Thursday, 4 April 2019

Robert Plant



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The albums covered here are:-

Pictures At Eleven (1982)
The Principle Of Moments (1983)
The Honeydrippers: Volume One * (1984)
Shaken 'n' Stirred (1985)
Now And Zen (1988)
Manic Nirvana (1990)
Fate Of Nations (1993)
Dreamland (2002)
The Mighty Rearranger (2005)
Band Of Joy (2010)
and Carry Fire (2017)

* with Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck

Scroll down to read the reviews.

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PICTURES AT ELEVEN (1982)

1. Burning Down One Side
2. Moonlight In Samosa
3. Pledge Pin
4. Slow Dancer
5. Worse Than Detroit
6. Fat Lip
7. Like I've Never Been Gone
8. Mystery This   

This was Robert Plant’s first solo album and came as something of a surprise to Led Zeppelin diehards. It is very much a product of its time and it features Phil Collins on drums for six of the eight tracks (Cozy Powell on the other two). It is culturally at odds with early eighties genres like post-punk, two tone and new romantic, but it is in line with the direction that mainstream rock was taking - all programmed synthesisers and drums and riffs played on keyboards instead of guitars at times. It is still early eighties enough to have not bowed completely to the great god synthesiser, however, and I much prefer it to some of Plant’s subsequent eighties work.
                                  
Burning Down One Side is a thumping, riffy, rocking enough opener, despite some of its eighties instrumentation. It still retains a considerable power to it. Moonlight In Samosa is a lovely, slow, bassy ballad, full of atmosphere and featuring a winsome vocal from Plant. He, as he sometimes does, sounds a little like Freddie Mercury at some points. Some nice Spanish guitar on the track too. Pledge Pin has a quirky, appealing little cymbal-driven rhythm and some fetching guitar parts. It is a catchy, poppy number. It has a great saxophone solo (very Led Zeppelin - not). I can’t help but like it. It has a deep, resonant bass line.

  

The lengthy Slow Dancer gives us our first serving of that familiar Led Zep vocal and Kashmir-style drum backing and orchestration. This will have satisfied the Zep fans somewhat, probably for the first time on the album so far. It has some good guitar riffs, but they are matched by keyboard ones. It is still a powerful number, though, Cozy Powell giving his best John Bonham on drums. He is the better rock drummer than Collins. You can tell.

Worse Than Detroit has a bit of a "Zep funk" feel about it, like Trampled Under Foot. It is the first track on the album, thus far, to feature a blues influence (that comes the harmonica/guitar instrumental interplay). The track rocks, considerably, in a grinding, industrial way. Fat Lip has a nice deep, bassy backing and an appealing feeling throughout. I really like this one. Like I've Never Been Gone features Cozy Powell's big drums again on what is a slow, powerful rock ballad, with some great guitar all over it.

The final track is another chunky Zep funker, Mystery Title. I read someone say, and it is true, that Plant frustrates because often his song titles bear no relation to the actual lyrics, therefore they don't stick in one's head as much as they might. It is a valid point. Take as a whole, however, this is still a strong debut solo offering. The songs are all good whether they individually catch your attention or not. The overall feel of the album sticks.



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THE PRINCIPLE OF MOMENTS (1983)

1. Other Arms
2. In The Mood
3. Messin' With The Mekon
4. Wreckless Love
5. Thru' With The Two-Step
6. Horizontal Departure
7. Stranger Here...Than Over There
8. Big Log        

Robert Plant's second solo album is quite a solidly rocking affair, not as synthesiser-dominated as one might expect from an eighties album, with "proper" drums (from Phil Collins on six tracks) and some bona fide rock guitar riffs. By the end of the eighties, these had been somewhat swamped on occasions by synthesisers. Not here, though, this is, for me, very much a rock album.
                                               
Other Arms is a solid piece of riffy rock to open the album. In The Mood is a strong, rock number with a thumping drum sound and an uplifting vocal from Plant. There is an anthemic quality to the song. Messin' With The Mekon, whose title references the green egg-headed character from the "Eagle" comic. As often with Plant's songs, the title bears little reference to the lyric of the song. There is a bit of a latter period Zeppelin feel to this, together with a John Bonham-like thump to the drums. There is a vague reggae-ish, bassy groove to the backing.

Wreckless Love has an Eastern influence to its intro and once more a bit of a Zeppelin vibe to its folky but powerfully strong beat. It has a great instrumental ending. Thru' With The Two-Step is an impressive slow burner of a rock ballad with a soaring vocal and guitar. Horizontal Departure has a quirky vocal and a bit of a new wave-ish beat to it. It sounds not unlike some of The Police's material.

Stranger Here...Than Over There is an odd sort of track, pretty difficult to categorise, while the Zeppelin-like titled Big Log is one of the album's strongest tracks - an almost soulful, laid-back but mournful track that sees Plant, not for the first time, sounding a lot like Freddie Mercury. The guitar backing is sumptuous. It is a unique-sounding track.

Overall, it is a bit of a myth that Plant's eighties albums are dreadful. I really like the first three, although I find 1988's Now And Then less good. This is definitely a good one.



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THE HONEYDRIPPERS: VOLUME ONE (1984)

1. I Get A Thrill
2. Sea Of Love
3. I Got A Woman 
4. Young Boy Blues
5. Rockin' At Midnight     

This was a surprise experiment between Robert Plant, Jimmy PageJeff Beck and Nile Rodgers - a brief, five track EP of bluesy/early rock 'n' roll done to present Atlantic Records' President Ahmet Ertegun with recordings of some of his favourite late fifties songs. Apparently, Plant was appalled that the crooning Sea Of Love became a hit, instead of the upbeat Rockin' At Midnight, thinking it would ruin his solo career. He needn't have worried, people just enjoyed it for what it was. The EP is only a short blast, but it is a pleasure from the first note to the last.
                                  
I Get A Thrill is a lively, infectious piece of jazzy, shuffling rockabilly. Very sort of Stray Cats-ish in its big rubbery bass line. Robert Plant does his best late fifties Elvis and there is a killer guitar solo in the middle too. I have to say I really like this. The classic ballad Sea Of Love is orchestrated with sweeping strings and backing vocals Plant's vocal is surprisingly good and, of course there is also some great guitar.

Ray CharlesI Got A Woman is a delight as well, with another addictive rhythm and some strong horns and saxophone driving it along. It rocks from beginning to end, superbly. Young Boy Blues is packed full of fifties romantic strings. Plant sounds vaguely like Freddie Mercury in places. Rockin' At Midnight is excellent, the sort of thing you wouldn't be surprised to hear Plant doing on the Jools Holland Show. It is powered by pumping horns and stand up, deep bass. Great stuff. The live version, from Birmingham NEC in 1985, of the same track included as a bonus is as good as you would expect it to be.

As I said at the beginning, this short collection is just very enjoyable - loose, fun and immaculately executed.



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SHAKEN 'n' STIRRED (1985)

1. Hip To Hoo
2. Kallalou Kallalou
3. Too Loud
4. Trouble Your Money
5. Pink And Black
6. Little By Little
7. Doo Doo A Do Do
8. Easily Led
9. Sixes And Sevens         

This was Robert Plant's third solo album and is dismissed by many as being too experimental and keyboard-dominated. Personally, I am pleasantly surprised by it and much prefer it to the polished synth-pop of 1988's Now And Zen. It is a bit of an underrated gem in his catalogue, for me. Innovative and brave and like nothing much Robert Plant had done before (or since, really).
             
Hip To Hoo begins with a huge Led Zeppelin-esque drum beat, before those accursed eighties synthesiser riffs lick in and the song starts to sound suspiciously like a Phil Collins number. It has a bit of catchy percussion at the end, but as with a lot of his material from this period, it is, unfortunately, very much of its time. Kallalou Kallalou has a refreshing rock thump to it and a bit of a Zeppelin-style vocal. It sounds a bit like an outtake from the Physical Graffiti album. It has its moments - some nice cymbal work and a funky guitar. Too Loud has a bit of a Talking Heads groove to it, with hints of world music and reggae in it and a bit of a sort of white hip/hop vocal. It is certainly an inventive, experimental track that is worthy of a listen. It has tape loops and weird sound affects in it, something you wouldn't expect from an old blues rocker like Plant. It is what you would find David Bowie doing, not Robert Plant.

  

Trouble Your Money is great - drenched in dubby bass rhythms and loads of atmosphere. Plant is really trying his hand at new sounds here and he has to be commended for it. The bass is superb on here. Very Paul Simonon-esque. The muscular but staccato Pink And Black could be from The Police's final album or two. It has a vibrant drum sound and some odd rhythms, together with some searing rock guitar half way through.

Little By Little has a wonderful, big rumbling bass line, and, although it has a surfeit of keyboards, they are good ones. It has a pulsating rock/funk sound with a few of those dubby effects in there too. It is actually quote revelatory stuff. Listening to this after Now And Zen, I like this album much more. Doo Doo A Do Do is another one with an infectious, oddball rhythm that you just would not expect. The keyboards on here are funky and innovative, as opposed to Euro-poppy. Easily Led is a slice of rock/dance/funk frantic Police-influenced groove. You cold easily imagine Sting on vocals here and the drums are very Stewart Copeland-esque. Sixes And Sevens has another deep, slightly dubby feel to it. It has a very brooding atmosphere to it.

This is most definitely an underrated, often overlooked Robert Plant album that is considerably different to much of his other solo albums. It is a clever, experimental and bassy album that really appeals to me.



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NOW AND ZEN (1988)

1. Heaven Knows
2. Dance On My Own
3. Tall Cool One
4. The Way I Feel
5. Helen Of Troy
6. Billy's Revenge
7. Ship Of Fools
8. Why
9. White, Clean And Neat
10. Walking Towards Paradise   

Despite not being quite as computerised in its instrumentation as previous solo albums, this is still very much an "eighties album". Its tracks are largely upbeat, poppy (comparatively) and lively. It reminds me very much of Mick Jagger's solo albums , She's The Boss and Primitive Cool, from the same period, or Elton John's late eighties output. It has a sharp, fresh, clear production, but it is all very sanitised and polished. There is precious little gritty blues-influenced material on here. From the title and the cover, I expected an album full of Eastern influences and bluesy spiritualism. It is anything but, I'm afraid. There are still strong bits of guitar on it, though, but only here and there. Synthesiser and muffled drums are still the order of the day. One dreads to think what John Bonham would have made of it all. It is certainly a pleasant enough listen, but nowhere near "down and dirty" enough for me. Plant himself admits, in retrospect, that "a lot of the songs got lost in the technology of the time".

  
      
Heaven Knows is a chugging but appealing number with some very late eighties keyboards and drum sound. The vocal is very laid-back, not really a typical Robert Plant one. While this sort of stuff is totally inoffensive, maybe you have to take stock and think "hold on, this is Robert Plant we're talking about. Is this really the best he can offer?". Dance On My Own is a poppy piece of eighties funk/pop that could almost be a Michael Jackson track in places. The "oh-oh" chorus refrain actually sounds like one used by Deacon Blue many years later.

Tall Cool One samples several Led Zeppelin numbers (almost surreptitiously) beneath a throwaway, awful eighties beat and some dreadful vocals. It sounds like one of those "filler" Rolling Stones numbers from Dirty Work or Steel Wheels. Look, it is lively enough, but something about it irritates me slightly.

The Way I Feel has a bit of good guitar, but it basically sounds like The EurythmicsHelen Of Troy has an upbeat rock/funk feel to it with a few vague echoes of Trampled Under Foot about it. Billy's Revenge has a bassy rockabilly groove to it, however, it sounds like some of the stuff Queen put out around this time. There is a lot of Freddie Mercury in this, in both its pseudo-rock'n'roll stylings and Plant's vocal delivery. For a lot of people, Ship Of Fools is the album's best track. It is the one that exudes that old Led Zeppelin mysticism. Despite that, and a convincing, evocative vocal it still suffers from a Phil Collins-esque backing at times. Once more, it has hints of Queen as well, particularly These Are The Days Of Our Lives in its slower passages.

Why should probably have been left back in 1988. It has a Euro-poppy rhythm and an uninspiring vocal. White, Clean And Neat, apart from a bit of searing guitar, is even worse. The muscular Walking Towards Paradise redeems things a bit. For me, this is the album's strongest offering. It is still at the mercy of its production, though.

Give me Plant's gritty, post-2000 solo work any day, that's for sure.



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MANIC NIRVANA (1990)

1. Hurting Kind (I've Got My Eyes On You)
2. Big Love
3. SSS & Q
4. I Cried
5. She Said
6. Nirvana
7. Tie Dye On The Highway
8. Your Ma Said You Cried In Your Sleep Last Night
9. Anniversary
10. Liars Dance
11. Watching You      

While this album suffers from some of the late eighties blight that was all over its predecessor, 1988's Now And Zen, it is, for me, the better album. It is more powerful and rocky, less synthy. It still has a few echoes of some of the contemporary Mick Jagger solo albums in there, but not as many as on the previous outing. There is far more crunching rock on here. The title and the cover are, unsurprisingly, questionable.
                         
Hurting Kind (I've Got My Eyes On You) is a storming, riffy opener with shades of Led Zeppelin in places and latter-day Rolling StonesBig Love is a pounding, in-your-face slow burning rock number. SSS & Q  (what does that mean) is a riffy, Stonesy number with some "proper" drums, thankfully. The riffs are guitars not synthesisers, which is a good thing. It also has a Big Audio Dynamite-style vocal "rap" part too. Robert showing how contemporary he was, I suppose. Fair enough.

  

I Cried has a gentle, acoustic Led Zeppelin III-influenced, ethereal intro. It is beguiling, slightly mournful slow number. Half way through, in true Zep fashion, it bursts into some heavy rock bombast before swirling back into the mysterious verses once more. She Said is a muscular, pounding rocker. This is far more powerful stuff than on the previous album. Nirvana continues the rock assault, using a U2-style riff and Robert doing his best Bono.

Tie Dye On The Highway has a bit of a sixties, psychedelic feel beneath its power, plus some excellent blues harmonica thrown in there. The oddly-titled Your Ma Said You Cried In Your Sleep Last Night is sort of rockabilly meets heavy rock thing. It also has a few of the scratchy, dubby hints that 1985's Shaken 'N' Stirred used a lot plus some vocal debt to Zeppelin's Black DogAnniversary is a slow mish-mash of martial drums, slashing guitar and Zeppelin wailing vocals. It doesn't quite get there for me. The short-ish, acoustic Liars Dance evokes the spirit of Led Zeppelin III and then the folky rock attack of Watching You ends the album.

As I said, this is a better album than Now And Zen, but I prefer the first three solo albums and the post 2000 ones. This one forgoes a bit of subtlety in its quest to rock as hard as possible.



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FATE OF NATIONS (1993)

1. Calling To You
2. Down To The Sea
3. Come Into My Life
4. I Believe
5. 29 Palms
6. Memory Song (Hello Hello)
7. If I Were A Carpenter
8. Colours Of A Shade
9. Promised Land
10. The Greatest Gift
11. Great Spirit
12. Network News         

I write this review not as an absolute copper-bottomed Robert Plant fan, although I have all his solo albums. I am more in the position of someone who likes his music, but doesn't hang on every note of it, so my take maybe more of a slightly detached one. Looking at contemporary criticism I have seen this album described as "misunderstood" Listening to it, I don't quite get that. I think it has quite a lot going for it. Thankfully, the synthesisers that overwhelmed some of his work in the eighties have disappeared and we get a return to a traditional rock guitar blended with acoustic and a solid "proper" drum sound, always a good thing in my book. Many have described it as light, airy and acoustic. I have to disagree. It packs quite a punch to my ears - plenty of electric guitar and muscular drums, all the way through.
                            
Calling To You has some chunky riffs, Zeppelin-like guitar interjections, pounding drums and a Zep-like, Kashmir-influenced vocal from Plant. It is a good start to the album. Down To The Sea has an infectious rhythm, some appealing guitar underpinning it, Eastern influences and a vaguely Sixties, Beatles-esque sound to it. It is another impressive number. If Led Zeppelin still existed in 1993 and put these two tracks out, I don't think many people would have been disappointed at the time. Come Into My Life is powerful but slow burning and dignified, if that is not too odd a word to use. Again, a solid electric guitar powers the track and the percussion/guitar interplay is mysterious and haunting. Some ethereal backing vocals add to this ambience.

I Believe is a catchy, melodic number that finds Plant confronting the loss of his son many years before, but in an appealing, beautiful rock song, which is a little incongruous, thematically, but not detrimental in any way. It is a great song. Again, it features some impressive electric guitar parts. The power and thump is still with us on the gritty, nineties Springsteen-esque 29 Palms, electric and acoustic guitars merge perfectly. It is a really good rock song, nothing light or folky about it, really. Similarly, Memory Song (Hello Hello) is introduced by some searing electric guitar and driven along by some sledgehammer Bonham-esque drums. It is a very Zeppelin-influenced number.

If I Were A Carpenter is a cover of Tim Hardin's song made famous by The Four Tops. It is beautifully delivered with acoustic guitar, bass and grandiose strings. Plant's voice is superb on this, proving that he can sing in a soulful, gentle style. He is more adaptable than many think. Colours Of A Shade is the first slightly Celtic folk-style song, although this too has a huge, bassy backing. Promised Land is a harmonica-drenched Free meets The Rolling Stones piece of blues rock. Great stuff.

The Greatest Gift is a slow-burning rock number with some excellent guitar half way through. The violin/strings backing enhances the song rather than detracts from it. Great Spirit has Plant revisiting his old hippy/spiritual consciousness, but it is merged with a genuine concern for the future of the world in a greedy, throwaway society. Once more, the guitar is impressive on here. Network News is an upbeat riffy, industrial rocker with a cynical lyric about the media to end this underrated album on. I would have no hesitation in recommending this as one of Plant's better offerings. It is much better than the previous three albums. He would not do another one now until 2002, nine years later, however.



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DREAMLAND (2002)

1. Funny In My Mind (I Believe I'm Fixin' To Die)
2. Morning Dew
3. One More Cup Of Coffee
4. Last Time I Saw Her
5. Song To The Siren
6. Win My Train Fare Home (If I Ever Get Lucky)
7. Darkness, Darkness
8. Red Dress
9. Hey Joe
10. Skip's Song
11. Dirt In A Hole  

This is an invigorating album largely made up of covers (not all well-known, though) and is mainly blues and rock, with folky and worldbeat influences, probably as you would expect from Robert Plant. I always seem to find that his solo albums get a bit of an unfair press, simply because they are not Led Zeppelin. To use an awful contemporary phrase - "get over it". Enjoy it for what it is, and that is an eminently listenable, enjoyable album. I also have to praise the fact that it discards the synthesisers that were used in many of his previous solo albums. The instrumentation is far more aesthetically pure. In many ways, the haunting, mystical nature of this album is the closest thing to evoking that Zeppelin spirit as he had done on any solo album this far.
                                             
Funny In My Mind (I Believe I'm Fixin' To Die) has a vibrant Cajun-style, swirling accordion(?) intro, while its melody and general structure puts me in mind of some of Bruce Springsteen's post 2000 material. There is also some seriously good wah-wah guitar at the end of it too. It is a solid, muscular opener. Morning Dew is a wonderfully atmospheric cover of Tim Rose's apocalyptic song. The guitar and drum sound is slow burning and evocative and Plant's vocal suits it perfectly. The same applies to the shuffling, beguiling cover of Bob Dylan's One More Cup Of Coffee. It features some excellent Spanish guitar. It sounds a bit like latter-day Santana, slightly, when it kicks in. Once more, Plant does a great job, vocally. Yes, I love Led Zeppelin, but I also enjoy him doing stuff like this. He sounds invigorated, almost like a new artist.

  

Last Time I Saw Her is a slightly psychedelic-sounding blues rock number, with some Zeppelin-esque vocals and superb guitar. The funky guitar/drum interplay at the end is impressive. Tim Buckley's Song To The Siren is delivered plaintively, over an acoustic guitar and strings backing. Bryan Ferry also covered this, and, funnily enough, there are times here when Plant's voice sounds a little like Ferry's. Age has given both a similar timbre at times. The blues medley Win My Train Fare Home (If I Ever Get Lucky) has a sumptuous bass line and a Zeppelin-like spiritualism that will surely win many Zep fans over. The YoungbloodsDarkness, Darkness (also covered by Mott The Hoople on Brain Capers) is also done in a very Zeppelin fashion, right down to the keyboard intro. The guitar solo in the middle is sublime.

Red Dress is a cookin' fuzzy guitar-driven blues. Lord almighty, this is good stuff. Hendrix's Hey Joe is stripped down to sound like an old, authentic Delta Blues. Then the rock guitar slashes and the drums kick in. Wonderful. This is an innovative and inventive cover, for sure. Skip's Song is a slightly late sixties-sounding rock number. Dirt In A Hole even has a bit of a vague rock 'n' roll sound to it, in its guitar, and a bit of new wave drumming in there too.

This is a very fulfilling album and is definitely up there as one of the best solo albums Robert Plant has released.



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THE MIGHTY REARRANGER (2005)

1. Another Tribe
2. Shine It All Around
3. Freedom Fries
4. Tin Pan Valley
5. All The King's Horses
6. The Enchanter
7. Takamba
8. Dancing In Heaven
9. Somebody Knocking
10. Let The Four Winds Blow
11. Mighty Rearranger
12. Brother Ray   

This album builds on the quality of 2002's Dreamland, keeping most of the band together and adding more musicians. Again, the album is a mix of rock, folk, blues, world music and some of the spirit of Led Zeppelin's mysticism (which was often Plant's anyway). It is another strong, interesting and inventive album.

Another Tribe, for a few seconds has a Rock 'n' Roll drum intro before the upbeat, folky guitar strains and Kashmir-esque keyboards arrive to swirl this intoxicating track onwards. Then we get a bit of wah-wah guitar and a sumptuous bass line. Plant's vocals are very Bono-ish in places. Shine It All Around starts very Zep-ish in its slow, insistent drum grind, then we get some Jimmy Page-style guitar. Freedom Fries is a delicious piece of bluesy rockabilly liveliness that meets grinding riffy, rock. Plant's voice is just great and the drums are very Bonham. This is the sort of thing you could have imagined Zeppelin doing in the 2000s, had they survived. The most "Zep" song so far is Tin Pan Valley, with its organ intro, infectious cymbal work at the beginning. Its rhythm is deep and seductive. Then, like a hammer from the Gods (sorry), all hell breaks loose, briefly, half way through, then we return to the subtle bass, cymbals and Plant's quiet vocal for a while. Then it breaks out again. Nice one. No Led Zeppelin fan can fail to enjoy this, surely.

  

All The King's Horses is a laid-back Led Zeppelin III meets Paul Weller folky, acoustic ballad. While it certainly has the spirit of Goin' To California and Over The Hills And Far Away, it is still very much its own unique entity. It is not just a nostalgic retrospective. It breathes in its own right. The Enchanter is a sultry, grinding, brooding, slow rock number that serves to confirm that this is a quality album that acknowledges Plant's past but still produces classic rock, even in 2005, when it was not top of the popular music tree. This album brings it right back. Takumba is a heavy rocker, with a bit of North African influence and some more very John Bonham-esque power drums.

Dancing In Heaven has a beautifully deep and melodic bass line underpinning its sensual, catchy ambience. Eastern guitar runs through the track too, with some Beatles-inspired drumming.

Somebody Knocking has even more of an Eastern influence in its hypnotic groove. Let The Four Winds Blow is packed full of atmosphere - blues, slow rock, rock 'n' roll guitar. It is another one with an entrancing sound to it. The Mighty Rearranger has a great bluesy riff and a quirkily catchy vocal and rhythm. The album ends with a bit of blues piano boogie on Brother Ray which then, after a brief pause, gives us a "hidden" track of spacey, dance-ish instrumental and occasional vocals, which actually turns out to be a clubby remix of Shine It All Around.

This album is as enjoyable as its predecessor was - proper music. Love it.



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BAND OF JOY (2010)

1. Angel Dance
2. House Of Cards
3. Central Two-O-Nine
4. Silver Rider
5. You Can't Buy My Love
6. Falling In Love Again
7. The Only Sound That Matters
8. Monkey
9. Cindy, I'll Marry You Someday
10. Harm's Swift Way
11. Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down 12. Even This Shall Pass Away 

By 2010 Robert Plant's music was a merging of rock with British and US folk styles and this is very much in that vein and has a sort of communal "band of musicians" feel to it as Plant and his band play their stuff with enthusiasm and attack. It is very much what was known as contemporary folk/roots music. If you're looking for "the hammer of the gods"-style rock, you won't find it here. Plant has a different home these days one feels, and it is one that he is very comfortable in. Of all the Zeppelin members, it is Plant who went on to have the most consistent and innovative post-Zep career. At the beginning, one would have thought it would have definitely been Jimmy Page.
                                   
Angel Dance is a muscular mix of slow, pounding drum-driven rock and Americana-style contemporary folk. This is very much the sort of thing Plant was doing at this point in his career. House Of Cards is a slow burning sort of Dylanesque number (it in fact quotes directly The Times They Are A-Changin' at the beginning. It is actually a Richard Thompson song. An insistent mandolin powers the song majestically along. Central Two-O-Nine is a very US folky number with a stark, bluesy guitar backing and a single thumping bass drum.

 

Silver Rider is a slow, atmospheric number with Plant sharing vocals with Patty Griffin's ethereal ones. It is a track packed full of enigmatic, beguiling atmosphere. It is a cover of a song from the band Low (who I admit to knowing nothing about). Its heavy guitar at the end is one of the album's few genuine rock moments. You Can't Buy My Love, while having a title near to The Beatles' song, actually has a chorus that is similar. The song's verses have an infectious, rolling drum rocky and upbeat sound. It has a very sixties, poppy sound. Falling In Love Again reminds me of U2'Love Rescue Me. Plant's voice is excellent over the song's gently insistent beat. Its guitar solo is a very country rock, steel-sounding one.

The Only Sound That Matters is a catchy piece of solid folky rock. Monkey is the the other song by Low. It begins with a U2 meets psychedelia buzzy guitar riff. Indeed, the whole song sounds like something off U2's Pop or Zooropa. It is these two Low songs that have the album's only real deep rock sounds. Cindy, I'll Marry You Someday is a traditional folk song given an Americana blues makeover by Plant and his band. Harm's Swift Way is a very attractive, appealing song, with some later career Springsteen-esque gentle riffs and a melodic verse structure. I really like this one.

Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down is a beautifully sombre, folky blues. Even This Shall Pass Away has a delicious, shuffling rhythm and an odd but addictive feel to it. Once again, it is very U2-esque.

This was an inventive, thoughtful album that deserves the critical praise it got. Plant has consistently surprised many throughout his long, varied musical career. Long may he continue to do so.



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CARRY FIRE (2017)

1. The May Queen
2. New World...
3. Season's Song
4. Dance With You Tonight
5. Carving Up The World Again
6. A Way With Words
7. Carry Fire
8. Bones Of Saints
9. Keep It Hid
10. Bluebirds Over The Mountain
11. Heaven Sent   

This is very much an album from an artist in Robert Plant who is now very comfortable in what he puts out, bowing to no trends and just doing what he wants to do. It is an engaging mix of folky rock, Americana with bits of blues influence, world music, Eastern music and is very much an intelligent, cerebral album. It is largely laid-back, but not without considerable power and "oomph". There are still muscular, visceral moments on here. On the cover, Plant looks craggy, charismatic and wise. That feeling is all over this excellent album.
                             
The opener, The May Queen gives reference, of course, to Stairway To Heaven. It is a strong piece of Led Zeppelin III-influenced acoustic rock, with some solid fiddle backing. New World.... is extremely U2-esque as indeed is the beguiling Season's Song. These are both really appealing and attractive songs. Dance With You Tonight is an atmospheric, slow burning, seductive but powerfully insistent number. The vocal is scratchily soulful. I often feel there are vague similarities between Robert Plant and Bryan Ferry's middle-aged voices. This is definitely one of those tracks where it is quite noticeable. There is a great piece of buzzy guitar near the end as the song gets a bit anthemic. The lively, rhythmic Carving Up The World Again again has echoes of U2 for me. It has some great thumping Larry Mullen-style drums and killer guitar.

A Way With Words, for me, is such a Ferry-esque number, with that stately, grandiose stark and slow backing and gracefully ageing vocal. Lovely violin underpins the song at the end. Carry Fire is a folky, acoustic, mystical song that blends in some sixties-ish Eastern sounds. Bones Of Saints is a relatively upbeat rocker that has hints of some of Bruce Springsteen's post-2000 work. Similarly, the bassy beat of Keep It Hid reminds me of Springsteen's 57 Channels And Nothing On". It is an evocative, intoxicating number. It reiterates that the material on this album really is of high quality.

 

Bluebirds Over The Mountain by little-known late fifties rock 'n' roller Ersel Hickey, was previously covered by The Beach Boys on their 1968 20/20 album. Here, Plant gives it a punchy Paul Weller-style chunky folk rock makeover. Heaven Sent is a mystical, entrancing slow number that ends the album in enigmatic fashion. Overall, a highly credible, thoughtfully-created album.



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