Mystical maverick, pastoral prince, rock behemoth: Robert Plant has transcended ordinary levels of fame and regard and as such could easily rest on his tight-trousered, leonine-haired laurels. Instead he continues to record endlessly engaging material and has created here one of his best-ever solo records.
This album consolidates a love of world music with heavy rock and folk in a feverish celebration. Conjuring the traditions of the Middle East, India and Western trance with lute instrumentation from Ghana, djembe drums and Omnichords, everything coalesces into a fantastical heady mix of unparalleled warmth.
There’s a return to his Black Country roots on opener ‘Little Maggie’, a traditional song featuring bluegrass style mandolin and guitar. At first the voice isn’t recognisable. Only as it soars into its higher registers does it become characteristically Plant-like.
The single ‘Rainbow’ sounds like Tinariwen playing around an English campfire, with an elegant central vocal arabesque and hypnotic percussion. ‘Pocketful Of Golden’ is heavier of bass, an ecstatic, emotional entreaty with a repetitive, trance-fuelled chorus.
‘Embrace Another Fall’ has a muscular Malian influence with guitarist Liam Tyson doing an admirable Jimmy Page impression. The musicianship throughout is stunning, its virtuosity sweetly subtle. ‘A Stolen Kiss’ is a tender Celtic lullaby of simple piano lines and a vocal that gets increasingly dark as Plant’s voice cracks towards the end.
Much like Bowie’s most recent work there is a fragility and timeworn quality to the powerhouse voice, which is emotive and humanising. A searing, soul-searching jewel.
Words: Anna Wilson
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Listen to ‘Lullaby And… The Ceaseless Roar’ on Deezer, below…