Robert Plant - Pictures At Eleven
As a Zeppelin fan, I can find solace in this album because Plant's amazing vocal ability is still there, and still shines through. The songs are consciously a different direction away from Led Zeppelin which is a good thing. Jimmy Page made a colossal mistake with Outrider in trying to make it sound too much like Led Zeppelin. This is Robert Plant the middle-of-the-road crooner; Robert Plant grown up and mellowed. Damn, the man has even cut his hair into a mullet!
But, it doesn't work as well as you might expect. It is not a great album, though it is not as bad as some later commentators (including Plant himself) have suggested. There are some good moments on this, but really, this is not how anyone would want to remember Robert Plant. Credit to him for trying I guess but in the end, Plant is too closely associated with Zeppelin to be seen as anything but that, like an actor being typecast.
Whatever the merits or otherwise of the album, Plant's reputation was such that he was able to ensure that he was backed by a number of top class musicians. Providing most of the drumming is Cozy Powell (perhaps the closest drummer in power to Bonham), although Phil Collins gets a look in as well. Jimmy Page, perhaps because he was still addled by drugs, does not put in an appearance, leaving most of the guitar work to Robbie Blunt.
The album is at its best when it does not stray too far from Led Zeppelin territory. Some of the best tracks, such as "Like I've Never Been Gone" and "Worse than Detroit" are reminiscent of Physical Graffiti era Led Zeppelin. But when Plant strays too far from this - such as the dreadful "Fat Lip" - I lose interest. I suppose Plant decided to stick with the familiar, and take a couple of experimental risks with some of the tracks to see how they went down. In terms of a debut album, this is perhaps timid but not unforgiveable. He would branch out much more bravely on the follow up album, The Principle of Moments.
The issue though is simple. Would I have given this a different rating if the songs and arrangements were identical, but released by someone else? Is my approach to this album coloured by the fact that it comes from the ex Zeppelin frontman? You, know, I cannot answer that question. Is there anyone out there who has faced, and overcome the same conundrum? If so, let me know. I would like to be able to listen to this album and judge it more by its merits, rather than by its antecedents.
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