Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Robert Plant 12: Lullaby And The Ceaseless Roar

Whether by design of Page or his own doing, in the midst of yet another Led Zeppelin catalog overhaul came a new Robert Plant album of mostly original material. With the unwieldy title of lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar, he and his evolving band of eclectics, now called the Sensational Space Shifters, work within that processed, “spacey” sound picture, heavy on drones and exotic acoustic instruments. Like Peter Gabriel, back when he made albums, these unique sounds combine to sound familiar. They sound like music.
It begins with, no surprise here, a new interpretation of an old folk song, in this case “Little Maggie”, in an afro-beat style. “Rainbow” starts with a similar feel, but turns into an actual song, which helps. “Pocketful Of Golden” dares to begin with “and if the sun refused to shine” and hearkens back to “In The Mood”, for a very commercial sound. With its tribal beat, lush strings and vocals in another language (Arabic? No! Welsh!), the haunting “Embrace Another Fall” conjures images of misty green landscapes. Throw in the mention of a “shire” and it could well be from the soundtrack to a Peter Jackson movie. The NPR stream compared “Turn It Up” to U2’s “Bad”, and we can’t figure out where the hell they got that idea; rather, it’s a celebration of the American South on an album that mostly avoids that. And for the first time ever, Robert sings a solo voice and piano ballad in “A Stolen Kiss”, with some subtle guitar and bass atmospherics, approaching a spiritual at some points and 21st century Bowie at others.
“Somebody There” is a conventional rock song, complete with guitar solo, and possibly the best track on the album. “Poor Howard” updates another blues song, somewhere between Appalachia and the Sahara, with a great reference to “four little kids who’ll drive me crazy”. Speaking of borrowings, “House Of Love” takes one lyric from his own song with Jimmy Page and builds it into a much more accessible song with a galloping rhythm. Between “Up On The Hollow Hill” (with the baffling subtitle “Understanding Arthur”, unless that’s the once and future king) and the closing “Little Maggie” alternate with African vocals, the album ends tensely but well prepared for another spin.
We’ve said this before, but Robert is certainly aging well, on the ears, anyway. His hushed, intimate yet inimitable delivery suggests the lullaby, but even the heavier songs don’t convey a ceaseless roar, and that’s fine. The album is a comfortable listen for fall, and one of his better efforts.

Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar (2014)—

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