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Robert Plant - Shaken 'N Stirred CD (album) cover

SHAKEN 'N STIRRED

Robert Plant

 

Crossover Prog

3.41 | 58 ratings

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Finnforest
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A perfect title for this album

Without questions I'm a more open-minded and patient listener than I was in high school. Back then, as the world's biggest Zeppelin fan, I hated this album with a passion. I hated the album cover, hated the music, and hated Plant's embracing of a decade that was repulsive to me. I was a teenager in the 80s pining for the 70s, which I missed, and which everyone in the 80s was trying to forget. All I wanted was to see a Zeppelin show but I was 10 years too late. So I went to this concert when it came through town and practically cried at what I saw on stage. A bunch of "crap" being delivered by one of my heroes, the ultimate betrayal. I've seen the error of my ways and even by the late 80s had embraced many of the decade's better moments, and there were many. Looking back it is now merciful that Zeppelin stopped when they did. I think Plant knew it. Given how dreadful "In Through the Out Door" was, he made the right choice moving on.

Flash forward several decades and I've not only come to peace with Shaken, but it might be his most interesting work. This is not just a collection of weak dance tracks or a failure of an aging artist trying to throw some synth over his tracks to appear hip. These are some really catchy pop songs dressed up with elaborate vocal and instrumental arrangements. Robbie Blunt is particularly impressive with guitar work, both traditional and synth guitar, which sound inspired by Adrian Belew. He gets great volume control and textural variation, and many wild noises in a tapestry of crazy music backing Plant's "kid in the candy store" send-ups. Plant is throwing himself into this with reckless abandon, trying as many ideas as he can think of, almost purging himself as he creates a work that has to be inspired by many of the current artists around him. Everything is very loud and drowning in spirited percussion, as well as fantastic backing vocals courtesy of Toni Halliday. She is the perfect contrast to Plant's typical over-singing. In fact, that's the worst part of any Robert Plant album, when he seems trapped in his own persona to the point of parody. Not every song needs the "baby babys" and the sexual grunts and groans. Halliday provides welcome and soothing beauty to these pleasantly jarring escapades.

Every song is like a sweet confection that makes this pure pleasure to listen to, but my favorites are the slightly more introspective ones. "Little by Little" would seem to be touching on Plant's recoveries from personal tragedy and substance abuse. If I'm right (and maybe I'm not) the first verse sounds like he's talking about the grief of his son's death, while the second verse may be discussing cocaine. In both cases Plant is able to "breathe again" having arrived in a healthier place. The closer "Sixes and Sevens" is one of Plant's finest, very melancholic as he discusses making "alterations to my house of cards" to a brooding, musical sunset. The flip side is pure danceable fun like "Too Loud" where Plant is nothing but playful. There is even some character banter there in the form of a fictional record guy Plant pokes fun at.

A lot of people really bash this album as it sounds so different from his previous two smash albums. I understand the criticisms but in 2011 it is probably my favorite Plant album. If you give yourself a bit of time to get used to the brashness of the production, you may fall for this odd, eclectic bunch of songs. My favorite Plant work to date. Not typical prog-rock (and maybe not prog at all to many) but excellent music nonetheless.

Finnforest | 4/5 |

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