Album Review: Lullaby and... The Ceaseless Roar by Robert Plant
Great, Based on 17 Critics
Paste Magazine - 93 Based on rating 9.3/10
Cinematic. Organic. Dervish. Delta. Industrial. Celtic. Tribal. Gypsy. Yearning. Thrilling. The words to describe lullaby and…The Ceaseless Roar, Robert Plant’s 10th solo album, are endless. Made with the aptly named Sensational Space Shifters, the musicians merge and converge in ways that ….
Returning to his native England after an extended sojourn in America, Robert Plant heavily reconnects with his homeland's mysticism on 2014's lullaby and... The Ceaseless Roar. Despite the shift in geography, the singer is picking up a thread he left hanging with 2010's Band of Joy. On that album, Plant blurred boundaries between several musical styles, playing covers with a group assembled by producer Buddy Miller, but here he shifts that omnivorous aesthetic to a collection of originals performed with his ever-changing band the Sensational Space Shifters.
Supporting Emmylou Harris’ Wrecking Ball performance with a set of his own material at the Barbican back in May, Daniel Lanois somewhat guilelessly revealed that Robert Plant was in the audience, inviting him to join the band on stage “if it felt right”. Plant remained rooted to his seat but his presence at this particular show does not feel insignificant. Not only does the world fusion of Wrecking Ball (produced by Lanois), still heavily rooted in songcraft and interpretation, feel like a major influence on Plant’s 10th solo album, but lullaby and…The Ceaseless Roar also feels like a similar feat of late career regeneration.
Robert Plant first found fame with a relatively successful rock act called Led Zeppelin. This new album, lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar, finds our protagonist back in sonically exploratory mode – after detours through honeyed country with Alison Krauss and off-kilter rock with the Band of Joy (the Low covers were truly inspired), he finds himself back in the realms of his uncelebrated, underloved 2005 gem Mighty ReArranger. Like that record, Plant and his merry band of mercenaries plunder all kinds of “-beat”s to superb, startling effect.
He’s been dazed and confused, told us about the big log, taken us to manic nirvana, raised sand with Alison Krauss, joined with Buddy Miller in a Band of Joy and had his lemon squeezed so many times, other rock stars can only bow down in respect. What Robert Plant hasn’t done is dwell on his Led Zeppelin past, doggedly refusing to tour with the reformed band after their one triumphant 2007 performance in the UK. His 10 solo albums without Jimmy Page have found him eagerly dipping into exotic world music and American folk and country while keeping his toes in the soulful hard rock that put him on the map.
After the comparatively straightforward Americana of his 2007 Grammy-laden Alison Krauss collaboration Raising Sand, and Band Of Joy, three years later, it was almost inevitable that Plant’s next move would see him switching gears. In his own words, this new set is “a celebratory record, powerful, gritty, African, trance meets Zep”. Of course, “Zep” could mean many things, and here the shared DNA would appear to be close to the rustic adventurousness of his erstwhile band’s third album, inspired in part by Plant’s return to the English/Welsh border.
There is a great story about Led Zeppelin's arrival in LA in December 1968. It was the moment at which they began their campaign to conquer the US, something they proceeded to achieve in remarkably short order, with perhaps more mythic swagger than any band before or since. Like so many of the subsequent stories of excess and debauchery, it involves drummer John Bonham and a hotel employee.
After half a century as a musician, most of which he spent as a primary deity in the rock pantheon, Robert Plant could have rested on his laurels. Few would have criticized him for continuing to rake in residuals and acclaim while retired in a comfortable cottage in the Elysian countryside. But instead of opting for the easy life afforded cultural icons, he has chosen what is surely one of the more difficult tasks of his long career: creating a contemporary album equal parts intimate and experimental.
Review Summary: A diverse and inventive album that defines Robert Plant's career.Even in a career that has wound down to its final stage, it’s apparent that Robert Plant simply refuses to stop dreaming. Lullaby And…The Ceaseless Roar is Plant’s tenth and possibly final album, and it is as daring of a piece as he’s ever written. He may no longer possess the shrill high notes and frenzied shrieks that characterized his earliest days with Led Zeppelin, but that by no means limits his creativity.
Among the pantheon of grizzled rock ‘n’ roll survivors, Robert Plant doesn’t enjoy the same iconoclastic reputation as, say, Neil Young or Tom Waits, even though his three-decade-plus journey as a solo artist has been every bit as unpredictable and tangential. And perhaps the reason for that is, in Plant’s case, the refusal to rest on his laurels has made him not more confrontational an artist but more congenial. From the synth-smoothed pop of his 1980s albums to the deep-seated obsession with late-’60s psych-folk that flourished on 2002’s Dreamland to his dust-up with bluegrass belle Allison Krauss on 2007’s Grammy-winning Raising Sand, Plant has seemed almost embarrassed by the proto-metal bombast and legacy of lechery (not to mention the orgasmic, cathedral-shattering shrieks) that defined his ’70s tenure in Led Zeppelin.
Most artists with classic back catalogues must get sick of being asked about their distant glories, but you can imagine it would irk Robert Plant more than most. His recent solo career has been one fascinating, exploratory journey, but it still seems to be Zep that gets mentioned first and foremost. Led Zeppelin would cast a mighty shadow over anyone's career, but if you'd had the critical and commercial response that Plant has enjoyed with Alison Krauss for 2007's Raising Sand or his own Band Of Joy in 2010 you can understand why he might be a little bit annoyed at the persistent questions about those hoariest of rock and roll dinosaurs.
It’s no coincidence that Robert Plant has been the only thing standing in the way of a Led Zeppelin reunion tour ever since the band’s one-off set at London’s O2 Arena in 2007. Because he’s the only guy who doesn’t need it. John Paul Jones’s career as an artist and producer has been even more woefully underappreciated than his work with Zeppelin.
We'd like a Zep reunion as much as anyone, but it's easy to understand Robert Plant's resistance. Reinventing himself on his 2007 Alison Krauss collab, Raising Sand, and on projects with ex-girlfriend Patty Griffin, the singer made some of his best work ever. His latest returns to the world-music fusion of 2005's Mighty ReArranger with his Strange Sensation band (now reconfigured as the Sensational Space Shifters).
Seven years ago, two equal and opposite forces clashed in the musical life of Robert Plant. In October 2007 the singer released Raising Sand, a landmark album with bluegrass artist Alison Krauss that scooped five Grammy awards. This million-plus-selling record secured the idea that Plant was a living artist rather than an old rock god. Raising Sand found 70s music's most lust-crazed screamer crooning.
If you look back on the 30+ year solo career of former Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant, his affiliations with the generations of artists who succeeded he and his old mates at the vanguard of British pop music have been incredibly substantial. Saxophonist Raphael Ravenscroft, who would gain primary notoriety for his featured role throughout Pink Floyd’s The Final Cut the following year, played on the song “Pledge Pin” off Plant’s 1982 solo debut Pictures at Eleven. Toni Halliday of Curve sang backing vocals on 1985’s Shaken n’ Stirred and 1987’s Now and Zen, where she was joined by the late, great Kirsty MacColl, perhaps most famous for her star turn as Shane MacGowan’s foil on The Pogues’ “Fairytale in New York”.
After his Americana explorations with Alison Krauss and the Band of Joy, Robert Plant returns to and extends what he started with 2007’s “Mighty ReArranger,” collaborating with the same cast — now the Sensational Space Shifters. The album begins and ends with versions of the bluegrass standard “Little Maggie,” the first shot through with loops, blips, beats, and the sound of Juldeh Camara’s riti; the second, a transformation of that transformation. Between come murmuring desert blues; a reworking (of Leadbelly’s “Poor Howard”) that starts out old-timey, then goes full-African; snippets of Victorian poetry and cops of Led Zep lyrics; piano-led balladry; trippy trance; and an epic peak, “Embrace Another Fall,” full of pounding drums, massive guitar riffage, and the otherworldly keening of Welsh singer Julie Murphy.
Robert Plant could be making millions on a reunion tour with Led Zeppelin, but instead he's become the black sheep of the Zep family – roaming far-off hills in search of new adventures. In a quirky solo career that has now carried on three times as long as Zeppelin, Plant has had some hits and misses, but he's never taken the straight or predictable path. With his band the Sensational Space Shifters, Plant turns his 10th studio album, "Lullaby and … the Ceaseless Roar" (Nonesuch), into a deep exploration of three broad areas of music that have obsessed him for decades: West African polyrhythmic groove, Appalachian country desolation and Southern blues.