Around Our Town...Music to My Ears
09/01/2005 - Throughout the 70's and 80's Robert Plant presided, godlike, over high school parking lots across America. He could also be found in suburban basements, garages, darkened backseats of muscle cars, and even a few barn parties. His band, Led Zeppelin, provided a couple of generations a soundtrack for their coming of age rituals. Oh, sure, Pink Floyd was there, too, along with the likes of the Rolling Stones, Blue Oyster Cult, Black Sabbath, and a host of other bands. But Led Zeppelin was it. I was a sophomore when I heard the dreadful news of John Bonham's untimely death and the subsequent demise of the band. I remember where I was, but I don't imagine you care. I remember also listening to Robert Plant's first solo album, "Pictures At Eleven," and being pleasantly surprised. It wasn't Zeppelin, but it was really, really great. Since then, I've appreciated what he's accomplished, and like the army of thirty, forty, and fifty-somethings who feel the same way about Led Zeppelin as I do, have pined for "the good old days." There have been a few attempts at reunion, but it was never the same without John, and everyone, including the remaining members of the band, knew it.
So it was that I picked up Plant's latest, "The Mighty Rearranger," and listened to it with a measure of predetermined resignation. I mean, the guy is 57 years old! That's right, FIFTY-SEVEN! My mother is fifty-seven years old, and, God love her, she does not rock. At all. Nada. No rocking from that woman. Anyway, I put the new Plant disc on, fully prepared to be underwhelmed. How many other aging former rock stars have embarrased themselves trying to recapture the past? Have you seen Billy Idol lately? Wow. Sadly, so many of them end up being bloated, wrinkled caricatures of themselves, sweating, panting, and trying desperately to stay in tune. Brutal? Yep. Not so with Mr. Plant. This album absolutely floored me. There are moments here that seem to capture that freaky Zeppelin vibe in a bottle once more. On the whole, the music is brilliant, tasty, and transcendent.
"Just how much do you like this disc, Tony?"
That, by the way is you speaking, because I knew you would ask. Well, I'm really glad you asked. Tell you what. I'm gonna do something I haven't done thusfar in this little column. I'm gonna go ahead and give you a quick song-by-song description of "The Mighty Rearranger." K? K. Here goes:
Track one is called "Another Tribe." This is kind of a strange little acoustic guitar-based song with some interesting percussion, and keyboards that put me somewhere in the middle of the desert in Morroco, listening to "Kashmir" and trying to find a drink of water. Track two is...stop. Wait a minute, let me catch my breath. I thought John Bonham was dead. The drums that start this one up are unbelievable. Bonzo built his reputation as a drummer by playing really loud. His sound was so huge, and the groove he laid down carried the band into the rock and roll stratosphere. The guy playing the drums on this album is named Clive, but he should be called John. Well, anyway the song starts with some killer drumming, then gets better from there. Trust me. Buy the disc on the strength of this song, "Shine It All Around". You won't believe what you're hearing. Next up, "Freedom Fries" starts off with some weird percussion, a cool guitar riff, and some very heady lyrics. It then, like the previous tune, takes heavily from the Zeppelin sound. Enough said. Song number four is very cool. A little electronica and a bass riff lead off, followed by Robert riffing a scathing commentary on those who seek fame. Check out the creepy, insipid guitar tone here. Sounds like Jimmy Page. About two minutes in, the band opens up and rocks, sounding like, guess who?
Track five is probably the highlight for me. "All the King's Horses" is a quiet, ridiculously beautiful acoustic ballad featuring Robert sounding like he did thirty years ago. His phrasing is perfect. This one sounds like the sequel to "Goin' To California." No kidding, this song is incredible. The next song, "The Enchanter" is another romp through lands traversed by Led Zeppelin and no one else. The guitarists in this band have done their homework. The solo in this song will leave your jaw hanging open. Track seven is...uh oh. My wife says I'd better come to bed, or else. Oh, well. I guess if you're not convinced to go out and pick this one up by now, you're not gonna be. I should probably mention one more thing before I go see the sandman. This disc isn't merely a trip back in time. The band sounds fresher than anything else out there right now, and Robert Plant has proved one can age extremely well. Night-Night.