Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Robert Plant Pictures At Eleven (1982)

download (2)From Rolling Stone

If Robert Plant were young and hungry instead of nearly thirty-four and famous, this album might have been a real barn-burner. As it is, even though there’s nothing new going on in these grooves, the sheer formal thrill of hearing someone who knows exactly what he’s doing makes Pictures at Eleven something of an event almost in spite of its modest ambitions.

Plant’s freak-of-nature voice — the definitive heavy-metal shriek — has seldom been more sympathetically showcased, even with Led Zeppelin. You still can’t make out a lot of what he’s saying, but his vocals are distinguished by a fullness and fluidity that’s richly satisfying. The production, by Plant, is artfully simple, and the band he’s put together to back him — Robbie Blunt, the fine guitarist from the Steve Gibbons Band; bassist Paul Martinez; Jezz Woodroffe on keyboards; and Phil Collins and Cozy Powell, who share drum duties — sounds like it could kill onstage.

Blunt, in particular, deserves a steady star gig. Not only is he an ace instrumentalist in the metal tradition (check out the schizo guitar lashings on the raving “Mystery Title”), but he also cowrote, mostly with Plant, the album’s eight tracks, and so presumably was responsible for such outré touches as the dense, ensemble lines toward the end of “Worse than Detroit.”

One hopes that the Plant-Blunt collaboration will bear further fruit, because it’s a winner. “Burning down One Side,” the leadoff track, is a dead-on-target hit — a neck-wringing riff spiced with effortlessly atmospheric guitar leads — while the charming “Fat Lip,” a bluesy riff located at the other end of the emotional spectrum, could almost give laid-back a good name again.

Elsewhere, Plant trots out his trademark bellow for “Slow Dancer” and the aforementioned “Mystery Title,” and enlists the high, reedy tones of saxophonist Raphael Ravenscroft (noted for his work on the Gerry Rafferty hit, “Baker Street”) for the slightly unfocused “Pledge Pin.” There are longueurs: “Moonlight in Samosa,” for instance, is sort of like “Stairway to Heaven” without the sonic liftoff, and “Like I’ve Never Been Gone” (“I see the sunlight in your eyeeeeeeeeee …”) is just sort of stupid. But when the good stuff on an album cuts all the other cock-rock competition in sight, only a curmudgeon would complain.

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March 2, 2013 Posted by | Robert Plant Pictures At Eleven | | Leave a comment

Robert Plant Shaken ‘n’ Stirred (1985)

robert_plant-shaken_and_stirredFrom blogcritics.org

If life only had a rewind button, but then it better have an erase button to go along with it. That’s how I felt about Shaken ‘n’ Stirred and what upset me most, it was done by one of the greatest voices in Rock n’ Roll history: Robert Plant. Even greatness has off-days, and not that Plant was off by any means. It was the ‘80s where most of the mainstream music pretty much blew ass. I should know I was a junior in 1985 when this album was released. Now it’s 2007 and the music companies are trying hard to stay afloat by re-releasing music such as this. If it weren’t Robert Plant, I wouldn’t have even listened.

During the ‘80s, I was not a Cure fan nor a Depeche Mode fan, although I did watch Madonna to give me ideas to think about late at night. I couldn’t stand dancing with my arms out at my sides while extending one leg at a time and touching the floor with only the big toe of each foot. Oh yes, and don’t forget to wear black with many accessories and a funny hat.

I followed the Dead, Rush, Pink Floyd, and The Police. I was stoked that Plant had come out with a new album, until I heard it. It wasn’t the Plant I wanted; it wasn’t very rock ‘n’ roll. Shaken ‘n’ Stirred had stopped at #20 on Billboard’s Top 200. The single “Little By Little” hit # 1 for Mainstream Rock Tracks while “Sixes and Sevens” peaked at #18. At least Plant had the courage to go somewhere else with his music, to try and experiment with new sounds and ideas that were coming out of the radios at that time.

In the ‘80s it was all about electronics, and Shaken ‘n’ Stirred was no exception. Synthesizers were a mainstay for the recording industry, and if you weren’t a pro with it, then it either sounded like shit or came out to sugar-coated. That’s how this CD sounds, sugar-coated, but then like I said that’s most songs from this time period. Take for instance “Kallalou Kallalou,“ it starts out with keyboards and drums and immediately I hear the soundtrack to Beverly Hills Cop in the back of my mind with Axel Foley and the “banana in the tailpipe“ bit.

“Pink and Black” has the same vibe. Plant’s voice carries this track as the drums rarely diverge from their formatted beat. The synthesized guitar and keyboards rehash over the same cords as they did the track before. With the exception of his voice, the music sounds the same.

“Little By Little” is the diamond in the rough here. With the drifting sound of guitars and the electronics all coming together, this song gives way to images of hazy-colored sunsets as Plant’s voice cruises in and out of the melody. The bass line can be felt as the drums keep a steady drive going. The extra on this disc is the remix of “Little By Little” with a slightly longer, synthesized intro but that’s really about it. The original sounds better.

There is nothing wrong with the music on this CD. Robert Plant has no fear when it comes to trying new genres of music and Shaken ‘n’ Stirred isn’t any different. He tried to go the way of the ‘80s and did a pretty good job at it. Music back then was blowing up everywhere and by 1985 the punk craze was waning and bands like Wham and Culture Club were the big draws at the time. Rock ‘n’ roll still had a heartbeat, but it was barely alive. Robert Plant was one of the few who tried to mix the hard rock sound with the new wave sound that was winning its way through the MTV world.

I give Plant kudos for trying, but I have to be honest when I say, that this CD I could do without in my collection.

March 2, 2013 Posted by | Robert Plant Shaken 'n' Stirred | | Leave a comment

Robert Plant Mighty Rearranger (2005)

download (1)From popmatters.com

Over the course of time, there have been arguments as to which member of supergroup quartet Led Zeppelin was the most important one. Some say that John Bonham’s drumming was parallel to none—that he could bash harder and stronger than any other drummer (quite true). Some would say that the quiet man, John Paul Jones, was most valuable for his bass and keyboard work, and his behind-the-scenes arrangements which helped shape Zep’s mighty sound (also quite true). And of course, Jimmy Page is revered as one of the most important and influential guitarists in rock and roll history (again, quite true). But what gave Led Zeppelin its voice (literally and figuratively) was lead singer Robert Plant. His wails could alter brain cells for life, yet he could also sing as delicately as a feather, and make it all count. (For those who want to argue Page vs. Plant, all I need to say is two words: The Firm. Argument over, case closed.)

Since the demise of the mighty Zep in 1980, Plant has gone on a varied musical course, from stylin’ with the Honeydrippers to dropping solo albums such as Pictures at Eleven and The Principle of Moments, even using guest drummers ranging from Phil Collins to Richie Hayward (Little Feat) to Barriemore Barlow (Jethro Tull). After a few releases which pleased critics but bored fans, Plant retreated until 1988, when he released Now and Zen, where he grew comfortable enough to refer to his former band in his music and song selections on the subsequent tour. There was even a period where he reunited with Page (but not Jones; the two were always at odds). Plant’s career continued to fluctuate, despite the excellent Dreamland, released three years ago. But with the release of Mighty Rearranger, Plant finally appears comfortable in his old skin, while clinging tightly to his newer muse.

With one listen to these dozen songs, one can play the “Spot the Zeppelin” influence to the point of making this review five pages long, so we’ll take a pass. Let’s just say that anyone who loved the Zep will be having cataclysmic orgasmic interludes whilst cranking this sucker up to 10. But it sounds as though Plant isn’t concerned about the comparisons to his first band of note—in fact, he seems to embrace the concept, when in past, he would run away as far as he could from such statements. This album rocks harder than any previous Plant solo entity, and probably can give some of the later Led Zep works a run for the money. Now, this is not to say that guitarists Justin Adams and Liam “Skin” Tyson are the second coming of Mr. Page—that wouldn’t be fair—but it is safe to say that both can clearly hold their own for what is asked of them here. And credit Plant to realize that he’s working with a different cast of characters who are working to give him that “Zep classic sound” without disregarding Plant’s love of Indian influence (touches of Moroccan influence abound). The same goes for drummer Clive Deamer—his drum technique is both hard and strong, but he doesn’t try to overtake Bonham; he just uses Bonham’s influence to make the songs work. And with one exception, the songs work in one form or another.

Start with the opener “Another Tribe”. It’s a slice of Moroccan influence (John Baggott’s keyboard work is slippery and sensual). Speaking of sensual, Plant’s vocals are as soft and supple as he’s ever used them—and exceedingly clear, too. “Shine It All Around’’ cooks itself from a slow percolation to a near over boil before the steam drops down back to a simmer, only to rise again. Here, bassist Billy Fuller shines. Up next is “Freedom Fries”, with an angular beat that goes back to the days of “Custard Pie or “Black Dog”. (Sorry—that’ll be my only song reference to specific songs of the mighty Zep.)

The song most talked about on the album is “Tin Pan Valley” for Plant’s not-so-subtle dig at those he perceives to be heir to his throne. (“My peers may flirt with cabaret, some fake the rebel yell, me I’m moving up to higher ground, I must escape their hell’‘) “All the King’s Horses” is just like it sounds—a fairy tale about love. “The Enchanter” combines blues guitar with Eastern Indian rhythms for a nice mix. And though Plant’s vocals are at the top of the mix, he lays back enough to let the music come through. The entire album is like that, which shows that Plant has the confidence and trust with his band to keep it on a cooperative, rather than a competitive level.

“Takamba” also has an angular beat to go along with some rockin’ guitar work and several shifts in tempo. It sounds like a mish-mash on paper, but it’s a different story when it pours out of the speakers. “Dancing in Heaven” is pleasant enough, but sounds like a George Harrison outtake. “Somebody Knocking” is tabla central; it’s not the strongest song on the disc, but not the weakest, either. “Let the Four Winds Blow” is a jazzy-styled number where the guitar and vocals sound like a very familiar old song (no, it’s not Led Zeppelin, but it’s Paul Revere and the Raiders’s “Indian Reservation”). And sorry—they don’t scream out “Cherokee people!”.

The last two songs are at the opposite ends of the spectrum. The title song is the strongest cut here, with a bouncy beat and a byplay between a piano and an organ sounding like a flute. Mix that with some guitar work that came from a Clint Eastwood western, and you have a song that you’ll have on the “repeat” key on your CD or MP3 player. And as for the finale, let’s just say that “Brother Ray” is over eight minutes of psychedelic trippiness that serves no true purpose other than to supposedly honor Ray Charles. Plant would have been better off to cover a Charles tune straightforwardly.

Even with the strength of Dreamland, it’s hard to know what to expect when Robert Plant gets the jones (no pun intended) to record another album. A positive telling clue was that he used just about all of the same personnel that appeared in Dreamland, so you knew this had a chance to be decent. Well, it’s beyond decent. Plant put out an album that sticks out its chest in pride of who he was in Led Zeppelin without compromising his love of the Eastern influences that are his usual trademark. With a mix of harder-edged and softer tunes, Plant has gone to both extremes, and his experience has taught him that he doesn’t need to scream his vocals to have power and intensity. The musicianship is tighter than a New York subway car at rush hour, and yet there’s an airy, relaxed feel in the groove. Zep lovers and Plant skeptics, Mighty Rearranger is your ‘70s flashback nirvana. Robert Plant has learned that he can look fondly back at the past while keeping his feet planted firmly in the present and future. Now all that’s needed to complete the picture is a black-light poster and a lava lamp.

March 2, 2013 Posted by | Robert Plant Mighty Rearranger | | Leave a comment

Robert Plant Band Of Joy (2010)

MI0002968470From BBC Music

Having won enough awards to keep his mantelpiece groaning for years for his 2007 collaboration with Alison Krauss, Robert Plant resists the temptation to repeat the Americana formula and give us Raising More Sand. Instead he invokes the name of Band of Joy, the psychedelic blues group he originally fronted before the birth of Led Zeppelin over four decades’ earlier, for an album of bounding energy and unexpected eclecticism.

Produced with formidable intensity and an impressive sonic feel by Nashville-based country stalwart Buddy Miller, it offers yet another indication of Plant’s commendably enduring desire to keep moving. Clearly neither advancing age nor years of unabated success have deprived Plant of either his constant appetite for challenge or his ability to deliver in a cogent, credible and thoroughly convincing fashion.

Whether wailing yearningly over a buoyant acoustic rhythm on the Lightnin’ Hopkins blues Central Two-O-Nine or rockin’n’rollin’ in time-honoured fashion on You Can’t Buy My Love, Plant is in terrific voice throughout. Pounding drums (from Marco Giovino) are pushed to the front of the mix and steel guitar and banjos abound on an album with country roots but which quickly develops tentacles that spread in surprising directions, from the gothic chime of Monkey to a vivacious spin on the folk song Cindy, I’ll Marry You Someday.

Patty Griffin pops up with sublime vocal harmonies as Plant tackles some intriguing material. Opening with rhythmic overload on a Los Lobos rocker Angel Dance, he conjures up an authentic 1950s sound on an old Jimmie Rodgers hit Falling in Love Again, delivers an edgy treatment of a lesser-known Townes Van Zant song Harm’s Swift Way; creates a virulent swirling chorus on Richard Thompson’s House of Cards; and performs a masterly arrangement of the spiritual Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down, spritely banjo vying with broody guitar and ghostly backing choir as the track develops its subtle air of menace.

Just as producer T-Bone Burnett deservedly copped much of the acclaim for Raising Sand, Buddy Miller merits much credit for the richness here. But the glory rightly belongs to Plant.

March 2, 2013 Posted by | Robert Plant Band Of Joy | | Leave a comment

Robert Plant Now And Zen (1988)

cover_56391617102010From Rolling Stone

This record is some kind of stylistic event: a seamless pop fusion of hard guitar rock, gorgeous computerization and sharp, startling songcraft. Now and Zen, Robert Plant’s fourth solo album, is so rich in conceptual invention that you barely notice that Plant sings better on it — with more tone, control and rhythmic acuity — than he has in the seven years since Led Zeppelin imploded. Better, in some ways, than ever.

The punning title is apt. The nine tracks on Now and Zen don’t simply sound contemporary; they point to new ways to transmute roots-rock verities of swing and harmony amid the technological conventions of late-Eighties pop. At the same time the songs show Plant humanizing and enlivening the cool synthetic sound of such Euro-synth units as Kraftwerk and D.A.F. In addition, there is a certain pop-Zen aspect to such songs as “The Way I Feel,” in which Plant sings, “The future rides beside me/Tomorrow in his hand/The stranger turns to greet me/Take me by the hand” — one of the wittier lyrical loops since Lou Reed walked hand in hand with himself through the vinyl grooves of Loaded.

Plant does have some major help on Now and Zen. It’s a tribute to his taste that after listening to the demo of “Heaven Knows” (now the album’s first single), he hired its creators, the song-writing-production team of Phil Johnstone and Dave Barrett. Johnstone and Barrett are young, hungry and gifted, and Johnstone, in particular, is invaluable — as co-writer (with Plant, on most of the tracks), coproducer (with Plant and Tim Palmer), computer programmer (with Barrett, who also helped engineer the LP) and keyboardist. There’s a freshness and excitement to the sound of this album that’s rare today — that harks back, in fact, to the sonic audacity of Zeppelin’s sainted predecessors, the Yardbirds. Even Jimmy Page, who is a guest guitarist on two of the tracks, flourishes in this hot new context.

Now and Zen lifts off with a synthesized whoosh and remains airborne throughout. “Heaven Knows,” the lead track, is graced with a soaring, up-above-the-clouds solo by Page — but there the Zeppelin connection ends. With its clamorous hammer-and-anvil percussion and its jaded take on the new mating game (“Nothing will show as we’re shedding our clothes”), this is exactly the kind of electromantic fusion that Bryan Ferry has sought in vain for years.

The protagonist of “Heaven Knows” is distanced to the point of disconnection. Plant’s own persona, however, especially in the songs he had a hand in writing, is engagingly humane. He gently deflates his old Zep sex-stallion image (in “Dance on My Own” — a metaphor for masturbation — and in the spectacular “Tall Cool One,” which contains the curious come-on “With my one hand loose I aim to satisfy”). Instead he offers himself as is: a rocker turning forty, with deep roots in the music’s past but a lively interest in its present — and future — as well.

This is a stance that allows for both historical resonance and up-to-the-minute instrumental crunch. “Tall Cool One,” for instance, takes its title from a 1959 Wailers instrumental, its motivating stomp from a 1962 Routers hit and its underpinning riff from the Yard-birds’ own cover of the Elvis-era bopcat classic “The Train Kept A-Rollin’.” Yet, with its expertly deployed monster electronics, the song might easily be mistaken for an anthem from Kraftwerk’s computer land. “Tall Cool One” is a walloping rockabilly track that cleverly avoids all retro pretensions. (It also further bends history with another Page guitar solo, as well as computer-sampled snatches of “Whole Lotta Love” and “Black Dog,” among other Zeppelin oldies.)

Even more complexly affecting is “White, Clean and Neat,” an extraordinary evocation of teen life in the mid-Fifties, when the arrival of rock & roll divided families and whole generations. The singer recalls the white-bread pop music that his parents loved — the songs of Pat Boone and Johnnie Ray that rock would soon displace — and his own youthful-rocker’s contempt for that music’s emotional fraudulence. (As a smarmy announcer imparts background gossip about the singer-starlet Debbie Reynolds and her then husband, Eddie Fisher — “They’re married to stay!” — Plant sings, “Beneath her skirts, between clean white sheets/It’s such a long way from the streets.”) But his youthful intolerance has clearly been tempered by the years, and his reminiscence takes on a bittersweet tone that says more about what was won and lost in that time than many a more windy critique.

It is exhilarating to discover such lyrical substance in music already so technically arresting. Plant’s young band performs with ferocious expertise (particularly amid the breathtaking roll-and-tumble rhythms of “Helen of Troy” and on the Jeff Beck-like “Billy’s Revenge”). But the central revelation here is Plant himself, whose taste and intelligence appear to have informed every stage in the making of this record. It would be unfair to call him a headbanger with brains — the lamented Zeps were much more than riff-mongering metalists. But with Now and Zen, Robert Plant does prove himself a hard rocker with a whole lotta heart.

March 2, 2013 Posted by | Robert Plant Now And Zen | | Leave a comment

Robert Plant Fate Of Nations (1993)

disc_fate_400From musicbox-oneline.com

So daunting is the legacy of Led Zeppelin that even a powerhouse vocalist like Robert Plant felt obliged for a time to flee from it. Consequently, where his former band came roaring out of the gate, fully formed and foaming at the mouth, Plant stumbled through a series of solo outings in the 1980s on which he increasingly employed the sort of overly produced, synth-drenched arrangements that typified the era, the kind that now sound seriously dated. Granted, he still commanded attention; likewise, his work contained hints of his glorious history. Yet, his commercial success hindered his evolution more than it helped it. After all, why should he repair something that was so financially lucrative? Although he continued to germinate new ideas and carry forward the concepts that he had developed with Led Zeppelin, he also appeared to be paralyzed by his attempts to hold onto the past while slipping into the present.

Then, along came Fate of Nations, an album that, 14 years after its release, remains the most pivotal effort of Plant’s canon. Hardly a perfect endeavor, it was, nonetheless, the outing on which he turned a corner, discovered a way out of his dilemma, and mounted an escape from the glossy textures that had sucked the organic essence from Shaken ’n‘ Stirred, Now and Zen, and Manic Nirvana. As a vocalist, he arguably never sounded better than he did on Fate of Nations. Although he still was quite capable of conjuring demons with his anguished, tormented wail, he also had gained a supple expressiveness that could hold its own with the best that Motown had to offer. In the end, Fate of Nations gave Plant the confidence to embark upon a full-fledged reunion with guitarist Jimmy Page — which, as it turned out, was more hype than substance. Most important, though, it effectively relaunched his solo career by laying a firm foundation for everything that followed.

Right from the start, with the propulsive, heavy stomp of Calling to You— one of many permutations of Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir that he has concocted over the years — it was clear that the crafting of Fate of Nations had stirred something deep within Plant’s soul. Replacing Page’s crash-and-burn pyrotechnics with violinist Nigel Kennedy’s manic inventiveness, the song served notice that Plant had begun to rediscover his wayward muse. Still, the first half of the outing faltered slightly as the Eastern shadings of Calling to You gave way to the tabla-driven groove of Down to the Sea; the duskily hypnotic country-soul of Come into My Life; and the infectious pop of I Believe and 29 Palms, before finally swerving back into the snaking, Zeppelin-esque march of Memory Song (Hello, Hello). Still, the primal, heavy metal intensity that made his former band’s work so forcefully compelling was noticeably diminished, and the atmospherics that Plant applied to the rest of the opening act’s tracks were so disparate that the material, good as it was, struggled to assume a single-minded sense of identity.

The latter half of Fate of Nations, however, unrolled in a remarkably cohesive fashion, and taken in full, it shed light on the entirety of the affair. Containing his trademark, blues-baked swagger, Promised Land was a writhing fireball that fully tapped into the gritty potency of Plant’s past, while the Biblical implications of Tim Hardin’s folk classic If I Were a Carpenter became the lynchpin that not only united the endeavor but also bound Plant’s pre-Zeppelin pursuits to his subsequent solo outing Dreamland. Furthering this notion is the lovely remake of Moby Grape’s 8:05 that augments the remastered rendition of the effort.

Nevertheless, the final two tracks (Great Spirit and Network News) were what lent Fate of Nations its heart and soul as Plant outlined the horrors facing the world and called upon a higher power for guidance and salvation. Set up perfectly by the gentle, loving smoothness of The Greatest Gift, Great Spirit spiraled outward from Marvin Gaye’s iconic outingWhat’s Going On to develop a life of its own; and with lyrics that tell tales of “flags, princes, kings, patriotic fools/as freedom lies in twisted heaps,” Network News was a scathing indictment of the first war in Iraq that chillingly has repeated its relevance a decade later. In 2005, Plant reworked his ideas and tweaked his overall approach, the result of which was Mighty ReArranger, the current pinnacle of his solo canon. It all began, though, with Fate of Nations, an outing that has grown in stature and magnificence as it has aged.

March 2, 2013 Posted by | Robert Plant Fate Of Nations | | Leave a comment

Robert Plant Mighty Rearranger (2005)

download (1)From musicbox-online.com

Robert Plant has never tried blatantly to distance himself from the recordings that he made with Led Zeppelin, but that, nevertheless, has been the result of his perplexing string of solo outings, on which he has spent more time chasing current market trends and production techniques than making durable music. Sure, all of his efforts have contained at least a few nuggets that were worth savoring, but only sporadically did the material hold its ground against the formidable presence of his former group. In the wake of 1993’s Fate of Nations, however, Plant reunited with his old pal Jimmy Page, and together the duo reinvented Led Zeppelin’s exalted canon.

Although their subsequent concert recording No Quarter sounded tentative and their studio album Walking into Clarksdale was only superficially pleasing, the nostalgic journey relit a fire in Plant that had been dormant for far too long.

By the time he resumed his solo career, Plant had formed Strange Sensation with musicians who previously had collaborated with Portishead, Massive Attack, and Jah Wobble, and the band made its debut on his highly regarded 2002 effort Dreamland. Although the album was composed almost entirely of cover songs, the power and energy wielded by the group was unmistakable. In rummaging through a selection of tunes by artists that had been a huge influence upon him, Plant not only was rediscovering his muse, but he also was teaching his new group a little bit about his heroes.

In the end, Dreamland didn’t become an indispensable part of his catalog, but it did play a pivotal role in pushing him forward by providing a solid foundation upon which he could construct the next phase of his career.

Indeed, it’s Strange Sensation that serves as Plant’s backing band throughoutMighty ReArranger, his eighth solo outing and his first in 12 years to focus upon original material. At its core, the songs are all drawn from the familiar wellspring of pastoral, folk-infused ruminations and booming, blues-baked bellows that served as the basis for Led Zeppelin’s reign over rock ’n‘ roll, but filtered through its contents are a variety of Middle Eastern and trip-hop flourishes. Granted, there’s nothing here that hasn’t surfaced within Plant’s music in the past, but the manner in which it is delivered — a combination of the heavy-hitting crunch of Led Zeppelin I and the tasteful restraint of Led Zeppelin IV — makes all the difference in the world.

The opening Another Tribe, for example, pits a primal drum beat against a moody, psychedelic, folk-pop arrangement thereby setting the tone for the duration of Mighty ReArranger. Elsewhere, the ensemble fully showcases its dynamic range by lacing Tin Pan Valley with a mesmerizing, electronic burble before discharging its pent-up tension and energy in a violent, volcanic blast over which Plant unleashes his inimitable, trademark howl; the hypnotic swirl of The Enchanter offers an ambient update of his former band’s No Quarter; and like an off-kilter reworking of Buddy Holly’s Not Fade Away, the stuttering rhythmic groove of Freedom Fries is whipped into a thunderous, metallic roar. Adding extra bite to the album is its lyrical content, which binds together a loosely-knit collection of statements about the rise and fall of empires — American imperialism, to be more specific — and the dream of a world that is united in peace rather than divided by war.

While it loses some of its initial steam as the set slips comfortably into its latter half, Mighty ReArranger, when taken in full, is undeniably Plant’s most cohesive and compelling outing since his days fronting Led Zeppelin.

March 2, 2013 Posted by | Robert Plant Mighty Rearranger | | Leave a comment

Robert Plant Band Of Joy (2010)

MI0002968470From LA Times

The natural and the supernatural have long co-mingled in the world Robert Plant inhabits, as far back as his days fronting Led Zeppelin on through his bar-raising 2007 collaboration with Alison Krauss, “Raising Sand.” So it comes as no surprise that those forces are also central to his new project, produced by Americana heavyweight Buddy Miller and recorded in Nashville.

As veteran Plant followers would expect, there’s little here in common with the bulk of what’s coming out of Music City these days. He’s far more interested in the ancient roots of country and folk music, a haunted place where broken hearts rarely heal and where restless spirits find little peace.

Miller has provided Plant with a musical framework as deep as it is wide, not far afield from that which T Bone Burnett built for “Raising Sand.” Now that Krauss has returned to her longtime band Union Station, Plant calls on singer-songwriter Patty Griffin as his duet partner for seven of the 12 tracks, and she matches his yearning, questing vocals gorgeously.

It’s elemental stuff, emotionally and musically, that fascinates Plant — whether it’s the savage electric folk-blues treatment of Los Lobos’ “Angel Dance,” the raucous Bo Diddley proto-rock approach for Texas R&B musician Barbara Lynn’s “You Can’t Buy My Love” or the achingly beautiful grand-scale balladry of Low’s “Silver Rider.” He’s also concerned more with quiet revelations than top-of-the-lungs proclamations, which may disappoint those only interested in hearing his Zeppelin roar one more time.

“Band of Joy,” which revives the name of the band Plant was in before Zeppelin erupted from the earth’s molten core, feels more rooted to the earth than the consistently transcendent “Raising Sand,” but the singer effectively keeps a foot planted in each of those worlds.

March 2, 2013 Posted by | Robert Plant Band Of Joy | | Leave a comment

Jimmy Page & Robert Plant Walking Into Clarksdale (1998)

Walking-Into-Clarksdale-coverFrom mouthshut.com

In 1968, Jimmy Page was recruiting members for a band called New Yardbirds. This was when a few people joined the band, included in whom were, bassist John Paul Jones, drummer John ’’Bonzo, the Beast’’ Bonham and vocalist Robert Plant. This band soon changed its name to Led Zeppelin and went on to change the face of music …..forever. They dominated the music scene with one chartbuster after another for 12 years and gave hits like Stairway to Heaven, Black Dog, Whole Lotta Love, Over the Hills and Far Away and the list goes on. Till date the Led Zeppelin albums record one of the highest sales every year. They are ageless, timeless and the best thing that happened to Rock. Infact their popularity gave rise a rumour that the band members had sold their soul to The Devil. In 1980, the band suddenly stopped their conquests after tragic death of drummer John Bonham.

What followed was, each of the guys taking their respective ways never to combine together again. Plant developed a succesful solo career, John Paul worked for some time with Diamanda Galas and Gibby Haynes. While Page formed The Firm with former Bad Company singer Paul Rogers before pursuing his own solo path.

Page and Plant briefly reunited a few times, including a stint in the all-star band the Honeydrippers, and appearances on stage together at Live Aid in 1985 and Atlantic’s 25th Anniversary Concert in 1988.

In 1994, fourteen year after Led Zep broke up, they officially reunited under the apt name Page and Plant and announced some tours and an album called No Quarter: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Unledded, made up mostly of unplugged versions of their earlier classics. In 1998 they released Walking into Clarksdale , the album that we’re gonna be talking about today .

I think the first and foremost thing that you should keep in mind while going through this album is that, this is not Led Zeppelin, as simple as that. No more soul – searing screams from Plant and drop – dead good looks of Page. That has been replaced by a calm restraint and a sense of reflection and survival. Its as if the guys have achieved salvation and reached the destination they have been looking for, all these years. This is a mature and tranquil effort, with vivid imagery and great lyrics, from the granddads of Rock and Roll.

Before I get too carried away with Page and Plant, let me first mention the two other guys who form a part of this band and co-write all the songs. Bassist Charlie Jones and drummer Michael Lee go a long way in supplying that fresh, young feeling to the band.

Jimmy Page mellows down a little and often assumes the role of the rythm guitarist. However, there are a few occasions when he churns out some killer licks from his axe and gives us a glimpse of the old Zeppelin days.

Robert Plant sings a few octaves lower than he usually does. But whatever he does I guess Plant will always be Plant, the very best. For a man of his age, his voice is strangely youthful in this album, yet riddled with nuances that come with time and experience.

The songs are different in character from Led Zeppelin creations yet contain the same inspiration, diversity, and power. The album opens with Shining in the Light based on solid rocking, acoustic mode with a nice keyboard layering. Guitar chordings are trademark Page bits. Its upbeat acoustic and catchy chorus might remind you of Over the Hills and Far Away. The tracks that follow like Heart in your Hand, House of Love, Sons of Freedom are usual metallic Zeppelin styled renditions with complex arrangements and at times an almost frantic string section that gives a solid progressive texture to the tunes. Upon a Golden Horse is a standout number which suddenly drops into Blue Train which is a laid back bluesy – bass kind of number interluded by some rocking modes. It’s got extremely inspired lyrics from Plant, with smooth, eloquent delivery and Page playing a beautiful rhythm behind the http://lyrics.

Most High was a big radio hit. It is a cohesive composition with the Arabic influences from Zep’s hypnotic Kashmir, complete with an exotic riff and a unique keyboard solo in the middle.
This along with Please Read the Letter are two of the most catchy tracks on the album. However, my favourite track on the album is When the World was Young. This track is reminiscent of what these guys were all about, some years back. Its a sedate and mellow piece with some great distorted guitar works which are the tasteful hardrock elements of the track. Burning Up and Walking into Clarksdale, the title track fit the metal banner in many ways. They have some traditional Zeppelin chordings (at times quite reminiscent of In Through the Out Door). When I was a Child is again a Zeppelinesque ballad with an echoey touch.

What Page and Plant must have meant by their title is the notion of revisiting a mythic past – in this case their own ecstatic dancing days. Seems like Page and Plant have made peace with ’’peace’’ at last. This is a great album with a Zeppelin like feel running throughout its length. I guess you can take out Page and Plant out of Led Zeppelin but you can never take Led Zeppelin out of Page and Plant. If you don’t already have this album go out and get it. I assure you you’d like it unless you have a personal vendetta against the band.

March 2, 2013 Posted by | Jimmy Page & Robert Plant Walking Into Clarksdale | | Leave a comment

Genesis Duke (1980)

dukeFrom sputnikmusic.com

Progressive rock was steadily becoming a thing of the past in the late 70’s/early 80’s, and many bands that had celebrated creative highs just a few years earlier were forced to adapt in order to survive the incoming trends. Genesis used to be a leading act in the genre, and were already battered pretty badly when two of their members had left within three years of each other. And yet, they came out with greater success than any other progressive group. Things really didn’t seem too promising when Tony Banks, Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford were initially left as a trio, but the more radio-friendly tendencies that had managed work their way in over the course of the band’s last few albums would be the key to their renewed popularity.

Duke is Genesis’ first proper venture into pop music, marking the start of an era that heavily divided fans. Its share of accessible, upbeat songs did not fare too well with all of their longer-serving supporters, but the hearts of the larger public were easily won. The album doesn’t deserve every bit of harsh judgement, as the band’s creative skills were anything but a spent force; within Duke’s conformity to pop are plenty of sections that match a certain reputation. It was a marriage doomed to fail, but for the time being, pop and prog lived in acceptance of each other. Genesis couldn’t have faced the 1980’s in a more fitting way.

At this point, their more adventurous writing was still coming out stronger; the album’s prog-oriented moments hold together its relatively straightforward portions. After the unsure direction of …And Then There Were Three…, the band once more played to their strengths. Rutherford really wasn’t too capable of filling the gap that Steve Hackett left, and shifted some weight back to his tested role as bassist. In turn, this allowed him and Collins to put their fine rhythm work as usual. With Banks’ keyboards going unchallenged as instrumental lead, the trio’s slightly reformed sound remained very distinct.

The blazing two-minute intro to Behind the Lines kicks things off in that recognizable fashion, though some may be annoyed when Collins comes in singing of love slipping away. The man was going through an eventual divorce around the time of recording, and Duke’s themes tend to reflect it. Regardless, his performance is passionate and does suit the music exceedingly well. The opener segues into the atmospheric intro of Duchess, which follows as the second part of the album’s title suite, originally meant as a half-hour epic in the vein of Supper’s Ready, but eventually ending up divided over six tracks.

It’s actually an effective split, making the album feel like a whole instead of two halves (Rush’s 2112 and Hemispheres come to mind here). Guide Vocal is the last of the first row, merely setting up a theme for the finale. The material is all carefully divided indeed: a six-track suite with collective credit, and two solo pennings for each member, adding up to another six. Banks continues to uphold his position as superior composer, his contributions being the strongest overall. Heathaze follows the previously resembling ideas of Afterglow and Undertow; an emotional ballad with subtler instrumentation, bringing out the best in Collins’ voice. Cul-de-Sac is a gutsier counterpart, mid-paced yet empowering, featuring some of the greatest interplay on the album.

The other two ultimately can’t live it up on their own. Collins took two compositions intended for his solo debut Face Value, released a year later. Please Don’t Ask is a forgettable love song and a lower point, but the straight-up pop of Misunderstanding offers some entertainment in its cheesiness. Although Rutherford came up with another ballad too many in Alone Tonight, his other piece Man of Our Times competes well, packing a steady rhythm and enjoyable melodies to boot.

Then there’s Turn It On Again, not as clearly a part of the Duke epic since it isn’t connected to the more obvious start and finish. Known for a regularly alternating rhythm, it also became the album’s biggest hit. The damned catchiness explains itself, but the suite’s final section tops it all off. Duke’s Travels is a classy show of musicianship and arguably the proggiest thing here, growing more and more intense until it climaxes with the earlier-introduced theme; Duke’s End finally concludes by revisiting the record’s intro.

Opinions have always differed when it comes to final worthwhile Genesis release. Many progressive purists already find anything without the presence of Gabriel and/or Hackett unworthy of any claim, and the surviving formation didn’t build much of a better case for them. Duke however deserves plenty of credit, going far beyond blatant pop appeal. Despite the inclusion of a few average songs, Banks, Collins and Rutherford were still firmly rooted in established trademarks, delivering their first and finest work of the 1980’s; it has every right to be called the last truly great Genesis album.

March 2, 2013 Posted by | Genesis Duke | | Leave a comment