Robert Plant is as much an enigma as he is a public figure. His music operates on the same wavelength in that you never know what type of album he will do next. In fact, the only two of his records that really bear any similarities are 1988’s Now and Zen and 1990’s Manic Nirvana, both of which found him mining the LED ZEPPELIN goldmine for all it was worth, much to longtime fans’ (this one included) delight. Never one to coast or rest on his laurels he then released Fate of Nations, an album that was as different as night and day from anything he’d done previously. And therein lies the greatness of the Tall Cool One. Admittedly I had lost touch with whatever endeavors he had been working on until 2007 when the landmark Raising Sand (featuring songstress Alison Krauss) landed in my lap. Once I finished that I made a vow to never miss anything Mr. Plant gave us ever again.
And it is with this mindset that I went into brand new record Lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar, out now on Nonesuch/Warner Bros. Now this will not be a track-by-track review as is my standard fare, because quite frankly this is to be enjoyed as a whole. More than a conventional album Lullaby takes the listener on a journey of the mind, body, and soul. Initial words used to describe these songs were “entrancing,” “atmospheric,” “folk-laden”…you get the idea. But with each new listen a fresh perspective is gained. When I hear “Little Maggie” (an old STANLEY BROTHERS tune) and “Rainbow” now, three days later, what I get from them is completely different than from the first spin. And a song like my dear friend Jackie’s favorite “A Stolen Kiss” is a gentle reminder that sometimes the best way to make a statement is to simply be understated.
Other notable tracks include “Somebody There” with the closest thing to a sing-along chorus and “Pocketful of Golden” once again revisiting that Middle Eastern sound Plant has become so fond of. On this, his first album with his band THE SENSATIONAL SPACE SHIFTERS he sounds like a man completely unfettered by any musical constraints. The songs just go where the wind takes them, if that makes any sense. There are also stark contrasts among the compositions. On a song like “House of Love” there is a feeling of wistfulness, yet on “Poor Howard” (derived from an old LEAD BELLY song “Po’ Howard”) I can envision a bluegrass jug band playing a backyard hoedown somewhere in the mountains, everyone laughing and dancing the afternoon away.
In short, Robert Plant has struck absolute gold with Lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar. In an age of short attention spans and SHUFFLE buttons it’s a welcome change to see an artist release something that demands we take that journey from start to finish and allows us to experience the whole range of sights, sounds, and emotions as we listen.
STANDOUT TRACKS: ALL OF THEM