Robert Plant has never been afraid to veer away from the monolithic overtones of Led Zeppelin. Early in his solo career, he walked a fine line between self-parody and self-realization. But if Zeppelin taught him anything, it was to never stay in one place for too long. During the 80s, Plant embellished his high and heavy pipes with a bounty of exotic flavorings. He tipped his hat to the past with the stylish EP The Honeydrippers, Volume One. In the process, he refueled a yen for Elvis, Ben E. King and Swing music. The 90s collaborations with Jimmy Page obviously jolted a few ripples, but it wasn't difficult to sense the singer's reservations in the midst of the whole Zeppelin revival. Page carried on with the Black Crowes while Plant went back to the pubs of Northern England. Musically, he also went home — back to the blues and folk music. Robert Plant's first solo album in over 10 years, Dreamland is a wonderful mixture of his collective roots, soaking on a bright, psychedelic canvas. It may well be his most organic selection of songs since Led Zeppelin III.
Dreamland is a carefully woven tapestry that Plant willfully sinks his teeth into. His eclectic band the Strange Sensations includes former Cure guitarist Porl Johnson — he toured with Page and Plant in the mid 90s — Portishead keyboardist John Baggot and drummer Clive Dreamer, longtime bassist/son-in-law Charlie Jones, and guitarist Justin Adams -- who adds a lot of surreal touches to the album. Together, Plant and company pick through a flurry of covers and group compositions that leap and bound through an aural forest of grandeur. Bukka White's "Funny In My Mind (I Believe I'm Fixin' To Die)" shuffles and follies like a cosmic Irish jig before the solemn notes of Tim Rose's "Morning Dew" ooze from the stark and isolated ivories of a Fender Rhodes swimming over layers of strings. Plant proceeds to imbue stirring versions of Bob Dylan's "One More Cup Of Coffee," Tim Buckley's "Song To The Siren" and Jesse Colin Young's "Darkness, Darkness." As if the effervescent arrangements weren't probing enough, the collective unit unleashes the blues-infested "Win My Train Fare Home (If I Ever Get Lucky)," an exercise comparable to Pink Floyd meeting the Grateful Dead in an episode of BattleBots. You figure it out.
~ Shawn Perry