Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Robert Plant - Fate Of Nations (1993)

Colours of a shade....

  

Released May 1993

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.

TRACK LISTING

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                                          

"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.

B+

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