If you were still wondering why Robert Plant isn’t entertaining the idea of a Led Zeppelin reunion, this album provides a definitive answer. Not just to why he won’t, but why he shouldn’t. With Lullaby and … the Ceaseless Roar, Plant takes the nascent explorations on 2005’s deeply underrated Mighty ReArranger even further out — past where he might have once imagined. Certainly past every place that Led Zeppelin ever plundered.
He’s singing better than he’s ever sung, and combining the bedrock influences of folk and Delta blues with ever-more far-flung sounds. Some of that, most certainly, is a credit to his deft multi-culti band. More to the point, it seems, is that this is where Plant stands in his own musical life.
After years of trying, with varying degrees of success, to establish a pop career and also to recapture some flicker of what came before in Led Zeppelin, Plant went definitively off script with his earlier Alison Krauss and Band of Joy projects. Actually, where he went was further back, back to a world that existed before the one he created with Page and Jones and Bonham. There was, clearly, something freeing about that — something that knocked down walls which had enclosed his muse.
Plant sounds, at once, nothing like himself here, and completely (for the first time in a long time, maybe for the first time ever) completely at ease. This is someone describing a new vista in song, and he sounds viscerally alive in ways that he never could on facile throwbacks like “Tall Cool One” or too-slick trifles like “I Believe.”
Instead, Lullaby and … the Ceaseless Roar outlines a muse without borders, gives no quarter to his oldest fans’ built-in expectations, pushes with everything Plant can muster into a new place where textures from both West and East merge — a place of remarkable scope and delicious intrigue. A place where Led Zeppelin simply never went.
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