Album: lullaby and … The Ceaseless Roar
. . .
And then there’s Robert Plant, a lion in winter who has been doing some of the best work of his life in recent years.
Of course, it took awhile to get there. After John Bonham died, Jimmy Page and Plant previewed the rest of their careers: Page compiled a series of Led Zeppelin outtakes called Coda, and was never heard from again, while Plant started a solo a career that has been — at turns — commercially successful, award-winning and experimental.
Say whatever you want to about Robert Plant, he’s continually questing for something different.
That said, outside of the songs I heard on the radio or saw on MTV, I basically skipped the first decade of his solo career, though I’m sure that Tim played me Pictures at Eleven and the Principle of Moments, and I found it amusing that he had his first top 20 single with a song called “Big Log”, as languid as it was, and found it dismaying as the tepid cover of “The Sea of Love” topped the charts while demoting his former bandmate back down to session man.
I should also point out that none of this really mattered, as Robert Plant had a goddamn lifetime pass by 1976, and probably earlier. That said, it seemed like much of his 80’s and early 1990s work was marred by the need to have contemporary sounds
So I really didn’t pay all that much attention to what Plant was doing. At least not until he reunited with Jimmy Page for No Quarter and Walking into Clarksdale, which proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Led Zeppelin was a band that needed all four of it’s geniuses and that they had made the right decision, no matter how painful it was.
That said, after the turn of the century, his solo career got ever more interesting: starting with 2002’s Dreamland, his solo albums lightened up, got more playful, and — oh yeah — the fact he’s one of the greatest singers of his or any generation didn’t hurt. And so Dreamland, Mighty-Re-Arranger and Band of Joy are all really good, Plant alternating covers and originals, rockers and folkers, exotic tones and psychedelia in a way you wish Rod Stewart would try, even though it would never occur to Stewart to work that hard.
In the middle of all of that, of course, was his duets album with bluegrasser Alison Krauss, Raising Sand, a commercial, critical and multiple Grammy-winning success that I admire more than love.
What I love are his last two records — both made with a band he’s dubbed the Sensational Space Shifters — 2014’s lullaby … and The Ceaseless Roar and 2017’s Carry Fire, both of which are utterly eclectic stews of goodness, as epitomized by a song like “Rainbow,” which combines a tabla-driven beat with echoing guitar and lovesong lyrics.
I found a lucky charm
I dressed it up with love
I crossed the Seven Seas to you
Will it be enough?
And I will be a rainbow
Oh, while your storm is gone
And I will bring the song for you
And I will carry on
Plant’s never gonna hit the high notes he utterly crushed when he was 20, but then again, neither are you, and his “oooooh-oooooooohs” on the chorus are lovely and affecting, especially when combined with the crunching beat and psychedelic guitar.
“Rainbow” live in 2018
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