Jack Russell’s Great White – “Great Zeppelin II: A Tribute To Led Zeppelin” (Cleopatra Records)
Battle Helm Rating
‘…Oh, that Jack Russell guy, he sounds more like me than I do…’. Well, if you’ve got Robert Plant saying that about you, then it comes as little wonder that Jack Russell, famed LA vocalist and co-founder of Great White, should decide to release this covers album of Zepp classics! Long renowned for his roguish charms, Russell grew up to the sounds of legendary vocalists like Plant and Steve Tyler, and on the 14 tracks here, he goes a long way in proving that despite being 61 years old, his pipes are as solid as ever and indeed, does give the iconic Zepp vocalist a serious run for his money on the likes of ‘Kashmir’, ‘Stairway To Heaven’ and ‘Houses Of The Holy’. Mind you, this isn’t Russell’s first stint at this as trivia fans will no doubt remember that Great White released “Great Zeppelin: A Tribute To Led Zeppelin” in 1998, which was also a covers album, but recorded live at the Galaxy Theatre in Santa Ana, California. Now that there are two Great Whites, one with Jack and the other with the remaining members of Great White (including co-founder guitarist Mark Kendall), Russell has recruited a stellar band of his own in guitarists Robby Lochner (Treason, Gillians Crush and winner of 1997’s “Best Performance Guitar” from the L.A. Music Awards) and Michael Olivieri (Leatherwolf, Soul Sign), bassist Dan McNay (Tesla, Montrose, Frank Hannon Band) and drummer Dickie Fliszar (Bruce Dickinson, Roxx, Shining Star, Skin, Vamp). Opening to the classic hard rock riffs of ‘Whole Lotta Love’, the deep crunch from the twin axes of Lochner and Olivieri gives it plenty of welly although nothing can prepare you for the awesome singing of Jack Russell who, over two decades on from his last Zepp run, still oozes his vocal charm as he wraps you around his mike through his wails, ecstatically moans and grooves while Fliszar adds in his own percussive touches before the guitars blast off in taking you on a serious trip to the next galaxy – wow, I mean wow! With no let-up in the energy, ‘Good Times, Bad Times’ comes chugging in, complete with cowbell and pistoning bass drum, before settling into the laid back chorus croon while allowing McNay some elegant bass lines before Lochner and Olivieri tear it up once more on this classic rolling rocker – excellent. Taking the album out in real style is ‘Communication Breakdown’ with Russell really hitting the highs as Lochner and Olivieri riff, pluck and fire out their rock ‘n’ roll talents as they sound like they’re all having a ball in performing these killer takes on these classic numbers. Indeed, I don’t think I’ve heard Jack Russell sound better, and happier for it…..