The way things are looking right now regarding his musical priorities, this stands a good chance to be Robert Plant’s last proper rock’n’roll album. Take a minute to think about that. Robert Plant is one of the original, indisputable “gods of rock”. I’d even go so far as to say that on a certain level, he invented the thing! You might not agree, I’ve met people who don’t really have an appreciation of what Led Zeppelin meant to rock music, but I can’t help but feel moved as I listen to this album, defined by the same vital force and unmistakeable groove Plant brought forth into the world.
I know of a few musicians who have shaped my relationship with music, validating my feeling that immersing yourself in this process, which is both creative and contemplative, is akin to a spiritual experience. Robert Plant is one of them. The trance-like state he would enter while singing might have been induced by more than just music, especially in his youth, but that doesn’t take away the validity of the experience for me. His tremendous passion and the fierce force he could project through his voice, the stuff of legends in fact – there are 1001 anecdotes about his times with Led Zeppelin, including one about his being able to continue making himself heard, unplugged, when the power went out at one of Led Zepp’s concerts – these are things which are not gone to this day, and they’re easily discernible on “Mighty Rearranger”. There’s an enchanting quality to this album, so close to its roots and yet so fresh. Robert Plant’s voice is ever-so-slightly tired, less rapturous, wiser, gone from incandescence to a warm glow, but powerful as always.
Of course, I wouldn’t have expected anything less from this man so, odd as it might seem, that’s not the selling point of this album for me. What blew me away is the vigor of his band, the chemistry he managed to re-arrange on this project. The Strange Sensation is positively mighty – the unyielding grasp of tone they have, the bad-ass rhythm section, the thick, lush harmonies of the organs used, not to mention the guitars… this band makes me feel elated, simply put. Which band can stand up to Led Zeppelin in their glory days? Who can pound the skins like Bonham and rock that bass like John-Paul Jones? Come on, these aren’t rhetorical questions! I don’t think anyone can, but if anyone came close, it’d be The Strange Sensation, at least on some of the tracks on this album. The way the musical landscape of this album manages to fuse together the organic, pulsating musical style Robert Plant is known for with elements of XXIst Century electronic music is just mind-blowing. The effect was driven home for me by the fact that they shared a bill with Portishead and Massive Attack at the Tsunami Crisis Concert back in 2005 and, guess what, there was absolutely no anachronism there, in fact, Robert Plant’s outfit acted like such a tonic in the middle of the lineup that you’d think the other artists were the ones pushing sixty!
This album feels like taking a trip. The same excitement, the same anxiety about the unexpected and joy of finding things which stay the same no matter where you are, the same pleasant tiredness in the limbs after hours of walking, the same overloaded dizziness at the end. It’s an album you want to share with your friends over a drink and a bunch of pictures, an album you want to rock out with alone in your room with your memories and plans. If it does prove to be Robert Plant’s last excursion in the hard-rock wilds, I’d call that a wise decision on his part, cos’ it would be a damn hard thing to top this one off. But then again, I think that’s one of the riskiest things one can say about a musician of his caliber. He might just get the urge to prove you wrong in a massive way. And you know what? I’d be glad to be wrong! Enjoy!