Robert Plant's post-Zeppelin solo career has been filled with adventurous twists and turns through folk, blues and world-beat music -- sometimes resulting in Grammys, sometimes landing him puzzled looks.
On his 10th solo album, "lullaby and . . . The Ceaseless Roar" (Nonesuch), however, Plant comes up with a collection of songs that may be the classic rock hero's first instant classic. All his musical interests are still well represented, but he seems to have absorbed them in a way that turns them into something uniquely his, similar to what Paul Simon did with "Graceland."
With help from his new band, The Sensational Shape Shifters, Plant combines African rhythms and backing vocals with traditional country instrumentation to create the lovely "Poor Howard," which suits his vocals perfectly. He adds layers of "Joshua Tree"-era U2 guitar to the mix for the anthemic "Rainbow."
Plant doesn't let loose with any of his trademark howls here, though he comes close at times on the guitar-driven, bluesy stomper "Turn It Up." But he doesn't really have to in order to communicate pain any more. His lower-register delivery on the stunning "House of Love," which could be the sequel to the Pretenders' classic "Talk of the Town," sounds completely devastated as he mourns, "I watched the house of love burn down."
At 66, Plant is still developing as a singer, still searching as a musician and "lullaby . . . " proves his quests are still worthwhile. Sorry, Zep fans, that reunion will have to wait. This collection is way more interesting.
"Lullaby and... The Ceaseless Roar"
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THE GRADE A
BOTTOM LINE First-rate rock in every way.