Robert Plant: Dreamland

Robert Plant: Dreamland

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Album: Dreamland
Label: Universal
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Album: Dreamland
Label: Universal

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At their '70s height, the members of Led Zeppelin developed the remote, radiant stature of gods, thanks to their press aversion and cultivated air of mystique. That divine light began to dim in the mid-'80s, right around the time Robert Plant and Jimmy Page began popping up on MTV regularly, trickling their talents through unwieldy supergroup projects like The Firm and The Honeydrippers, or their relatively tame solo work. ("Big Log" and "Little By Little" were pleasant, but they'll hardly inspire young rockers to climb mountains.) Plant's current solo release, Dreamland, shows him settling into his role as a wizened elder, offering up covers of "Hey Joe" and Bob Dylan's "One More Cup Of Coffee" as though he were some long-forgotten bluesman working the club circuit. But Dreamland's lack of ambition doesn't translate into irrelevancy; though the album leans heavy on the covers—even the publishing notes on two of the three originals credit the old R&B songs he ripped off—Plant makes some telling choices. Most striking is "Song To The Siren," an ethereal Tim Buckley ballad that drifts into the same musical territory as Buckley's son, Jeff. The younger Buckley frequently drew comparisons to Plant during his lifetime, and Plant's intense, almost entranced performance pays back the homage. Plant also adds topspin to his versions of The Youngbloods' incantatory "Darkness, Darkness" and Skip Spence's mellow psychedelic pop ballad "Skip's Song," which show a surprising affinity for the work of his contemporaries—musicians whom Led Zeppelin would have steamrolled had they ever shared the stage. Dreamland's highlight is "Red Dress," written by Plant and his band with no overt borrowing. Over five and a half minutes of minimalist roadhouse riffing, Plant growls and salivates over "the pretty little girl with the red dress on," returning once again to the self-possessed horndog persona which distinguished his Led Zeppelin days, and which still marks the closest he ever gets to humor.

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