Picking up where 2014’s Lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar left off, Robert Plant and his band THE SENSATIONAL SPACE SHIFTERS return with Carry Fire (out now on Nonesuch/Warner Bros.), an album that is every bit the fitting follow-up to its predecessor. Nay, it is more than that. This is a companion piece, and quite frankly if they’d been released together I would have loved it every bit as much. Once again there are Middle Eastern and Celtic influences, folk-laden numbers, and songs that will put you in a musical trance while you are transported elsewhere, mentally and physically. Plant also handled production duties, and he gives the whole thing a very warm vibe.
As with Lullaby, a track-by-track review simply won’t do this work justice. And much like that record, Carry Fire is meant to wash over you from start to finish as you absorb the feel, texture, and atmosphere of these songs. As you get further and further in I can only imagine the pictures your mind will paint. Mine were pretty amazing, and what’s great is that with each subsequent spin I start with a blank canvas and what ends up on it is never the same twice. A song like “The May Queen” reminded me of autumn nights in friends’ backyards with a roaring fire, while “Season’s Song” called to mind images of love and light I’ve known throughout my life.
At the same time, Plant also tackles world issues, something he has never shied away from. “Carving Up the World Again…A Wall and Not a Fence” is one of the album’s most powerful and resonating tracks, musically and lyrically, as it looks at the world post-”Brexit” and in the midst of a Trump presidency. And later on comes “Bones of Saints,” a catchy yet chilling tale that speaks of impending war. And yet, right alongside tunes like these resides love song “Dance With You Tonight,” whose understated beauty makes it a standout track on an album full of them.
Another highlight is the rearrangement of old rockabilly tune “Bluebirds Over the Mountain” that gets a bit of an electronic twist and also features a fantastic duet between Mr. Plant and THE PRETENDERS’ Chrissie Hynde, reminding us once again just how amazing it is when he sings with others. The title track is also love-fueled, and those Middle Eastern Sounds blend with some Flamenco-style guitar yielding wondrous results. Singer and band work in perfect harmony on this song, as well as all the others, and once again the arrangement is flawless.
Carry Fire is a magnificent album, and a perfect way to continue the wonderful, mystical, magical journey that started with the last record. Robert Plant is an icon who is in a place where he can write about and sing about whatever he wants, and his second outing with THE SENSATIONAL SPACE SHIFTERS is proof positive that lightning does indeed strike twice. This is one of THE best albums of 2017, make no mistake about it. And I guarantee that if you press PLAY once, you’ll then be pressing REPEAT when the record finishes. Because you will want to experience this journey over and over again. And that truly is the mark of great music, isn’t it?
STANDOUT TRACKS: ALL OF THEM