I was hooked from the start. I have already listened to Lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar twice in its entirety and thus far it is one of the few albums of which I can sincerely say I enjoy every song. Be forewarned, however: this is not the Plant of hard-rocking Led Zeppelin. Instead, this album is a blend of alternative, folk, Americana, progressive, and world music, a peculiar amalgam of genres, but it works. It is more Battle of Evermore-esque (my favorite Zeppelin song) than Whole Lotta Love-like. Absent is the wailing guitar of Page; the thunderous and formidable drumming of Bonham; the dexterous bass of Jones. This might seem disagreeable to some, but guess what: I don’t miss them and the album doesn’t either. These standards of the rock genre have been replaced by bendirs, banjos, kologos, ritis, and other exotic instruments to create a distinctly West African/alternative inspired sound. Imagine Peter Gabriel, Gordon Lightfoot, and George Harrison got together one day and made an album: this would be the product. Add Plant’s vocals and I’d say you have a recipe for success. Fortunately, Plant acknowledges his strengths and understands his weakness: namely, that his vocals are not what they used to be. You will hear no wailing or screaming; no vain attempt to hit notes out of his range that at this point would make him sound like a man in agony rather than the great vocalist that he is. Anyway, the point I am trying to make here is that I cannot recommend this album highly enough. As someone who appreciates the complexity and diversity of world music and folk, I believe Robert Plant has found his niche, crafting music that is good, true, and beautiful.
Here are my favorite songs from the album:
Little Maggie: an enjoyable traditional folk song updated with a somewhat “alternative” sound
Embrace Another Fall: somber, haunting, alternative sound with a dash of electric guitar added for good measure
Up on the Hollow Hill: sounds like a softer, eerier version of When the Levee Breaks from IV, featuring a consistent drum and guitar pattern
Arbaden: shortest song on the album; more alternative with a techno-edge, similar in sound to some of Coldplay’s works; features Fulani vocals by Juldeh Camara, a native Gambian
P.S. I also highly recommend Plant’s previous two releases, Band of Joy and Mighty ReArranger.
4 thoughts on “Lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar: A Review”
Nice review, Connor. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get into this at all. I’ve tried on two separate occasions to listen to this album, but I have had to turn it off halfway through both times. His voice is fine, but all the different “genres” doesn’t work for me. It’s like Mumford and Sons meets Rick’s Café Américain, and I just don’t think it works. The folk vibe seems forced.
I’ve only listened to this new album once, so cannot say much save that my reaction is quite positive. I would just note that Plant has been exploring Americana and roots music for quite some time (reflecting his lifelong interest in the blues), and “Lullaby…” sounds like a natural growth of that longtime interest. He’s also delved quite a bit into Middle Eastern sounds and world music, and his current band, the Sensational Space Shifters, includes “West African musician Juldeh Camara, guitarists Skin Tyson and Justin Adams, drummer Dave Smith, Massive Attack keyboardist John Baggott, and bassist Billy Fuller”. Considering how much folk music played a part of Led Zep music, and Plant’s subsequent music (see, for instance, his 2002 album, “Dreamland”), I don’t think the folk sound is forced at all; it’s part and parcel of who Plant his and what he does.
I’ve always liked the way Plant conducted his solo career in the wake of his time with Led Zeppelin. Some artists would try to run away from such a legacy, others would try to rest on it. Plant has done neither, and you get the feeling it never affects his music one way or the other. That’s a real credit to him as an artist.
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