Album: Robert Plant

Sixty Six to Timbuktu, Mercury

Friday 31 October 2003 01:00

Robert Plant has always retained a wider musical frame of reference than is perhaps suggested by his work with Led Zeppelin, where stadium-filling rock histrionics were the order of the day. Freed of such duties by the death of John Bonham, he was able to pursue these more diverse paths wherever they led him - to the courtly elegance of Tim Buckley's "Song to the Siren", the retro-R&B balladry of The Honeydrippers' "Sea of Love", the Arabic-tinged drone-rock of "Win My Train Fare Home" and, less happily, to a fair dollop of Eighties techno-rock stodge like "Upside Down". But as this two-CD compilation of solo recordings and rarities demonstrates, his pre-Zeppelin period was also marked by a questing diversity, most impressively captured on the blue-eyed soul of "You'd Better Run", a Young Rascals cover released in 1966 by his band Listen, and on a couple of subsequent hippy covers ("Hey Joe" and "For What It's Worth") recorded with The Band of Joy. Not all Plant's covers are that good - his "Darkness, Darkness" is, in its own way, as mannered as any of Bryan Ferry's covers - but the later material is marked by the assurance with which he draws together itchy modern beats, world-music flavours and folk, rock and blues elements as the backdrop for his distinctive vocals.

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