Robert Plant iTunes Tracks Robert Plant Official Website

Robert Plant

The iconic frontman of immense stature and quality, this emotive singer was the heart and soul of legendary heavy-rock blues outfit LED ZEPPELIN, during a dozen years (between 1968 and 1980) which saw nine superb albums from their ground-breaking eponymous set in early ’69 to their `In Through The Out Door’ swansong towards the end of ’79; sadly it was the alcohol-related death of drummer John Bonham that brought their curtain down for good. But as always in popular music, the show wasn’t quite over, as ‘Zeppelin in all its post-split permutable alumnus (PLANT solo, The HONEYDRIPPERS, (Jimmy) PAGE & PLANT, etc.) proved hard to shake off.
Born 20th August 1948, West Bromwich in Staffordshire, England, C.B.S.-signed recording act and also singer with The Listen (45s very rare), ROBERT PLANT was plucked from Band Of Joy with Bonham, but was actually the second choice for ex-New YARDBIRDS axeman JIMMY PAGE when it came to picking an enigmatic frontman – he’d first asked under contract, solo-star-to-be TERRY REID. So the mesmerising and unforgettable LED ZEPPELIN were borne, and a plethora of No.1 albums (featuring classics such as `Whole Lotta Love’, `Stairway To Heaven’ and `Kashmir’) would stretch the swaggering hipster PLANT (and Co) beyond the realms of rock gods.
Re-launching his illustrious career with the release in 1982 of his debut solo album, PICTURES AT ELEVEN {*7}, Robert’s toned-down vocal excursions were apparent on a couple of romantic cues like `Moonlight In Samosa’ and `Like I’ve Never Been Gone’ (for many recalling the last days of ‘Zepp channelling `All My Loving’ or `I’m Gonna Crawl’). The beefier fodder came courtesy of US Top 50 hit `Burning Down One Side’, 80s-styled `Pledge Pin’ (a minor US hit) and the funky `Worse Than Detroit’, boosted no doubt by guitarist/collaborator Robbie Blunt, keys man Jezz Woodroffe, bassist Paul Martinez and drummers COZY POWELL and PHIL COLLINS.
With Cozy substituted by former LITTLE FEAT sticksman Richie Hayward (auxiliary Bob Mayo was also added), PLANT lost no time in producing his sophomore disc THE PRINCIPLE OF MOMENTS (1983) {*7}, his introductory platter for Atlantic offshoot imprint Es Paranza. Top 10 in both Britain and America, the set was enhanced by compelling transatlantic Top 20 smash `Big Log’ (very `Parisienne Walkways’), the equally schmaltzy and smooth US Top 40 breaker `In The Mood’ and `Thru’ With The Two Step’ (better served live and expanded!); for those still saluting hard-rock there was `Wreckless Love’ and `Messin’ With The Mekon’.
Keeping a foot in the past (or maybe two), Robert and Jimmy subsequently reunited in brassy R&B/nostalgia-fuelled supergroup The HONEYDRIPPERS alongside JEFF BECK, CHIC’s Nile Rodgers, etc.; not an endearing enterprise for his Brit-based fanclub, the self-indulgent side-project nevertheless unearthed two major US-only hits `Sea Of Love’ (an old Phil Phillips & The Twilights cut), mini-album VOLUME ONE (1984) {*4} and `Rockin’ At Midnight’. This diversion was immediately and thankfully laid to rest.
Although another step out of his comfort zone, but much more worthy of attention, was PLANT’s brave new solo offering, the synth-friendly SHAKEN ‘N’ STIRRED (1985) {*5}, another ill-advised venture of typically-80s fodder that might’ve been better served up to the likes of Howard Jones or Nik Kershaw; US hit `Little By Little’ was er… little consolation.
A drastic change of direction (and band members) was called for on his fourth solo set NOW AND ZEN (1988) {*7}, a retro-conscious stab in part at recreating the feel of halcyon Zepp, with JIMMY PAGE even playing his part on US Top 30 hit `Tall Cool One’ – one can even hear sample echoes of `Whole Lotta Love’ and `Rock And Roll’. Keyboard player and subsequent stalwart Phil Johnstone was now behind RP on several cues (guitarist Doug Boyle augmented on one), while the rebellious Robert rocked on `Helen Of Troy’ and the ballad `Ship Of Fools’; even airbrushed UK Top 40 opener `Heaven Knows’ stood the test.
Taking the classic rock theme further, MANIC NIRVANA (1990) {*6}, the singer maintaining his experimental spirit throughout, dabbling with everything from hip hop rhythms to metallic blues. Augmented by Johnstone, Boyle and the rhythm of Chris Blackwell and new-boy Charlie Jones, the cross-Atlantic Top 20 set shimmied and shook its way through hard-AC/DC-styled rock `Hurting Kind (I’ve Got My Eyes On You)’ (a minor hit), HENDRIX-esque blues `S S S & Q’, a full-blown burst of ‘Zepp-ish `Nirvana’ and campy cover of `Your Ma Said You Cried In Your Sleep Last Night’.
Slightly better in composition and quality was 1993’s FATE OF NATIONS {*6}, the likes of comeback hit `29 Palms’, a delicate cover of TIM HARDIN’s `If I Were A Carpenter’ and raucous Eastern-fused `Calling To You’, seeing PLANT in wistfully reflective, folky mood. That same Middle Eastern rhythm was utilised on the singer’s much-lauded attempts to recreate the LED ZEPPELIN of old by way of two subsequent PAGE & PLANT sets `No Quarter –
Unledded’ (1994) and the equally fruitful and bombastic transatlantic Top 10’er `Walking Into Clarksdale’ (1998). It was indeed a great time to recreate the in-vogue LZ.
When PLANT finally re-emerged with DREAMLAND (2002) {*7}, his first studio set in nine years, critics were fairly unanimous in piling on the plaudits. Never mind that there were only a handful of original tunes in `Last Time I Saw Her’, `Red Dress’, `Win My Train Fare Home (If I Ever Get Lucky)’ and a re-vamp of BUKKA WHITE’s `Funny In My Mind (I Believe I’m Fixin’ To Die)’ (sharing writing credits with band alumni Justin Adams, John Baggott, Clive Deamer, Charlie Jones and Porl Thompson), the choice of Stateside re-takes was as peerless as the quality of the interpretations. In the same way that he brought out the pathos in the aforementioned `If I Were A Carpenter’, the singer’s ability to tap into the root emotions and psychological strata of relatively unsung classics like BOB DYLAN’s `One More Cup Of Coffee’ and The YOUNGBLOOD’s brooding `Darkness, Darkness’, again demonstrated why he was still perhaps the most accomplished interpreter in rock; other covers comprised BONNIE DOBSON’s `Morning Dew’ (made famous by TIM ROSE), TIM BUCKLEY’s `Song To The Siren’, Billy Roberts’ `Hey Joe’ and Skip Spence’s `Skip Spence’.
Double anthology SIXTY SIX TO TIMBUKTU (2003) {*8}, only added further weight to that theory, gathering together startling, long forgotten covers from his pre-Zep days as well as a comprehensive overview of his solo career in all its freewheeling glory.
PLANT was next out of the blocks on the solo front, releasing MIGHTY REARRANGER (2005) {*7} to universal acclaim and a UK Top 5 position (US Top 30). Over a set of a dozen straight originals, the ageing but charismatic lung-welder marshalled a band – The Strange Sensation – which drew on LED ZEPPELIN’s uber-dynamism without sounding cliched, rooting and shaping PLANT’s polyglottal wanderings, and directing his lemon-dripping blooze back to their African source. Thompson and Jones had now made way for auxiliary strummers Skin Tyson and Billy Fuller, rock and roll was ‘live ‘n kickin’ thru’ `Shine It All Around’ (a minor hit), `Takamba’, `All The King’s Horses’ and RAY CHARLES tribute finale `Brother Ray’.
Never one to shirk a musical challenge and with an understanding of bluegrass and country, PLANT duly teamed up with contemporary singer/fiddler ALISON KRAUSS (with producer T-Bone Burnette on hand) for timeless traditional covers set RAISING SAND (2007) {*7}. Inviting award after award (including a Grammy), the many highlights were harmony-fuelled Grand Ol’ Opry nuggets such as `Rich Woman’, TOWNES VAN ZANDT’s `Nothin’’, Mel Tillis’ `Stick With Me Baby’ and The EVERLY BROTHERS’ rockabilly cut `Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)’; genre-busters `Trampled Rose’ (penned by TOM WAITS and his misses Kathleen Brennan) and the excellent “…Clarksdale” composition `Please Read The Letter’ fast became the singer’s most effective numbers for some time. It must be said too, that KRAUSS found belated commercial success for all her previous hard graft over the years.
Reincarnating his old band name from the 60s might’ve proved a tad confusing at first, but BAND OF JOY (2010) {*8} was the bees knees for anyone who’d followed PLANT in all his musical guises over the past five decades. Co-produced by Buddy Miller who deserved credit for bringing in rootsy harmonist Patty Griffin, the set excelled on such cherry-picked delicate delights as `House Of Cards’ (from the vaults of RICHARD & LINDA THOMPSON), `Monkey’ (a lo-fi nugget with also `Silver Rider’ from band LOW) and the folk-vibe-friendly `Angel Dance’ (better known to fans of LOS LOBOS). Inventive in its interpretations and rootsy throughout whether procuring songs from the folk, bluegrass or country fields (example VAN ZANDT’s `Harm’s Swift Way’, which encompassed all three genres), the dextrous PLANT was again digging up all the De’il’s best tunes and making them his own.
Returning from the Americas to the English/Welsh borders with Grammys in tow, mercurial and mystical singer ROBERT PLANT shifted gear once again, this time adding the Anglo-Moroccan folk-rock touches of back-up band the Sensational Space Shifters (mainly Justin Adams, John Baggott, Liam Tyson, Billy Fuller and Dave Smith) on tenth studio set, LULLABY AND… THE CEASELESS ROAR (2014) {*8}. Raising the sands of time through trippy travels lost in American blues and psych, the tribal spirit of “Zep” was never far from dustbowl-rock tracks such as `Pocketful Of Golden’, `Embrace Another Fall’ and `Up On The Hollow Hill (Understanding Arthur)’, while the traditional `Little Maggie’ matched the man’s rustic charm.
2017’s CARRY FIRE {*8} continued RP’s work with the aforesaid SSS, and with this Top 3 (US Top 20) set, the former ‘Zeppelin star was still regarded as the most prominent and profound of acoustic blues artists. Evoking mystical mountain motifs, together with his usual myriad of Middle Eastern murmurs, the rambling ROBERT PLANT was at his most powerful and trippy on `The May Queen’, `New World…’ and the title track, whilst he stepped back in time to re-vamp Ersel Hickey’s timeless `Bluebirds Over The Mountain’.
© MC Strong 1994-GRD rev-up MCS Dec2011-Oct2017

Share this Project

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.