Album Review – ROBERT PLANT – Carry Fire (Nonsuch/Warners)
Review by Geoff Jenke
Robert Plant’s first solo album was called Pictures at Eleven back in 1982 and now he has just released his eleventh solo studio album, Carry Fire. It is his second album using backing band the Sensational Shape Shifters. The band play a variety of instruments including moog, brass, E-bow quartet, fiddle, dobro, pedal steel as well as the usual drum, guitar and bass. This variety comes through all over the album. Plant himself says of the album, “It’s a very British thing, the Bristol thing and then the element of North African and West African rhythms bought together with plaintive melodies”. While Plant wrote the words, it was the band that brainstormed the music.
Plant is now 69 years of age and one would not expect him to reach the vocal performances of old. However, his voice has aged well, almost becoming a smooth delicate like version of Leonard Cohen.
Carry Fire opens with May Queen an uplifting psychedelic folk song with the moog droning in the back ground. Plant is not afraid to mix musical cultures.
Track two New World opens with electric guitar and mentions the word “immigrant” and the lyrics may be a haunting homage to that other immigrant song from a band many years ago. Certainly, one of the highlights of the album.
Carving Up the World Again…a wall and not a fence with its Native American drum beat has a political commentary in which no country is exempt from a mention. (Is it just me, but the chorus reminds me a little of Steve Earls Copperhead Road???)
The sole cover song is Ersel Hickey’s Bluebirds Over the Mountain, once also covered by the Beach Boys. This version how ever gets a heavy riff and a drum beat that reminds one of a former drummer Plant use to play with. Plant shares vocals with Pretender, Chrissie Hynde on this song. Interestingly it is sometime difficult to tell them apart.
Final track Heaven Sent features some doom laden drenched guitar work with lyrics to match. “All the long goodbyes, all the goodbye songs, Spend the time forgiving.. never really done”. A hauntingly beautiful finale to a wonderful album.
Plant will always be remembered for singing in that other band but he has forged a successful career on his own as this album proves. It has been a slow burner, but every listening, it gets better.
Plant “I rejoice in my previous work but must continue the journey to new worlds, after all there so many songs that are yet to be written.” Carry Fire has journeyed to new worlds and is one of 2017 best releases. Who would have thought possible from someone who has been around as long at Robert Plant?