards Jimmy Page has his little solo spot, playing “White Summer” and “Black Mountain Side” like on the old Zeppelin tours. But he also includes references to “Over The Hills And Far Away” and “Kashmir” (both of which came out of the song’s development).
“Don’t Leave Me This Way” has quick and sharp Denny Carmassi drum solo in the middle and “Shake My Tree,” including Page’s theremin solo, closes the main set.
When they return for the encores the first number is the Whitesnake song “Still Of The Night.” An interesting version of “Black Dog” follows. It begins with the familiar opening riff to “Out On The Tiles” as it has since its live debut, but they play several more measures of the song before “Black Dog.” Coverdale stretches out each verse for maximum effect increasing the song’s drama. The final number is “Feeling Hot” from Coverdale Page including the introduction to “The Ocean.”
Osaka Castle Hall, Osaka, Japan – December 21st, 1993
Disc 3 (59:27): Absolution Blues, Slide It In, Rock And Roll, Over Now, Kashmir, Pride And Joy, Take A Look, Take Me For A Little While, In My Time Of Dying
Disc 4 (59:36): Here I Go Again, White Summer – Black Mountain Side, Don’t Leave Me This Way, Shake My Tree, Still Of The Night, Black Dog, Feeling Hot
The following night was taped by the same guy and has identical sound quality as the previous night. The setlist is identical, and Coverdale a bit less wired but still maintains high energy throughout the performance. Over Now (ARMS 12/13PR) and discs three and four of Western Daze (Hard Knockers HSP-2621~4) are two other silver pressed releases featuring this concert.
At the start of the show the audience are a bit quiet, just like the previous night, but they warm up quickly and Coverdale doesn’t need to coax cheering out of them as much. The opening “Absolution Blues,” “Slide It In” and “Rock And Roll” are almost magical in execution. But improves greatly when Coverdale introduces Page for “Over Now.”
But Coverdale is also interesting in having the spotlight on the other musicians onstage. He singles out Brett Tuggle on keyboards before “Pride & Joy” and introduces “squadron leader Guy Pratt, the ace of bass” before “Take A Look.”
“Here I Go Again” sounds a bit limp for some reason, as does “White Summer.” Page includes the “Over The Hills And Far Away” and “Kashmir” references, but the song abruptly stops without further elaboration. The finale of the show, however, is exception.
“Don’t Leave Me This Way” has a majestic feel in the guitars and Covedale’s shrieks fit in very well. The set ends with “Shake My Tree” and the encores are again “Still Of The Night,” “Black Dog” and “Feeling Hot” with “The Ocean” and “The Wanton Song” references included.
The Coverdale Page project is certainly one of the more bizarre, interesting, and yet rewarding eras for rock. It stood out from the Pearl Jam / Nirvana / Soundgarden saturation of the airwaves at the time and, because of Robert Plant’s hatred of Coverdale, seemed doomed to failure. Taken on its own terms, however, it has really good music and several exciting live performances.
Two Days In The West is packaged in a standard quad jewel case with very basic but appropriate artwork. Overall it offers a great opportunity to hear two of the latter shows from the short tour in excellent quality.
Although critically lauded at its inception and during the subsequent album release, the collaboration of David Coverdale and Jimmy Page is a largely forgotten one. There were several rumored motivations behind this project. Robert Plant had long carried a passionate loathing for Coverdale, going back to his days in Deep Purple and 80’s era Whitesnake. Jimmy Page had been trying for years to convince Plant to acquiesce to a Led Zeppelin re-union. Coverdale himself had always seemed to revel joyously in the contempt he spawned in Plant. The melding and both direct and indirect involvement of three massive egos made for an interesting sub plot and story line, and as it turned out, Page got his wish for a reunion.
Coverdale, or “Cover-version” as Plant called him, was one of the more respected and talented vocalists in the hair metal genre. Although some would argue that this is similar to winning a fist fight with a quadriplegic, Coverdale had been around the block and was as close to a “professional” vocalist as you would find in the genre, save Sebastian Bach.
In his prime Page was a master of mixing melody and power blues that is largely credited for helping launch a genre. After the demise of Zeppelin, he spent the better part of 13 years doing little besides pretending not to dabble in the occult and releasing the occasional uninspired solo album. He had a lot of time to work on this album, and upon listen, it shows.
Musically the album expectedly sounds like a mixture of Whitesnake and Led Zeppelin, minus the unforgettable power drumming of Bonham and the experimental sounds of Zeppelin’s prime. Page is on his game, blending strong riffs with slow burning blues and mixing in a final touch of infectious melody. Lyrically, it is different than one would expect. The absence of Plant means there are no Celtic-dragon slaying storylines. From Coverdale’s perspective and history, there are predictably pieces of hair metal inspired tomfoolery, but for the most part songs are centered towards mortality, loss, redemption, and fear.
Coverdale has always sounded his best when he was most blatantly trying to rip off Plant. There are times throughout the record where he goes to a raspier, deeper voice, but he is most effective in blending between soft, almost spoken tones with passionate screeches like his predecessor. There is no “Still of the Night” like performance, but the record is strongest when Coverdale is strongest, mostly because there are very few weak moments from Page.
The album opens with “Shake My Tree,” one of the more formulaic and straight forward rock songs present. “Waiting On You” follows the trend, and has a chorus that sounds exactly like something taken straight from Whitesnake’s 1987 self titled album. As far as straight forward rockers go, they mostly hit and briefly miss on occasion. “Feeling Hot” is the requisite hair metal inspired “we are going to go out and get wasted and laid” theme, although it contains a crunching riff from Page. “Pride and Joy” was the lead single, incorporating a Mandolin led intro into a song dripping with sexual innuendos, a specialty of Coverdale’s. “Absolution Blues” finds Coverdale channeling Plant more than anywhere else on the album, and carries a riff that sounds like “Heartbreaker” off Led Zeppelin 2 on a healthy dose of speed. Overall, the straightforward rock numbers do a fine job of complimenting the respective talents and ensure the record is considered “hard rock.” Ultimately however, it is not where the album shines.
There are three slow burning epics on this album that catapult it from merely good to stellar. The three are spread throughout the album, although it would have been wise to put them in order at the end, creating a three pronged epic closing. Regardless of the order, “Take Me For A Little While,” “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” and “Whisper a Prayer for the Dying,” are easily as good as anything Coverdale has ever done, and shows off a different side to Page. Many of Page’s stronger ballads from the Zeppelin era relied heavily on jangly acoustics and had an upbeat tone. These songs are dark on the surface, and rely heavily on somber toned picking from Page. “Take Me” is the strongest song on the record and is carried by a memorable lead break that takes place during and right after the chorus. “Whisper a Prayer” and “Don’t Leave Me” are much more brooding, but have a passionate and yearning undertone to them that stick with the listener. In short, they outshine the “Slow and Easy’s” of the world.
There are moments of filler, most notably “Over Now” and “Easy Does It,” with a heavier emphasis on the latter. “Over Now” was a single and has a huge riff but never really takes off. “Easy Does It” should have been left off the album. The final mentioned track is “Take a Look at Yourself,” a direct rip off of the Temptations “Tracks of my Tears.” A fan of soaring Power Ballads would be right at home here, and that is probably the point.
The final verdict is aside from the drama, the motivations, and the egos, this is a damn strong hard rock/blues record. It melds elements of hair metal, blues, and mid-era Zeppelin influence to create a sound that would have laid waste to most of the material that came out in the 80’s in the same genre. It may have also been strong enough to piss off Robert Plant just enough to reunite with Page.
Aichiken-Taiikuran, Aichi, Japan – December 22nd, 1993
Disc 1 (67:13): Absolution Blues, Slide It In, Rock And Roll, Over Now, Kashmir, Pride And Joy, Take A Look At Yourself, Take Me For A Little While, In My Time Of Dying, Here I Go Again
Disc 2 (61:13): White Summer / Black Mountain Side, Don’t Leave Me This Way, Shake My Tree / Whole Lotta Love, Still Of The Night, Out On The Tiles / Black Dog, The Ocean / Wanton Song / Feeling Hot
The Coverdale Page project is one of the more bizarre in the annals of rock and roll history. Jimmy Page abandoned the idea of being a solo act and just had to work with some well-known heavy metal singer. The Led Zeppelin remasters project in 1989-1990 produced many reunion rumors which went nowhere and his working with the former Whitesnake singer looks much like a rebound relationship.
The Coverdale Page cd, released in March 1993, seems to provoke such divergent reactions that a middle ground is hard to reach. But in general it was a solid release with some impressive music. This seven date tour of Japan, along with cameos in Reno and Vancouver in 1991 represents the total live output of the duo before going their separate ways.
The December 22nd show at a gymnasium in Nagoya is their final live appearance. The tape source is a complete excellent DAT stereo audience recording capturing every nuance of the performance.
This tape first surfaced soon after the event and was released on The Final Stage (CP-003/4) and the Italian production Over Now on Banzai in 1994.
Discs three and four of First & Last, where it was coupled with the first show of the tour on December 14th in Tokyo, also document Nagoya. More recently it appears on the Russian release Don’t Leave Me This Way on Azia Records (JPDC-0349/0350) in 2003.
Wardour debut thirty seconds at the introduction not found on previous releases and is comparable in sound quality to the earlier versions of the tape. There have not been too many silver releases of this era in recent years (Cannonball released the December 18th Tokyo show on Rock And Roll Night and the two Osaka shows on Two Days In The West in 2004) so this is a welcome title. Like all Wardour products Over Now is limited to three hundred copies and comes with thick glossy paper inserts with some dramatic photos of the event.
The concert itself is interesting as a curiosity and a rarity but is very uneven as an artistic statement. The set list is anchored by songs from their album and augmented by Whitesnake and Led Zeppelin songs.
The Zeppelin songs are actually the weak point of the show sounding unrehearsed and sloppy. Bassist Guy Pratt didn’t learn the breaks in “Kashmir” and Coverdale botches the lyrics of “In My Time Of Dying”. ”Black Dog”, by contrast, is given an interesting arrangement with pregnant pauses used to create excitement.
“Take Me For A Little While” contains a snippet of ”Stairway To Heaven” and the keyboard solo in “Pride And Joy” has a reference to “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” to celebrate the coming yuletide season. “Shake My Tree” contains Page’s theremin solo segueing with “Whole Lotta Love” is a tremendous live number that brings down the house in this performance.