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Dreamland – Robert Plant

Universal 3145869622

More than likely, I'm in the minority here, but I love Robert Plant
albums when he follows his creative muse to strange places and avoids the
mythical aura of his Led Zeppelin past. Since that band's dissolution in
and following six solo releases, my favorite remains the unjustly overlooked
Shaken ‘N’ Stirred. It's an album's worth of tunes that sounds
and free of the constraints of blues-based music and any other stylistic
genre. Its hiccupy rhythms and mix of keyboards and fractured yet strategic
guitar runs make it disconcerting yet entrancing in its goal to be

This brings me to Dreamland, Plant's latest release, and first as a
solo artist in nine years. The new album tends to follow the inspiration of
Shaken ‘N’ Stirred. But musically, Dreamland is much more
grounded than
that album. On it, Plant takes a subversive approach with his
band Strange Sensation on eight cover tunes (Tim Buckley, Skip Spence of
Grape, Bukka White, and a number that brings together elements of Robert
Johnson, John Lee Hooker and Arthur Crudup). There are also two originals
that follow the same route as the covers. For much of the time, he resists
his glory days when he fronted the Biggest Band of the '70s.

Plant indulges himself in a musical world that focuses on his love of
Middle Eastern rhythms and instrumentation, old blues, '60s psychedelia and
folk. Together, it makes for a creative response that highlights nuances in
some tunes (a weariness displayed on Bob Dylan's "One More Cup of
Coffee"), shows an individualistic approach that forces one's ears to
acclimate themselves to his way of thinking (a "Morning Dew" that has
more in common with Donovan's crooning than Jerry Garcia's grand balladry),
or just a
celebratory juxtaposition of east meeting west (the opening track "Funny
in My Mind (I Believe I'm Fixin to Die)."

Plant and company deconstruct "Hey Joe", with only an occasional
reference to the guitar lick made famous by Jimi Hendrix. Instead, it's all
anxiety and chaos, dread and violence. Like all of Dreamland, it's a
mix of unexpected elements that offer a
nod to several places at once without a care as to whether it's fashionable,
just that it works on its own level. And it does.

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