Yes, the Golden God is back...in style.
Robert Plant never really disappeared off the radar. He may not be packing stadia or attracting hundreds of thousands of fans in the summer festival circuit, but he is as relevant today as he was back when Led Zeppelin were the shit.
His post-Zeppelin albums in the '80s only managed to draw some attention to them mainly for his reputation, rather than the music itself - even though they had some memorable moments. When his one-time creative partner Jimmy Page was lending his chops to Mr. David Coverdale in an ill-fated project, Plant was keeping a low profile. This went on until he re-united with Page to form Page & Plant, to the dismay of John Paul Jones.
It was one of the most exciting moments of my teenage years seeing two rock gods on stage in Istanbul...and what a show it was. The power cut one hour before the show forced the support band, the excellent Nekropsi, to play their show with torchlights on their heads. But, no...he wouldn't sing "Stairway to Heaven".
When that project fell through, he embarked on another journey - again on his own. He now had a backing band: The Strange Sensation - a group of seasoned session players, all unknown. The two albums he recorded with the Sensation were...well...sensational. "Dreamland" and "Mighty Rearranger" are simply magnificent records. Plant's voice never sounded better. Despite the loose way they tried to look, there was a sense of meticulous detail to their work. "Darkness Darkness" and "Hey Joe" from the first album, and the title track from the second album are stand-outs.
Now we have another album - a duet album, actually: "Raising Sand". Alison Krauss is his partner, while T Bone Burnett is the producer - he also plays in some of the songs. Krauss and Burnett were both featured in the Coen Brothers' 2000 movie "O Brother, Where Art Thou?". Here the tone is similar to the film, but the atmosphere lends itself more to Plant's two previous albums. The songs feel like what "Dreamland" or "Mighty Rearranger" might have sounded like had they been recorded acoustically.
It is a great album and that is all thanks to the incredible chemistry between Plant and Krauss. In fact, Plant seems to be taking a more supporting role to the angelic voice of Krauss. She is exceptional in "Trampled Rose".
It is as far removed from Led Zeppelin as you can get, despite the acoustic tone. It ain't "III", nor does it try to be. Yes, Plant was right. Zeppelin reunion is not what we need, we need him to spend his energy and time to projects like this. I mean, can they actually pull off another "IV", or recapture what they did back in the '70s? No, unfortunately they can't. But, we have "Raising Sand" - an excellent album. A definite contender for the album of the year.
The Golden God is back...