In a recent op-ed article in this paper, a scientist called newspaper editors ignorant for believing, among other things, that dinosaurs and humans once existed simultaneously. Now here's a point on which editors and rock critics can agree: Dinosaurs, in fact, still walk the Earth. Neither galactic cold snaps nor careening meteorites have thus far demonstrated the clout to kill off slow-moving, cold-blooded behemoths like Yes, Jethro Tull and the Moody Blues.
Even when these groups die, they don't. The brontosaurus of dinosaur-rock, Led Zeppelin, disbanded long ago, and yet its sound is more prominent than ever. Producer Rick Rubin, the prophet of rap-metal fusion, is recycling Zeppelin riffs all over the place, and there's a whole new generation of young Zepper-than-thou bands.
Kingdom Come: 'Kingdom Come' Among the new crop of neo-metal bands, Polydor's Kingdom Come has earned an unusual tribute. John David Kalodner, an artists-and-repertoire man for rival Geffen and the mastermind of a few successful neo-metal bands himself (notably the improbably chart-topping Whitesnake), told Billboard that the band's debut album is "one of the finest things I've heard in ages." Based on that sort of response (and a bootleg tape of the album that was getting airplay on a Detroit station), "Kingdom Come" (Polydor 835 368-1) was rush-released two months ahead of schedule.
Such enthusiasm is understandable for the first Led Zeppelin album in years, and that's basically what "Kingdom Come" is. The Canadian quintet sheepishly kicks off this record with "Living Out of Touch," which doesn't ape the Zep too closely, but from there it's strictly Zep-by-numbers: On psychedelic-blooz semioriginals like "Get It On," lead guitarist Danny Stag sight-reads from the Jimmy Page riff-book, while German-born singer-songwriter Lenny Wolf does his best Robert Plant imitation (though not always so successfully on the high notes).
Unlike Rubin prote'ge's like the Cult, Kingdom Come doesn't approach this Led-footed homage with much wit. Neither, however, is the band annoyingly knowing. "Kingdom Come" has an engaging earnestness, even innocence. For a group of young metalheads like this, after all, Led Zeppelin is less an inspiration than a birthright. Perhaps in time they'll discover how to inject some of their own personality into those fossilized Zep licks. For now, though, this outfit is only for die-hard Zeppelin fans and metallurgists too young to have heard this racket the first time around.
Robert Plant: 'Now and Zen' Kingdom Come shouldn't feel too embarrassed about living in the shadow of the Zeppelin. So does ex-Zep singer Robert Plant. To pique some interest in his new album, Plant has also raided the Zeppelin's hangar, and even more literally. Two songs on "Now and Zen" (Saranza/Atlantic 7 90863-1) use Jimmy Page guitar solos digitally "sampled" from Zep platters.
Unlike some doddering superstars of '60s British rock, Plant has kept his head about him and never really embarrassed himself. His post-Zep discs do suffer one curse of the aging rocker, though: They're kind of dull. "Now and Zen," though pleasant and impeccably made, is no exception.
Even with digitized Page in his pocket, Plant's new record is not really a rocker. Perhaps because his principal songwriting partner these days is a keyboardist, Phil Johnstone, Plant's new music is mannered, tidy art-pop rather than swaggering, greasy blues-rock. "White, Clean and Neat" is the album's final song, and that pretty much says it.
"Tall Cool One" is a perfect example. Fueled by a selection of classic Page riffs, Plant works up a sweat on the song's verses. The synth-pop bridge, however, sounds suspiciously like the Cars, complete with a Ric Ocasek twist to Plant's voice. The album's other Page-turner, "Heaven Knows," which Plant didn't help write, sounds a bit like Bryan Ferry.
The rockabillied "Billy's Revenge" warms up Side 2, and Plant's entry in the Celtic-rock sweepstakes, "Ship of Fools," has the requisite Big Country sweep. Indeed, there's not a lame track here. As is so often the case on such solo albums, though, all this style-hopping doesn't quite add up. Experience and professionalism may not be rock 'n' roll's enemies, but neither are they an acceptable substitute for a sense of purpose and style. Without those qualities, even so carefully crafted a record as "Now and Zen" can be, well, kind of dull.
Foreigner: 'Inside Information' Foreigner is one big lizard whose time may finally be up. "Say You Will," the latest in a long line of hermetically sealed ballads that fit the antiseptic format of Contemporary Hits Radio, is Top 10 and still climbing, but the album that contains it, "Inside Information" (Atlantic 7 81808-1), is considered a chart disappointment. It couldn't happen to a more deserving bunch.
Public Image Limited once made an album called "Album" (also available as "Cassette") that came wrapped in a parody of generic supermarket packaging. It's Foreigner, however, that has really mastered generic rock. From the opening heard-it-all-before chords of "Heart Turned to Stone," one of 10 cloddish meditations on the vicissitudes of love, to the closing heard-it-all-before chorus of "A Night to Remember," this album is strictly off-the-shelf. "Inside Information" is a blunt instrument.
Those who've only heard Foreigner on CHR stations may think they specialize in slo-mo, cotton-candy tunes like "Say You Will." Actually, the rockers are even worse: The chugging "Counting Every Minute," one of several laughable sexual boasts on this album, is a parade of dirty-guitar cliche's. These guys don't need digital samples -- they are digital samples. It's hard to imagine, but there must be some fledgling rock fans who think rock 'n' roll is supposed to sound like this. No wonder there's an audience for Kingdom Come.