Being Robert Plant must be hard work. He turns down £200 million to reform Led Zeppelin for a full tour to embark on a solo career which, to all intents and purposes, does little to fill the gaping void in the hearts of so many whose dying wish is to hear him howl his way through ‘Ramble On’ at Wembley.
Plant is far too canny to risk his integrity by jumping on the reunion bandwagon, but in refusing to tow the line, he places himself firmly in musical limbo with this latest offering.
‘Band of Joy’ is a slow burner, only picking up the pace five tracks in with ‘You Can’t Buy My Love’ whose riff, in case you were wondering, DOES sound excruciatingly like a Beatles one.
As country music goes, the dainty lap steel meanderings of ‘The Only Sound That Matters’ is passable, and ‘Monkey’, a dark, rumbling duet with Patty Griffin, could easily be the soundtrack to the latest populist vampire flick.
Aside from that, there’s little to shout about here. The album spans almost a complete spectrum of American roots music; so much so that it’s the sort of record you might find stuffed into a compilations plinth in your local record store (An Idiot’s Guide to Pedestrian, Re-hashed Americana, perhaps) – there’s country, crooner, bluegrass, gospel…the entire compendium.
Foolish as it would be to consider this record in the context of Plant’s work with Led Zep, single ‘Angel Dance’ does contain a distinct nod towards the mystical, eastern vibe which characterized the band’s eponymous fourth album, making it instantly recognizable as Plant’s work.
Many will see this as a worthy homage to a bygone era. But that’s the problem: Robert Plant is no longer and never will be the zeitgeist.
His reasons for not reforming Led Zeppelin (not wanting to “tour like a bunch of bored old men following the Rolling Stones around”) may be admirable enough in their own right, but the crux of the matter is that, with the possible exception of Seasick Steve, no-one wants to hear blues rock/gospel in its purest form any more. Oh no. We want Moby to come along, bend it over and stick a synthesizer so far up its arse that it vomits the ghost of Muddy Waters. That’s what we want. Spread ‘em.
Out on 13th September
Robert Plant’s European dates:
18th October – Usher Hall, Edinburgh – Buy Tickets
20th October – The Sage, Gateshead
21st October – The Olympia, Liverpool – Buy Tickets
26th October – St David’s Hall, Cardiff
27th October – Symphony Hall, Birmingham
31st October – Palace Theatre, Manchester
1st November – Olympia, Dublin
2nd November – Waterfront Hall, Belfast