Robert Plant could ride out the remainder of his music career resting easy with his status as a rock and roll legend. As the vocalist for Led Zeppelin, Plant became influential with his talent and style. He was the mystic hippie that colored Zeppelin's electric blues with barroom come-ons and Lord of the Ring's imagery.
The death of John Bonham brought Led Zeppelin to a grinding halt. From the ashes Plant launched a solo career that has seen him explore different styles, with fair to excellent results.
With his new album Mighty Rearranger, Plant blends elements of folk, rock, tribal and electronic noises to create a well crafted album. Unfortunately well crafted does not always mean exciting. Plant still sounds good wailing and moaning through 12 tracks, backed up by the most convincing Led Zep tribute band he has been able to assemble yet.
The first since that has taken over radio is "Shine it All Around", a thumping piece that makes me want to change the station. There are a few songs that are much more memorable and listenable, but too many fall into the trap of not being anything you would want to hear again.
Plant seems well intentioned and it is refreshing to see a rock icon still working hard, but too much of Mighty Rearranger is simply boring. The backup band, the Strange Sensation share billing with Plant and prove to be a very capable band of multi-instrument musicians. Too often they try to channel the sound and feeling of Led Zeppelin but they do not have the fire or mystery that was inherent when Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham would play.
Songs like "Another Tribe" and "All the King's Horses" are highlights as stripped down tracks where Plant's vocals take precedent. "Freedom Fries" builds a promising energy but is never able to get over the cliff. Plant's style is so evident it comes across as cliché, specifically on songs like "The Enchanter" that reek attempted mysticism. Plant has done all of this before, but he did it better. "Brother Ray" is far too short as a minute tribute to the late Ray Charles. It is the only song that sounds like the band is having fun.
It is unfair it measure Robert Plant's current work against the Led Zeppelin behemoth, but when he doesn't stray too far from that shadow the comparisons come easy. Maybe it was inevitable that the oft copied, but never duplicated, Plant would look back to himself. It still comes across as a poor man's Led Zeppelin.