Monday, March 16, 2009

Robert Plant 3: The Honeydrippers and Shaken ‘N Stirred

Zep-heads still hoping for some kind of reunion were very excited with the news of a band fronted by Robert Plant called the Honeydrippers. The anticipation was tempered when the project actually appeared in stores. An EP in all senses of the term, Volume One was a complete nostalgia trip, featuring Plant singing five ‘50s R&B songs produced by label head Ahmet Ertegun with the help of Jimmy Page (on two songs), Jeff Beck (on two others), Paul Shaffer and Nile Rodgers. “Rockin’ At Midnight” got picked up by just about every radio station, while “Sea Of Love” was a huge hit on the lighter ones, complete with a strange but slightly amusing video in which the teenage Carmen Plant cavorted about a Greek resort while her dad lip-synched the tune next to a shirt on a hanger.
The other three tracks were just as enjoyable; “I Get A Thrill” and “I Got A Woman” are more upbeat boogie, and “Young Boy Blues” loads on the syrup. At barely eighteen minutes, it whetted appetites for a full-length album, or at least a Volume Two, but nothing ever materialized.

The Honeydrippers hits were still getting airplay when Shaken ‘N Stirred arrived the following spring. Although “Little By Little” was a decent taster, with this album Plant unfortunately decided to de-emphasize not only guitars but songs with actual choruses, resulting in a horribly inaccessible listen. Too many song titles are onomatopoetic, and while “Easily Lead” was said to be evocative of his old band, it wasn’t. A title like “Too Loud” is all too apt, particularly for an Art of Noise homage with a near-rap delivery. Outside of the slightly catchy “Pink And Black”, the only saving grace on this noisy, cluttered album was the majestic “Sixes And Sevens”, which sounded great at two in the morning on your FM radio. (Another difference was the drummer. Phil Collins being just a tad busy in 1985, Robert brought in Richie Hayward, formerly of Little Feat, to play rhythms and sounds completely opposite to what had thus far paid his rent.)
He took the album on tour, complete with a horn section for a Honeydrippers encore, but most of his efforts were overshadowed by the full-fledged Zeppelin reunion at Live Aid that summer. A further attempt to push the album was made with Little By Little—Collector’s Edition, no more collectable than a 12-inch single with an extended remix of the title track (which later appeared on the remastered CD), live versions of “Easily Lead” and “Rockin’ At Midnight” (which didn’t), and the album version of “Sixes And Sevens”.
After a good start, Robert Plant seemed to have gotten stuck. He would either have to embrace his past, or find some way to stay marketable on his own if anyone was going to care.

The Honeydrippers Volume One (1984)—4
2007 remastered CD: same as 1984, plus 1 extra track
Robert Plant Shaken ‘N Stirred (1985)—2
2007 remastered CD: same as 1985, plus 1 extra track

No comments:

Post a Comment