Highlights: Little Maggie, Rainbow, Turn It Up, Up On The Hollow Hill (Understanding Arthur)
I’ve never really cared for Robert Plant’s solo albums. Sometimes, with someone, you just have to start at the right place. I failed miserably. Shaken ’n’ Stirred (1985 spared no one), unscrupulously attached to my copy of Led Zeppelin’s IV, was abysmal. Ever since, I’ve measured all bad records against that album and never cared to check out the rest of Plant’s solo career.
And why would I? He wrote mediocre (pretentious at best) lyrics for Led Zeppelin and was (more often than not) a rather obnoxious singer. It took the highly acclaimed collaboration with Alison Krauss to change my mind. But change my mind it did. The songs were smart, tasteful, well-executed.
Plant’s 2014 album, Lullaby And …The Ceaseless Roar is yet another revelation. The traditional, banjo-driven opener “Little Maggie” could have been on Raising Sand. The arrangements are fantastic. Even when a song seems a bit weedy initially (like the Eastern-flavoured “Embrace Another Fall”), it will soon reveal its charms, either instrumentally or vocally (the passionate female singing on the mentioned track is one of this album’s high points). He does upbeat folk (“Poor Howard”), he does rock with a good punch (“Turn It Up”), he does affecting romantic ballads (“A Stolen Kiss”).
However, I would trade it all for the single “Rainbow”. Now that is something like a song of the year. From its inspired, cathartic melody to Plant’s subtle singing – this is a classic on a par with anything he has ever done. And, like this album itself, something not to be missed. This is the sound of taste and experience.