Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Robert Plant Releases "Rainbow" from lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar

Robert Plant has shared the first taste of his forthcoming album lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar.
A departure from the folk-rock influences of his last album, 2010’s Band of Joy, “Rainbow” puts the former Led Zeppelin frontman’s smooth vocals against a building, percussive pulse. In a recent press release, Plant even described the new sound as “very crunchy and gritty website unblocked, very West African and very Massive Attack-y.” And whatever “Massive Attack-y” means, it seems the 11-track effort has caught Plant in a state of celebration. Nine of the 11 tracks were written by Plant with his new band The Sensational Space Shifters.
“The whole impetus of my life as a singer has to be driven by a good brotherhood,” Plant said. “I am very lucky to work with The Sensational Space Shifters. They come from exciting areas of contemporary music… and now I’m able to express my feelings through melody, power and trance; together in a kaleidoscope of sound, colour and friendship.”
lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar will be released Sept. 9 via Nonesuch/Warner Bros. Preorders are also available at Plant’s website and come with an instant download of “Rainbow,” which you can listen to above unblocked school. You can catch Plant and his Sensational Shape Shifters on tour this fall.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Robert Plant brings retooled Zep hits to Molson Amphitheatre

It's been nearly eight years since Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page and singer Robert Plant performed together. And while Page has spent a large chunk of the interim restoring the iconic band's back catalogue, Plant continues to press forward on a seemingly endless musical adventure.

Such was the case Tuesday evening at Toronto's Molson Canadian Amphitheatre where Plant and his eclectic supporting cast the Sensational Space Shifters thrilled a sizable but far from capacity crowd for 100 minutes. The biggest difference this time around was how liberally Plant sprinkled the set with reworked, retooled Led Zeppelin classics.

Plant, 67, got things started off perfectly with Trampled Under Foot, the groovy boogie number from Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti. Happy to give fans what they wanted, the singer belted out the tune before offering up Turn It Up from his latest album Lullaby and...The Ceaseless Roar.

It was obvious though the ups and downs depended on where Plant was in the set. As interesting as new, Celtic-tinged tunes such as Little Maggie came off they didn't register as strongly with fans judging by how many kept sitting. This changed quickly whenever Plant unearthed gems such as the delectable foot-stomper Black Country Woman with the singer on harmonica or the swampy, re-imagined Black Dog.

Perhaps the greatest asset was his band, one that easily lived up to its name. A handful of times throughout, guitarists Justin Adams and Liam “Skin” Tyson followed Plant's blueprint perfectly, morphing from rustic Mississippi blues to rock to folk in the span of a few fleeting moments. This was particularly true on No Place to Go which veered seamlessly into a tasty portion of Dazed And Confused.

Another highlight was The Rain Song which slowed things down roughly halfway into the show. Here Plant, Tyson and keyboardist John Baggott created some magic that both Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones would probably deem worthy.

While professing his love of Toronto, Plant also gave a shout out to Jack White who Plant said was “giving some people some s—” and dedicated The Lemon Song to him. The reference regarded the verbal tussle White had earlier in the week with The Black Keys' Pat Carney.

Near the homestretch Plant and the seasoned sextet weaved through a medley of I Just Want to Make Love to You, Whole Lotta Love and Who Do You Love? The mash-up was loved by all as Plant waved his hands in the air, which the crowd quickly mimicked. This paled however to the encore which melded Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down with In My Time of Dying.

With the end in sight on this night, Plant put a pretty bow on the proceedings with Rock and Roll, the warhorse that had some Cajun flair to it courtesy of multi-instrumentalist Juldeh Camara.

Opening for Plant was Seattle garage rock group The Sonics. While dressed like they just left their insurance office, the '60s group brought to mind The Stooges and MC5 with their powerful, punchy brand of rock.

Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters at the Fillmore Auditorium, Denver

Robert Plant's new album, Lullaby and... The Ceaseless Roar (Nonesuch, 2014), is an atmospheric affair; music suitable for horseback riding at twilight in misty woods while on the lookout for the Headless Horseman. Perhaps the Led Zeppelin tune most closely matching the feel for many of the songs on the new album is "No Quarter." So it was entirely appropriate that Plant and his Sensational Space Shifters began their concert Saturday night with... "No Quarter." Plant and his band went on to perform five or six (or maybe even seven) more Zeppelin tunes, depending on how you count. More on that later. Most of the rest of the program was drawn from the new album.

Plant formed the Sensational Space Shifters in 2013 after his extended dalliances with Alison Krauss and, later, Patty Griffin whom he married. After about five or six years of harmonizing, he decided to get back to his roots and dig seriously into the blues. The Sensational Space Shifters were actually a reconstituted Strange Sensation, the band he put together for Mighty Rearranger (Sanctuary, 2005). The new band swapped out drummers with the old one and added an African multi-instrumentalist, Juldeh Camara, to further develop a world beat sound to augment the ever present blues. Lacking a new album, last year's Space Shifters tour featured plenty of reimagined Zeppelin tunes interspersed with a number of tunes from Mighty Rearranger. Now with a new album, the 2014 tour swapped out the Mighty Rearranger tunes for new ones.

But, as he has for many years now, Plant reworked a number of Zeppelin chestnuts. If it's possible, Saturday night's version of "No Quarter" was even spookier than the original. In contrast, "Ramble On" had a sunny, stroll-through-the-park feel; interrupted occasionally by violent hailstorms. Actually, that sun/storm contrast was a technique that Zeppelin used with some frequency and two other examples of that were on Saturday night's bill. "What Is and What Should Never Be," which, like "Ramble On" was originally on Led Zeppelin II (Atlantic, 1969) switched back and forth from the mellow to the manic, as did "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" from Led Zeppelin I (Atlantic, 1969). The upbeat sides of these tunes were the closest Plant's current band got to the trademark Zeppelin heaviness, with the possible exception of "Whole Lotta Love."

Led Zeppelin's primary influence in the early days was the blues. Saturday night's show drew heavily from that genre. After finishing "No Place to Go," Plant credited Howlin' Wolf with writing it. However, the song also formed the basis for Zeppelin's "How Many More Times," another one from the first album, with the lyrics declaring, "How many more times you gonna treat me like you do?" So does that count as a Zeppelin cover? Another blues cover Saturday night with Zeppelin overtones was "Fixin' to Die," a Bukka White composition. This one never appeared on a Zeppelin studio album, but in concert they often threw it into the middle of "Whole Lotta Love" along with other blues classics.

Speaking of "Whole Lotta Love" and blues classics, Saturday night's rendition of that hit from the second album featured gems like "She's 19 Years Old," "I Just Want to Make Love to You," "Who Do You Love?" and the main tune's inspiration, Willie Dixon's "You Need Love."

Many of the songs from the new album had more of a folk music feel (although Plant said everything he was playing was "folk music" which, in a sense, is true). The evening's closer, "Little Maggie" was a good example. Plant explained it was a tune from the Great Smokey Mountains, but it probably really came from England. Perhaps that view could be chalked up to his English heritage, but much of the music indigenous to Appalachia can be traced back to the UK. A Zeppelin classic that fit this mold, at least sonically, was "Going to California."

Much of Ceaseless Roar has a Celtic meets Africa vibe, but the blues are ever present, of course. One of the early selections Saturday night was "Poor Howard" from the new album. It's a song the album explains is derived from "Po' Howard," a Leadbelly tune. "Turn it Up" is one of the better tracks on the new album and it also appeared early Saturday night. Plant sang about driving around America on "Charley Patton highway" a reference to an early blues pioneer. He also bemoans that, "I'm stuck inside the radio/Turn it on and let me out!" A reference to the continuing popularity of Led Zeppelin on the radio, even all these years later?

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Former Led Zeppelin Frontman Robert Plant Is Coming to the Tobin Center

Plant, mystic musicologist - FRANK MELFI

The legendary Led Zeppelin frontman brings his bluesy, brooding bacchanal to San Antonio on Thursday, March 17.

From fronting one of the most stoned-on-sex, high-on-lust rock 'n' roll bands of all time, to continuously broadening and exhibiting his knowledge and love of the roots music canon, Plant has proved to be more than a one-trick pony. His resurgence in the mainstream, if he was ever gone, was made complete when teaming up with T-Bone Burnett and Alison Krauss on 2007's Grammy-winning Raising Sand, which has since gone platinum.

In 2012, Plant began work with the Sensational Space Shifters, comprised of a motley group of session players and sidemen whose talents Plant has utilized over time (Strange Sensation), including Austin's Patty Griffin, Plant's former girlfriend. On September 8, 2014, Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters released Lullaby and ... The Ceaseless Roar, a record of primarily original tunes and a couple of re-workings of traditional songs. It was Plant's 10th solo album of his career.

Tickets for this show, which is one of only 11 on the tour, can be purchased online here, or via phone at (210) 223-8624 and in-person at the Tobin Center Box Office, located at 100 Auditorium Circle. Tickets range in price from $59.50-$175 and will go on sale Friday, January 15.

REVIEW: The voice remains the same - Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters

“I’VE passed this place so many times” says Robert Plant, admiring the giant, subtly lit broadleaf trees that encompass the grassy arena at Westonbirt Arboretum.

“Prince Charles lives around here,” he muses, before crowning a regal performance crammed with surprises with one of his former band Led Zeppelin’s most bullish songs.

“Been a long time since I rock and rolled…” hollers Plant, giving full rein to a set of lungs as familiar to fans of a certain age as his equally enduring contemporary, Roger Daltrey.

It has been a summer evening to savour as Plant, his golden (though greying) curly locks falling onto a red satin shirt, takes us through a 90-minute career spanner.

We get deep, heavy blues (Spoonful, Crawling King Snake) with appreciative acknowledgements to early inspirations such as Howling Wolf, Robert Johnson, Mississippi and Sun Studios.

There are choice cuts from recent work notably the infectious Little Maggie which he playfully describes as Appalachian folk by way of Cornwall.

And there is a raft of dramatically re-worked tunes – with African instruments often to the fore – from his ex-band which, with wilful amusement, he never refers to by name.

After the stomping, metallic funk of Trampled Under Foot, as riveting as it is unexpected, he tells us that the song is from “a previous catalogue.”

Also from a previous catalogue, Black Dog has several thousand intoning in unison “dreams of you all through my head.”

The Rain Song – cripes, I’d forgotten all about that one – is suitably mellifluous as the night-time gently descends upon the arboretum.

Meanwhile, that doyen of world music, guitarist Justin Adams can hardly disguise his joy as he cranks out those meaty Jimmy Page riffs on that corner stone of hard rock, Whole Lotta Love.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Robert Plant Slams Idea of Zeppelin Tour: 'I'm Not Part of a Jukebox'

Robert Plant performs
Robert Plant performs in London. Samir Hussein/Redferns via Getty Images
It could have been the biggest tour in the history of rock & roll, a stadium juggernaut to dwarf even recent efforts by U2, Roger Waters and the Rolling Stones. Had they agreed to a two-year trek, taken on sponsors and charged exorbitant rates for tickets and merchandise, Led Zeppelin could possibly have been the first act ever to gross $1 billion on a single tour. They spent nearly a year prepping for their reunion show at London's O2 Arena in December of 2007, but just when his bandmates, concert promoters and fans all over the world were practically salivating over the thought of the group's first tour since 1980, Robert Plant walked away from the group, and nothing was going to change his mind.
It's been nearly seven years since the show at the 02, and the topic of Zeppelin's aborted tour still rankles Plant, who has come to a pub near his North London home to talk about the group's new series of archival releases. As explains his decision to not tour with Zeppelin, he leans forward with menace, and his eyes nearly double in size. "You're going back to the same old shit," he says. "A tour would have been an absolute menagerie of vested interests and the very essence of everything that's shitty about big-time stadium rock. We were surrounded by a circus of people that would have had our souls on the fire. I'm not part of a jukebox!"
Nearly all of Plant's peers are happy to deal with such a circus considering the insane financial rewards. "Good luck to them," he sneers. "I hope they're having a real riveting and wonderful late middle age. Somehow I don't think they are." 
Needless to say, Jimmy Page has a very different take on the situation. "There's bound to be fallout if you just do one show," he says. "At the time of the 02 show we were led to believe there were going to be more. You'll have to ask Robert why he changed his mind. I don't even know if he considered it. I don't know what he thinks."
When Robert Plant walked away from the group after the O2 show, Page, John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham continued to rehearse together in England, even auditioning singers for a possible Plant-free tour. Most names have remained secret, but Steven Tyler and Alter Bridge frontman Myles Kennedy have both admitted to spending a few days playing with the group. 
"Singers were being thrown at us from here and there," says Page. "The material we were coming up with was really, really good. Obviously, other people wanted to just get us out on the road quickly. I wasn't feeling comfortable. Going out with the three members from the 02 show and another singer might have looked like trying to jam a square peg into a round hole. I wanted to see what we could come up with musically."
Tour plans were put on hold and Page, Jones and Bonham continued to hold secret rehearsal sessions through 2008. They only stopped when John Paul Jones got an offer from Dave Grohl and Josh Homme to play bass in their new supergroup Them Crooked Vultures, which he eagerly accepted. "I guess," says Page, "that was a pretty definitive statement."
Jones (who wouldn't comment for this article) made no secret about his deep disappointment with Page and Plant in the years after the break-up. He initially wasn't even invited to their reunion at 1985's Live Aid, getting phoned up only the day before and forced to play keyboards on "Stairway To Heaven" while Plant's touring bassist handled his parts. He didn't even get the courtesy of a phone call about the 1994 Page and Plant reunion, hearing about it on TV. At a press conference for the tour, Plant joked that Jones was parking cars out back. When the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, Jones, through gritted teeth, thanked his former bandmates for "finally remembering my phone number." 
Them Crooked Vultures toured throughout 2009 and 2010, and Zeppelin didn't come back together in any incarnation when the tour ended. At this point, any sort of tour — with or without Robert Plant — appears extremely unlikely. "People ask me nearly every day about a possible reunion," Jimmy Page says with a sigh. "The answer is 'no.' It's been almost seven years since the O2. There's always a possibility that they can exhume me and put me onstage in a coffin and play a tape."
That said, Plant refuses to make a Sherman-esque statement forever ruling out the possibility of him fronting Zeppelin again. "I don’t think there’s any reason for me to do that," he says. "Otherwise we’ve got nothing to be mystic about...Everything will develop as it develops. All doors are open. All phone lines are open. I don't hear from anybody. Talk is cheap...But I just think everything has to be new. Then you can incorporate history."
Does that mean he's open to the idea of recording new songs with Zeppelin? "You can't be the marriage guidance clinic here," he says, clearly irritated by this line of questioning. 
Strangely, he's among the few people who felt it was a good idea for Zeppelin to carry in without him. "They kept rehearsing after O2 and they had a singer," Plant says. "I don't know what happened. It seemed like a great idea to me."
Plant stands up to leave, but turns on his heel. "Do you know why the Eagles said they’d reunite when 'hell freezes over,' but they did it anyway and keep touring?” he asks. "It’s not because they were paid a fortune. It’s not about the money. It’s because they’re bored. I’m not bored."

Robert Plant: The World’s Roar (Cover Story Excerpt)

As 2014 comes to a close, we're honored to have the legendary Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant grace the cover of our December issue. Below, enjoy an excerpt from the article where Plant speaks to Alan Light about his new band, The Sensational Space Shifters and their latest album, Lullaby and... the Ceaseless Roar.
For a limited time, Relix will be offering a complimentary issue delivered to mailboxes across the United States. To obtain your free trial, which includes the December issue, click here.
At first glance, you don't notice him.
It’s a little hard to believe—he is, after all, one of the most recognizable, distinctive and flamboyant frontmen in rock-and-roll history. But right now, with his band of seven musicians arranged more or less in a circle on the stage of the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, N.Y., the guy in jeans and a faded gray T-shirt, with his hair tied up in a bun and his back to the empty room, just seems like one of the group.
But then, they count off the song and that voice comes out, and he doesn’t need to turn around for you to know that it’s Robert Plant. Still, he’s not delivering the keening, spine-tingling wail that filled stadiums with Led Zeppelin; it’s a more nuanced sound he’s working with as he rehearses with his band, the Sensational Space Shifters, on this September afternoon prior to the first stop on a quick, eight-show U.S. tour. And as they start to play, it’s the song that takes a minute to register—it’s “Nobody’s Fault but Mine,” the searing Blind Willie Johnson blues lament that Led Zeppelin turned into a jagged assault on the 1976 album Presence, arranged instead with a loping, back-porch rhythm and multi-part vocal harmony.
This air of uncertainty all makes some kind of sense. Plant has spent his recent years sneaking up on expectations, surprising people with his musical choices and earning a newfound, hard-earned respect that no one would have anticipated. For decades after Led Zeppelin broke up in 1980—following the death of drummer John Bonham— his solo career was of sporadic interest; the music was never subpar, but his direction often felt aimless or uncertain. When Plant joined forces with his old foil Jimmy Page in the ‘90s, merging his own interest in Arabic styles with the Zeppelin catalog and similar blues-based approaches on the MTV Unplugged project No Quarter and the Walking Into Clarksdale album, the results were both successful and inevitable letdowns. Following those projects, several Plant albums in a row failed to break the Top 20.
Then came the pivotal year of 2007, when he joined Page, John Paul Jones and Bonham’s son, Jason, for the triumphant, one-night- only Led Zeppelin reunion show at London’s O2 Arena —more than 20 million people around the world entered the ticket lottery—and also released Raising Sand, his collaboration with bluegrass colossus Alison Krauss that won five Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year. It was followed by another glorious exploration of American music, 2010’s Band of Joy, and a magnificent tour. Four years and a lot of global travel later comes his 10th solo album, lullaby and...The Ceaseless Roar, a swirling, thrilling blend of African, Middle Eastern, rock, blues and folk music that may be the most daring work he’s done since the Zeppelin days.
Seated in his spacious and homey, though not extravagant, dressing room—overlooking the local train station—a single flowing, print shirt hangs on a rod, waiting for show time. The 66-year-old Plant insists that he’s been on the same mission all along. “I think so, starting from when I was about 15,” he says. “It’s the flexing of public perception and people buying into the idea that’s fluctuated. In the beginning, there was nobody there—just an empty room, maybe three people. And in 1965, it was free to get in! And then through time, the amazing pinnacles of exchange with energy, which included absurdities and cherry bombs and social disease and penicillin immunity, and stress and some joy, and freedom and capture and prisons—all those things spin around, and we end up here, in this fancy dressing room. Not bad, all things considered.”
Plant is the rare celebrity who is actually bigger than you imagine—long legs, broad shoulders, huge head. He laughs often as he stretches out across a low sofa, sipping water and recounting his journeys and adventures. (He displayed his sense of humor on some recent television appearances, singing doo-wop into an iPad with Jimmy Fallon and jokingly handing Stephen Colbert a joint on air.) Mostly, though, he lights up when he talks about music, drawing connections, dropping very difficult-to-spell names, describing sounds and voices and rhythms from far-flung corners of the earth. His enthusiasm and sense of discovery only seem to have expanded with time.

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