CD Review of Mighty Rearranger by Robert Plant and the Strange Sensation

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Mighty Rearranger
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The ex-Led Zep singer's most recent album is strangely the most Zeppelinesque of them all. Partly because Robert Plant seems more at ease with his past than ever, and isn't afraid to use brush strokes – such as the layers of violin in "Another Tribe" that add drama to the melody a la "The Rain Song," or bone-crushing "When the Levee Breaks" drums in "Shine It All Around" – that make his musical point and at the same time acknowledge his role as frontman for the most legendary dinosaur rock band ever. It's as if before, he needed to make a whole new "Plant solo sound" that would stand or fall on its merits, Zep be damned. That made for a lot of boring songs in the 1980s, some hits, some misses, and some droning tracks that might have been interesting on their own, but c'mon, we're talking about Robert "Hey hey Mama, said the way you move, goin' make you sweat, gonna make you groo-oove" Plant here, not some one-hit wonder.

It's also more Zeppelinesque for another reason: Plant loads the record with drum-and-bass beats, which sounds like a match made in hell, but it's cool. Done right, drum and bass creates – albeit electronically – a primitive sound in dance-club records, just like the muddy echo that surrounded Plant's primal screams on Zep tunes like "Four Sticks." It's a dicey production move that works out well. No way will any of these drum and bass mixes ever find their way into a dance club playlist, but over the living room stereo, the trick updates ye olde ancient rock mariner's voice and makes him sound passably cool once again.

So, in 2005, he puts it together and makes a sometimes gentle, sometimes forceful, always mystical record that, if it were 1983, would have been the biggest smash hit of his career. The Zep fans would have cried with joy. The critics would have panned it like they did every other album associated with Plant, this time claiming he was cashing in on Jimmy Page's coattails but would at best be only able to make a cheap copy of Zep. The truth would lie somewhere in between. Overall, Mighty Rearranger's a mighty listenable record, even if it came out two decades too late.

~Mojo Flucke, PhD