Robert Plant is a rare bird. A titanic figure in rock music, he could easily overstuff his war chest by playing each summer’s Way-Back-When concert circuit, flailing through half-hearted versions of Trampled Under Foot and Stairway to Heaven with backing musicians not named Page, Jones or Bonham. Or he could reunite with his surviving Led Zeppelin bandmates and pick up every last dollar on earth. He refuses. Listen, Robert Plant isn’t one to loiter. He moves forward. He’s an artist, and what artists do is make albums like Carry Fire, which is my favorite album of 2017.
Led Zeppelin was a behemoth of amped-up 1970s blues-metal devastation, but the canon is based on a healthy dosage of misty Celtic folk, twirling Middle Eastern and Indian grooves, and no-nonsense American roots rock, with Plant’s bare-chested howling front-and-center. Now a wizened rock elder of 69, Plant kept Zep’s world-music underpinnings on Carry Fire, while turning the volume down to a respectable level – from 11 to 5 on the Tufnel Scale – all expertly performed by Plant’s band, the Sensational Space Shifters. This album is a culmination of Plant’s 50 years in music, a masterwork compiled by a man that has seen and done everything, but still yearns to create. He repeatedly sings of “the dimming of my light” on The May Queen, but the man has never sounded more alive.
Robert Plant doesn’t shriek to the heavens like he used to, and his Mufasa-like mane is streaked with gray , but don’t write this man’s epitaph just yet. In a world of music that has lost so much the past two years, it’s reassuring that the Golden God is still here, and still has much to say.