This page covers Robert's more recent work, both solo and with Jimmy Page. Other pages describe Robert's early career (up to 1970), his development with Led Zeppelin (1971 to 1980) and his solo career and reunion with Jimmy Page (1981 to 1997).
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In 1998 Page and Plant were back in action. A tour of Eastern Europe started in February, featuring Led Zeppelin classics but also introducing some new songs. The sound was also classic Led Zeppelin, with Charlie Jones on bass and Michael Lee on drums. A new single, Most High, was launched at the end of March with concerts in London and Paris and a number of TV appearances. This song helped Page and Plant to achieve something which they never did with Led Zeppelin, winning the Grammy Award for the best hard rock performance.
Next came a new album, Walking Into Clarksdale, released in April to critical acclaim. This included several strong tracks, such as When the World Was Young, Shining in the Light, Heart in Your Hand and Burning Up. Page and Plant shared the production credits with Steve Albini. In May 1998 Page and Plant embarked on a major North American tour. They continued touring for most of the year with very few breaks, shuttling between Europe and America. Their performances were well received wherever they went.
After refusing to trade on the Zeppelin reputation in the 1980s, Robert Plant took a more relaxed approach in the 1990s, attempting new styles but remembering his musical roots. Plant's 1998 incarnation with Jimmy Page was true to the spirit of Led Zeppelin, with the Zeppelin talent for innovation which kept it new and fresh. All good things must come to an end, however, and tentative tour plans for 1999 were shelved.
Although 1999 started out quietly for Robert, it soon led to another change of direction with a new band. This developed from a reunion between Robert and his old friend Kevyn Gammond from the Band of Joy. Robert's first reported appearance with a band featuring Kevyn and students at Kidderminster College had been for his local tennis club at the end of 1997.
The idea took some time to crystallise, but The Priory of Brion eventually took to the road in July 1999. They played cover versions of songs which influenced Robert and Kevyn in the early days. They were clearly influenced by Them, as a high point of their act was a rousing version of Gloria. Another major influence was Arthur Lee, whose songs always featured prominently in the set. Other inspiration came from sources as diverse as Buffalo Springfield, Van Morrison and James Brown.
The Priory of Brion also included Andy Edwards (drums), Paul Timothy (guitar and keyboards) and Paul Wetton (bass). At the time Kevyn Gammond and Paul Timothy were both working in the Performing Arts faculty at Kidderminster College. Initially the band performed only in the UK, usually visiting small venues with little advance publicity. In the spring of 2000 the "tour" went to Norway and then to Ireland, and during the summer they made several festival appearances both in the UK and in continental Europe. More UK and continental dates followed in the autumn, ending in Wolverhampton just before Christmas.
Robert Plant has never strayed far from his roots, both musical and geographic. He lived on a farm near Kidderminster through much of his career. His lyrics draw on his long-standing interest in Celtic legends, and his music is still faithful to his boyhood idols. But what sets him apart is that voice! Robert Plant is not just a singer. He uses his voice as a musical instrument in a unique way which no synthesiser can attempt. Thirty years on he no longer performs in exactly the same way as he did on those early albums, but his vocal range and the songs he chooses to sing go well together.
At the start of 2001 Robert formed another new band, again involving Charlie Jones and Porl Thompson, and with Justin Adams on guitar, John Baggott on keyboards and Clive Deamer on drums. Originally billed as Robert Plant and his Strange Sensations on a visit to Scandinavia, they toured in North America as Strange Sensation. There were several additions to the setlist, including some Led Zeppelin classics, and the venues were regular theatres rather than small clubs. However, many of the songs from the Priory of Brion era were retained, and Arthur Lee's work still featured strongly. Like the previous year, Robert and his band played a number of summer festival dates.
While Robert was on the road with his own bands, Jimmy Page teamed up with the Black Crowes for a major tour, fuelling conflicting rumours about whether or not the duo had split up. But in 2001 Robert joined Jimmy again, among many artists taking part in a tribute to Sun Records. As part of the celebrations they played a concert in Montreux on 7th July, and they contributed to a TV documentary shown at the end of November.
Robert and the Strange Sensation line-up spent some time in a recording studio in the latter part of 2001. The resulting album, called Dreamland, was released in June 2002. The album featured tour favourites such as Hey Joe, Darkness Darkness, Song to the Siren and Morning Dew (the last two were also released as singles). Robert and the band appeared in a charity concert at the Royal Albert Hall in February 2002, and after some summer concert dates in the UK and Europe they toured in the US with The Who from July to September. October saw a UK leg of the tour, and more European dates followed in November.
The main event of 2003 was the release of a long-awaited collection of Led Zeppelin live performances, produced by Jimmy Page and Dick Carruthers. There is a triple CD called How The West Was Won, compiled from two June 1972 concerts in California, and a video and DVD release, compiled from concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in 1970, Madison Square Garden in 1973, Earls Court in 1975 and Knebworth in 1979.
Meanwhile Robert Plant continued his solo career with an appearance at the Festival in the Desert held in Mali. He later embarked on another summer season of concert bookings with the Strange Sensation. In November 2003 Robert's career as a solo artist was reflected in a major compilation album called Sixty Six to Timbuktu. This 2-CD collection includes well-known hits and rare recordings, some previously unreleased.
There was little visible activity from Robert and the Strange Sensation in 2004, but work was under way in the studio on a new album, called Mighty Rearranger, which was released in May 2005. The album is well-crafted and has several interesting tracks but only Shine It All Around and The Enchanter, also released as singles, really stand out. Unlike Dreamland, the songs are all original. Robert admits that he once thought that his songwriting days were over, but working with the new band has restored his creativity.
The Strange Sensation line-up in 2005 included Liam "Skin" Tyson on guitar (replacing Porl Thompson) and Billy Fuller on bass (replacing Charlie Jones). The stage act featured new songs and some Led Zeppelin classics reworked (not always for the better). The band had a full schedule of concert dates in 2005, with a short tour of the US in March followed by another in the UK and Europe. Longer visits to North America took place in summer and autumn, then more dates in Europe at the end of the year. The band also made live recordings for BBC radio and television and for the Soundstage TV series in the US.
In 2006 the band were again active in Europe, with a spring tour on the continent and summer festival bookings. Two further additions to the calatlogue went on sale in November. The Soundstage TV peformance was released on a DVD, while remastered and expanded editions of Robert's nine solo albums were packaged together as a boxed set with the title Nine Lives. These expanded editions became available for purchase individually in early 2007.
After a short summer tour of Europe, in the autumn of 2007 the focus was again on record company releases. A collaboration in the studio between Robert Plant and Alison Krauss resulted in an album called Raising Sand. It features the two singers and backing musicians in a variety of vocal and instrumental combinations and moods, some of which work better than others. Rock and Roll it isn't, but fans of Robert Plant should enjoy Polly Come Home, Nothin' and Please Read the Letter.
The exploitation of the back catalogue continued with another Led Zeppelin compilation, Mothership (but to qualify as the Best of Led Zeppelin it really needs several more tracks from Physical Graffiti). A new release of The Song Remains The Same means that the complete track listing from the 1973 concert recording is now available on both CD and DVD. And the songs remained much the same when the three surviving members of Led Zeppelin reunited in London amid massive publicity for a concert tribute to Atlantic's Ahmet Ertegun.
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Copyright © Chris Warren 1997 to 2007
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