Bells and Whistles and by that I mean a ton of technology that was current at the time(1988) that has Robert Plant heading headfirst into huge swirls of synthesizers and for that you would think I would turn the other way.
Nope, not even close. I love this record and Now And Zen is my favorite of the Plant solo catalog. Weird huh?
Plant assembled a bunch of young rock guys and what an ass-kicker band Robert put together. Phil Johnstone who handled the keys co-wrote all the tracks on here with Plant.
Heaven Knows is a brilliant opener. A ton of keys swirl around the techno edge brought by Plant and his crew. The sound on vinyl is clear n crisp. Some may view it as overproduced and I would agree but for some reason I like this overproduced slab of rock!
I dug it back in 88 and I still dig it 2020!
Heaven Knows features Plants old sparring partner Jimmy Page who plays guitar on the opener but the biggie single Tall Cool One as well.
Tall Cool One, what a great track. The song bops and bounces along at a decent speed and what is brilliant is back in 88 sampling music was becoming the big thing to do with artists sampling tracks from other artists but Robert goes one step further where he samples himself.
Plant sampled 5 snippets of songs from his previous band those being Whole Lotta Love/Dazed and Confused/Black Dog/Custard Pie and The Ocean) that are all mashed up together as Tall Cool One heads towards the finish line.
I guess if you are going to swipe. Swipe from yourself. Kinda!
One of the better ballad tracks that reared its head back in the late 80s was Ship of Fools. What as stellar track. Even though Jimmy Page is on this album on two tracks. It’s Doug Boyle that steals the show here. Boyle’s picking on the 6 string on this song is crystal clear. Such an original style as Boyle makes a left turn with his playing on what would be deemed a ballad. Next to Plant’s voice on this track Doug’s chill like axemanship is worth the listen.
Reading Steve Gorman’s brilliant book on the Black Crowes Steve mentions that Boyle told him that he purposely avoided playing Gibson guitars on stage and stuck with Fender’s instead as Boyle said he didn’t need the Jimmy comparison.
Well, even though Page is on this album with two tracks it’s Boyle that is brilliant on this album. Case in point Ship of Fools.*
I rest my case, your Honor!
Looking back my first Zeppelin album I ever bought was Coda back in1982. So I have always dug that one while for many its a so so album.
Because of that I bought all of Plants solo stuff from the debut Pictures At Eleven (1982)to Fate of Nations (1993). Bob never made the same album twice. Now And Zen proves that without a doubt.
Robert Plants Best!
*-For further Boyle brilliance check the wicked acoustic ‘Liars Dance’ which is just Plant and Boyle. A track from 1990’s Manic Nirvana.