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Design By Humans
Published On: Fri, Sep 19th, 2014

Robert Plant: Lullaby and . . . The Ceaseless Roar

robert plantRobert Plant
Lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar
(Nonesuch)

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A roiling mandolin/banjo-sounding mix and chunky drum machine beat lay underneath Robert Plant’s soft vocal attack on a remake of “Little Maggie.” Not that the tune really goes any place, but it’s a great opener to the ex-Led Zeppelin frontman’s 10th solo release, Lullaby and…The Ceaseless Roar.

“Rainbow” is just pure tom beat joy from drummer Billy Fuller and rangy guitar and The Edge-like atmospherics from the multi-talented Justin Adams. John Baggott’s keys bleed a slightly dangerous-sounding opening with some Dave Smith toms under a very soft sounding Plant; this is one that opens into something truly special, a love song with spiritual undertone to the lyric. Justin Adams gets very loud guitar moments here and “The Lark’s Elegy,” sung in the original tongue by guest vocalist Julie Murphy, twists things to another place.

“Turn It Up” has a noisy, industrial backing, a la Tom Waits, and “A Stolen Kiss” features Billy Fuller’s upright bass, Baggott’s simple plotting piano and an on-the-edge-to-breaking high, soft vocal from Plant. It’s a plaintive gospel-like cry of need for space and love, one of the best here. The wailing violin and Liam “Skin” Tyson banjo (and backing vocals) on “Poor Howard”  make a great country stomper and “Up On the Hollow Hill” (Understanding Arthur)” is a dangerous, single-note guitar, loud rocker. Again, Plant’s sexy whisper vocals contemplate the fragility of a man deep in love.

What I love about this album is that there are lots of truly cool sounds as well as solid songwriting. “Arbaden” (Maggie’s Baby)” ends it all, updating the middle eastern flavor with arpeggio keys into some cool bass playing with looped Juldeh Camara Fulani vocals.

Plant benefits from a nothing-to-prove ease here (as I feel he did on the Grammy-winning Raising Sand, his 2007 hit record with Alison Krauss). Nine of the eleven tunes here were written with Plant’s amazing bandmates of the past few years, the Sensational Space Shifters, while the great golden god himself produced.

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Robert Plant: Lullaby and . . . The Ceaseless Roar