Though he's toned down the yowling, and stuck-record screams since Zep days, Plant's vocals still have that" Elvis crossed with a mad snake" magic that can cut through the loudest hissing drums and chuggiest guitar. It may not be the 70s anymore, but he still sings like his pants are too tight (This is a good thing).
The song lyrics are full of cliched storytelling imagery that only really works in a rock song: "And I open my eyes / as the sun leaves the western skies" ("Let the four winds blow"), evoking a big, beautiful, and cruel world full of magic and tragedy, Physical Graffiti style. Like the Zep songs on that album, these tunes really travel, combining - through driving melodies with natural rhythm - rock hedonism with both personal and political meaning and an attractive dose of fantasy. The blues gallop of the title track could be the soundtrack to a Tolkien battle scene.
Plant has experimented to find the right sound for what he's saying. The variety of daring instrumentation - a few more unusual instruments include the acid rock Moog Bass, the oriental Bendia, Tehardant (an Islamic lute), scratch effects and the very rock 'n roll friendly but nerdy looking "lap steel" - are used to flavour the Zep-derived basic sound.
Backed by his band Strange Sensation, he mixes old and new, American delta blues, hippie folk and Arabic African twists, and even ends the album with a rock/house hybrid homage to Ray Charles called "Brother Ray". His experimentation, while clearly a conscious anti-stagnation strategy (as he makes clear on the Moog washed "Tin Pan Valley") is musical and natural.
Many fans are saying Mighty Rearranger is Plant's best work since the band split. For Zep fans, it probably is - it's truer to that formula many of his previous efforts were. But its magic isn't that it's just a repeat of the past. This album is so good that if it were the work of a new boy on the block, everyone would be saying "He's the new Robert Plant." Yep, he's still got it where it counts.
- Jean Barker
WHAT OTHER CRITICS SAID:
More than any time since 1994's No Quarter with Jimmy Page, Plant's inner black dog is howling again. - Jonathan Ringen for Rolling Stone
...the real joy lies in the way that Plant allows his band to shine in their eclecticism while never losing touch of his natural blues rock forte. - Chris Jones for BBC
...a mature yet utterly unfettered rock & roll album that takes chances, not prisoners, and apologizes for nothing.- Thom Jurek for Allmusic
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