Twice shy and still in thrall to his spiritual predecessors, hard rock veteran steps on a stairway to heaven again.
If LED ZEPPELIN’s demise was nigh on involuntary it liberated the ensemble’s singer from any creative restraints there were; not so with GREAT WHITE’s warbler who’s not only unwilling to move to other stylistic pastures but sticks to his old band’s name and gets back to his old haunts once in a while. In 1998, when Jack Russell-fronted group first paid homage to one of the greatest British exports, single-collective cover albums were rather thin on the ground – unlike now when these are aplenty, so the vocalist’s new attempt to enter the same river again feels quite pointless, especially given his reluctance to introduce new elements to the well-remembered numbers.
Focusing on epics this time, he’s not averse to occasional flourish, though, no matter how rarely it might occur. Four tracks from the debut tribute are revisited here, the wonderfully heavy “The Rover” and the concert-prototyped “Stairway To Heaven” retaining their pairing, yet that doesn’t mean the current band remain in the past state of mind, as there’s a lot of effort invested in imposing their personality on the classics. Russell is even eager to stay in the shadows for a bit to let drummer Dicki Fliszar tread a dangerous route and shine on “Moby Dick” where Robby Lachner and Michael Olivieri trade guitar licks; however, Jack’s vocals embrace Percy-isms and rise above the groovy gravity of “Whole Lotta Love” which fails to deviate from the original.
This should concern many other cuts on offer, including the sluggish “Kashmir” and “Trampled Underfoot” – oozing updated drive and somewhat sagging at the same time. Strangely, the dispiritedly stumbling, metal-plated take on “Dancin’ Days” whose funk has too little rock in it ventures beyond the familiar template, and “No Quarter” contains an arresting six-string solo. With bassist Dan McNay anchoring the invigorating “Livin’ Lovin’ Maid” to keep the momentum contained, the swagger is curbed anyway, and the flight the quartet seem capable of will never happen, and until they allow fantasy to elevate their delivery, the song will remain the same.