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Robert Plant

Band of Joy

Review by Mark Johnson

Here we find the master vocalist Robert Plant reinventing and singing some fun classic rock and folk. He has assembled a great band from his past along with some current pros, and they do an excellent job rediscovering all of these rock and folk classics. You can tell this band is having fun throughout the album. Plant brings life back to these classic, most likely personal favorites. If you are a fan of Plant’s solo work, last year’s Plant/Krauss Raising Sand, or even some of Led Zeppelin’s folksier albums you will enjoy the Band of Joy.


This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2010  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Angel Dance

Power blues with bass-like percussion plays along with the mandolin, setting a new tone for this Los Lobos classic. The song is completely different with Plant singing and the band adding their own signature riffs. The addition of the banjos and mandolins brings a warmer, softer feel to the song. Plant’s vocals make this first single a winner to open the album, and this new story for the Band of Joy.

House of Cards
This Richard and Linda Thompson song gets a reworking from the band. We hear slow bass and drums with Plant singing, “Oh the rain is falling and the wild wind roars / It’ll shake your windows and rattle your doors.” It’s a salute to English folk rock. Patty Griffin’s supporting vocals add to the warmth from Plant’s delivery.
Central Two-O-Nine
This is a classic blues number written by Plant. The acoustic guitars and banjos add to the flavor along with the accordion.
Silver Rider
This is a classic song off the band Low’s The Great Destroyer album. Plant takes this one deeper with both his vocals and that rumbling bass. The high pitched lead guitar reminds me of U2’s The Edge at times. It’s a powerful song full of emotion. Griffin’s vocal support adds warmth. Again, they augment the power and majesty of this song, squeezing out every drop of emotion they can. It’s one of the best cuts on the album.
You Can’t Buy My Love
This is one of the old classics that inspired Plant back in the 60s. This Barbara Lynn song is the classic reply to the Beatles “Can’t Buy Me Love.” This one starts with some cool sound effects and that plodding bass and drums. Then Griffin kicks in to join Plant on vocals. They sound like they are having a lot of fun on this one. The mid-section lead guitar brings back so many memories of some of my favorites from that early Beatles era. Those power bass chords make this so satisfying.
Falling In Love Again
We are treated to another classic tune which Plant and the Band bring up to date with Buddy Miller and Darrell Scott adding their vocals in support.  There are great soft drums and guitar adding to the soundscape.
The Only Sound That Matters
Here is another wonderful song in the same vein as some of the soft country songs you will find on Plant’s collaboration with Alison Krauss, Raising Sand, from 2007.
Monkey
Power bass chords and strong drums usher in a deep brooding sound. Griffin supports Plant as they softly deliver the lyrics with that Edge-like lead riff burning its way to the front of the production. This is another of the highlights of the album. There is much more power on this version than there was on the original. It has a fuller, more dynamic sound. That “Edge” guitar reminds me so much of U2’s Joshua Tree sound. This is fantastic.
Cindy, I’ll Marry You Someday
This is Plant’s interpretation of a classic American folk song once performed by Buffy Sainte-Marie and Pete Seeger. The power drum and soft banjo add to the deep power of the delivery. It’s another of the best songs on the album.  The rambling banjo is much different than Pete Seeger’s. There’s a much slower delivery overall.  But again, the band gets everything out of the song that they can.
Harm’s Swift Way
Plant delivers great vocals in covering this Townes Van Zandt song. Van Zandt was an American country/folk singer/songwriter.  This is a straight ahead drum, bass, and guitar country rocker. Griffin and Scott support Plant on vocals.
Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down
This is another traditional folk song and the best track on the album. That opening banjo and guitar are fantastic together. Plant’s voice is at peak performance. The sincerity is there in his voice as he delivers the powerful lyrics. The lone banjo and guitar, along with the soft drums really create an incredible effect. Scott and Griffin support on vocals as the lead electric weaves a cool web near the middle of the track. Plant’s voice rises at the end with power and more emotion as the track comes to a slow close to Plant’s “oohs.”
Even This Shall Pass Away
This is a story with a message written by Theodore Tilton. Cool synth effects and drums are used to open the song. It’s another excellent interpretation from Plant as he delivers great vocals amid cool bass, percussion, and electric lead. It makes for a great closer.
 
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