Robert Plant and his backing band The Strange Sensation reel, rock, and sway their way through this SoundStage performance, covering some of his solo tunes as well as reworked Led Zeppelin classics, on this first ever music DVD from Robert Plant. The Strange Sensation was handpicked from some of the best and most varied musicians England had to offer, from electronica to brit pop, and all held together by Plant’s passionate vocal wail. These classics are approached with a world music vibe that shines and carries the day, expanding the groove where the Plant and Page project left off.
The Strange Sensation has a wonderful world music sound, percussion heavy and rhythmically funky, spitting out all kinds of keyboard tricks while holding fast to a solid rock drive. The expanded-upon Zeppelin songs include “No Quarter,” “Black Dog,” “Four Sticks,” “Gallows Pole,” and a jamming version of “Whole Lotta Love.” Sticking with the blues/rock base and expanding them by the addition of keyboards and more percussion/hand drums than you can shake four sticks at.
The music becomes funkier and a bit spacey at times, but that’s alright because it’s a new take on old favorites and Plant’s vocals remain the same. The drums are jazzier, too, yet still thunder when they should. The guitar drives are hard and heavy, while new instruments like the gimbri and darbouka only add to the rockin’ cocktail that is The Strange Sensation. “Whole Lotta Love,” done as it should be, a long jam, is the perfect example of this band at its creative best. The entire band comes together very well here and the tune is the perfect closer for the original broadcast performance.
“Tin Pan Valley” and “The Enchanter” are the two songs where drummer Clive Deamer and keyboardist John Baggott, both from the electronica/trip-hop unit Portishead, get a chance to shine and bring forth their style and brand of pop/rock. “Tin Pan Valley” opens with Baggott’s keyboard mastery, and Deamer’s steady drumming put the band in a trip-hop mood, while the guitar soars around them. The song's structure allows the band to break this vibe by kicking everything up and then bringing you back down to mellow out and chill. The drum machine soaked beat on “The Enchanter” takes a page right out of the Portishead book, while the sitar-esque guitar, darbouka rhythms (a Turkish conga/bongo type of drum), and Plant’s echo-laden moans send this one spinning into orbit.
The bonus tracks are two old favorites made popular by Plant contemporaries Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan. “Hey Joe” is a tune best associated with Hendrix, although not one of his originals, while “Girl From The North Country” was written and recorded by Dylan. Both are essentially folk tunes, one rocked up a bit more than the other. The Strange Sensation reworks them, yet maintains the true feel of the songs. Guitarist Skin retains the driving force on “Hey Joe;” meanwhile, second guitarist Justin Adams picks up the gimbri (a North African lute-like string instrument), and the infused keyboard samples take the song someplace it’s never been before. For “Girl From The North Country,” bassist Billy Fuller switches to the upright bass, Adams rocks the mandolin, and Baggott shows us how well he can tickle the ivories. Which all make for a wonderfully mellow closer to the show and DVD.
Robert Plant shows he can still rock at close to sixty years of age and that his musical vision is still fresh. Plant’s energy is perfectly matched by his band, who help bring his vision to life while leaving their own fingerprints on the overall sound. The SoundStage audio is awesome and the camera angles give you the feeling of being right there in the mix, on stage next to the band, a wonderful place to record Robert Plant’s first music DVD.
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