Tall Cool One….. man….still love that song today and that silly Bobby Plant sampling his own stuff on Tall Cool One(he dips into his Led Zeppelin catalogue and steals from himself=GENIUS!!)
So Mr Plant for me anyways puts out a high tech sounding keyboard drivin record in good ol February of 1988! Up to that point I bought all of Roberts solo stuff even Shakin And Stirred which I never really got into! Since I was 13 when Zep broke up(1980) I guess I took it upon myself to forge a sonic trail with what Plant was currently doing solo wise since he was basically doing no Zep at all on his solo tours of course that changed with the Now And Zen Tour but regardless…..
HEAVEN KNOWS-wowzers Plant and company(Doug Boyle/Phil Johnstone/Chris Blackwell/Phil Scragg) shoot out of the gates with a high tech keyboard (almost) over produced sound and were only 20 seconds in to Now And Zen! Plant man whadda say about this guys voice? It’s tailor made for everything Rock. Case in point….you want loud bombastic Zep Rock (Black Dog) or Reggae tinged chill rock(Dyer Maker) Big Band Swing Rock(anything Honeydrippers) Plant delivers and lookie who shows up to the Plant Partee…..Mr Jimmy Page and he plays some guitar on Heaven Knows! Crank up those 1988 Zep reunion rumours(we won’t talk about the 40th Anniversary Atlantic Records(1988) romp when Zep did get back together or the Live Aid (1985)thingy were Page was drooling all over his double necked Gibson guitar) Heaven Knows is a great start and man the sound is polished! For me being a hard ass towards all records sounding too slick I’m good with this!
DANCE ON MY OWN- track 2 and Roberts rocking and this song is a keeper as well. Like the rhythm aspect of it the drums courtesy of Mr Blackwell keep the Plant machine in check and keep the song ploughing forward into….
TALL COOL ONE- what a cool tune! Look Jimbo Page is on track 3 as well and this song has all the trimmings of a 80s rock track! Well produced,well played,well sung,backing vocals courtesy of some chics! Plus the guitar of Boyle and Page are tuned up tighter than the empty beer cans lodged againest each other behind my buddy Ruggs bar! Dig the keyboard playing in this tune and well Phil Johnstone played a huge part in this record not only playing the keys but he co wrote most of Now And Zen as well! Dee Ditty Dee Ditty Ditty Dee Dee Dee(that’s my shitty example of the keyboard in between the vocals..hahaha) Like I posted as well at the top of the page Robert swipes his own stuff and samples down some Zep at the end of the track! What a awesome move! Bravo! Even later on Plant sold his soul to the Coca Cola man and this song was used in Coke commercials! Some call it sellout perhaps me as well but it’s Plant …so let’s toss him a mulligan on this one ok?
THE WAY I FEEL- drums and bass launch this song and Boyle plays a real mean clean guitar not on this song but on this whole album. Plant as he does delivers a great vocal but when does he not deliver a great vocal right ?! This is a mid tempo high glossed up rocker if that makes sense!
HELEN OF TROY-this song is a great track! It does have all the trappings of 80s rock! Clean overproduced to certain extent but the song does flow and props must be given not only to Boyle on guitar but Chris Blackwell on the drums! He pushes the Plantship forward into high tech waters but he doesn’t stall in rough techno waters. He’s a great on this track and on this album! Helen Of Tbone is another mid tempoish number with some time changes proving its ok to …well Were Gonna Groove!
BILLYS REVENGE-think The Honeydrippers doing speed that’s what Billys Revenge sounds like to me! It’s a 50s rollicking good time shuffle groove with finger snaps and Blackwell and his drums drive this tune and Boyle gets a little edgy with his playing and dumps a heavier somewhat tone! Plant I guess at the time was still fun changing up styles and why not that Honeydrippers EP From 1984 sold tons!
SHIP OF FOOLS- I will say it right here that this is one of the best slow mover tunes I have ever heard! What a great song! Plant delivers the ultimate vocal. Boyle plays super laid back picking riffs and knows his place in the song structure! Plus I love the sound of the bass on this by Mr Scragg. What a well done splendid track! Cheers to Bobby on this one! Crazy …..Ship Of Fools……
WHY- Rob gets off the Ship Of Fools and asks Why? Why is 80s Plant embracing technology and when I listen to this track its almost a exact opposite sound that Rob and the Boys would give us all with there next release 1990s Manic Nirvana. That’s ok though and I guess as well he wants to,distance himself as far as away as possible from Zep except of course when he triggered the samples from Tall Cool One! Why is a good track Boyle plays with a real clean tone and these songs as well are pretty much do written with Phil Johnstone (keyboardist) hence the sound.
WHITE CLEAN AND NEAT- finger snapping and between The White Clean Sheets comes Rob and crew. Big time synth action drives it from behind with the guitars,bass and drums moving the song forward! Rob knows that the Now And Zen party is ending so he calls back the ladies from Tall Cool One to handle some backing vocals! There’s even a spoken word verse You Snake charmer you! Robert on this release makes it that no two songs sound alike in his solo era and for that you really have to hand it to Plant!
WALKING TOWARDS PARADISE-The ladies stick around for the final track and Robert Plant Sez the party ain’t ending Til he says its ending. Good song to end the evenings proceedings!
IN CONCLUSION-Robert Plant delivers a very 80s sounding record to that when I listen to it today it’s sounds 80s! Ha! But guess what folks Plant cans the old farts that played on his Shaken And Stirred release and gets a bunch of young rocking dudes and heads into Music Frontiers Unknown and and delivers a solid Gem of a release! You have to hand it Robert for a couple of reasons! 1-being he carved out a pretty decent solo career by this point. 2-he changed it up sonically from release to release. Case in point his next album Manic Nirvana is the exact opposite album sonic wise than Now And Zen. 3- Ummm he sang in Led Zep! 4- like I said at the beginning. Plant samples his own back catalogue…..that’s Street Cred in my book!