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Plant Digs Deep Into His Own Roots

Robert Plant - Dreamland
(Universal Records)
3 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: July 22, 2002

Robert Plant

Tony Bonyata

With a choice of songs as close to the spirit of Led Zeppelin - without actually trying to mimic them - as he's gotten since their demise after drummer John Bonham's accidental death in 1980, lead vocalist Robert Plant has taken this collection of songs and made them into something altogether darker and more mysterious than his former band would have.
On his eighth solo effort entitled Dreamland, an album consisting of mostly cover tunes, Plant touches on songs which Zeppelin used to pepper into their early live performances, such as Bukka White's 1940 blues number "I Believe (I'm Fixin' To Die)" and another vintage blues chestnut "Win My Train Fare Home (If I Ever Get Lucky)," with interjections from Robert Johnson, John Lee Hooker and Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup. But instead of added the thunderous Zeppelin stomp, Plant has transformed these, and other songs from Dreamland, into his own spiritual ragas and psychedelic mantras.
And when looking through the choices of compositions, it's no wonder that they harken back to the early spirit of his former band. Most of these he'd, in fact, already been covering long before he ever sang his first note with Zeppelin. The track such as "Morning Dew," which was covered by The Jeff Beck Group with Rod Stewart, and also by Plant and Bonham, as well, in their rock group Band of Joy in the late '60s, is reflective and hauntingly beautiful, while his take on "Hey Joe," made famous by Jimi Hendrix and also recorded by Band Of Joy in 1967, is viewed from a drastically different, if not rightfully demented, perspective.
Plant also revisits other greats such as Bob Dylan's "One More Cup Of Coffee," originally from Dylan's brilliant album, Desire, and also covered a few years ago by the sparse Zeppelin-meets-The Pixies rock duo The White Stripes, as well as Tim Buckley's "Song To The Siren," where Plant pays respect to the number without fear of baring his soul and adding his own signature to the song.
Long before his days with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, Plant and Bonham were chiseling out their own covers of Moby Grape tunes in Band Of Joy, so it's not surprising to find him closing out the album with the joyful and moving "Skip's Song," a lesser known number which was the original working title of Moby Grape's "Seeing."
On Dreamland Robert Plant successfully digs into his own roots - ones that run much deeper than his more familiar past with Led Zeppelin.

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