Listen To This Eddie is a weekly column that examines the important people and events in the classic rock canon and how they continue to impact the world of popular music.
I’m almost certain that if you were to ask Robert Plant to name his favorite Led Zeppelin album, his answer would either be the band’s third self-titled record or 1975’s Physical Graffiti. In so many ways throughout his musical life following the demise of that seminal group, those two records — the first informed by a rustic retreat to a sparse cottage in the Welsh countryside, the latter, a sprawling double-album, fueled by Arabic melodies, bluesy digressions, and post-modern production techniques — have remained the sine qua non that has informed almost everything he’s done as a solo artist. That remains true for his latest creation Carry Fire as well.
Plant’s creative run over the last several decades has been frankly incredible. Operating under a gigantic, blimp-shaped shadow, he’s pieced together a catalog of music nearly unmatched by anyone from his peer group. This isn’t just a late-career renaissance either. Following a string of throat-clearingly banal solo records in the 1980s, Pictures At Eleven, The Principles Of The Moment, and Shaken ‘N’ Stirred, Plant finally found his footing at the beginning of the next decade with the dynamic and compelling Manic Nirvana. Since then, it’s been a nearly uninterrupted run of platinum records, award show trophies, and critical plaudits.
Generally speaking, there are two different modes that Plant typically swings between as he pieces together new projects. He either looks outward across the world and wonders at distant places and their unfamiliar sounds, something he accomplished with great aplomb on projects like Fate Of Nations in 1993 and Lullaby And…The Ceaseless Roar in 2014, or he likes to look backward through time, and relish in earlier, simpler forms of folk and blues music like on Band Of Joy in 2010, or his 2007 collaboration with Alison Krauss, the Grammy-winning Raising Sand. On Carry Fire he manages to bridge the viewfinder to spectacular result.