Robert Plant is one of the greats of rock that is aging with dignity and class, knowing that his voice is no longer for singing Whole Lotta Love or Immigrant Song, he has found a way to adapt to it with the expertise that has always been with him. Delighted with his new tone and search for the roots, without forgetting to look at the future, Plant has found in his maturity something that he has always been accused of not having: subtlety. Carry Fire wasn’t meant to please Led Zeppelin fans but to enjoy the art of a man who isn’t content with repeating his past.
With his 11th solo album, Plant presents an effort still anchored in the things he has always liked, blues, folk, and psychedelia, but exploring new sounds, managing to sound fresh, and not like a museum fossil. Carry Fire opens with May Queen, a song that can be considered a wink to the most famous song of his former band, Stairway to Heaven, and shows once again his love for British folk/rock of Pentangle, The Incredible String Band or Fairport Convention is still very present. It is a great song that, at times, is reminiscent of the acoustic part of Led Zeppelin III, as if it had been recorded in 2017. New World shows that his new band Sensational Space Shifters, sees eye to eye with their new leader, writing all the original songs together with the singer, and repeating with him after the remarkable Lullaby and the Ceaseless Roar from 2014. In particular the guitarists Justin Adams and Liam ‘Skin’ Tyson, are especially inspired, with the first playing a Les Paul Goldtop from ‘52, and the second on a ‘72 Stratocaster.
Season’s Song is an acoustic jewel with folk and psychedelic licks, two of the great influences of his youth. Psychedelia appears again on the sexy Dance with You Tonight while Carving Up the World Again...A Wall and Not a Fence is an updated blues where he shows concern around recent events, as you can guess by the title and lines like “Emperors and Sultans, kings and presidents/dictators and ambassadors engaged in our defense”. On the instrumental bridge you can hear the Arab and Oriental flavours that he is so fond of. A Way With Words is the perfect vehicle to show the class he still has as singer, far from the records of his time as Hammer of the Gods, yet knowing how to balance each phrase to perfection.
Carry fire goes back to Morocco, with an electronic background Plant and his band go on a trip to the Thousand and One nights with Adams playing a teherdant, an instrument from Mali, while Tyson slings his ‘72 Telecaster Custom. Bones of Saints is the most dynamic piece on the album, showing off a good riff and Plant goes on without seeking that Zeppelin groove, sounding much more updated. Keep it Hid goes to the extreme sounding almost like what could be considered as electronic rockabilly. Plant continues to demonstrate his attachment to the sounds of the 21st century on Bluebirds Over the Mountain, the only cover on the record, a duet with Chrissie Hynde, singer of the Pretenders. At the end the oriental aroma is back with a violin solo.
The record ends with Heaven Sent, a number full of an aura of mysticism and calmness, almost like a mantra sung by this 69-year-old hippy, someone who in his day was the voice and image of the most well-oiled rock bands of all times, but seems perfectly content not having to remind us of this constantly. Plant is reliving his second creative youth without having to join the bandwagon of nostalgia.
Who would have thought that when Zeppelin split Plant was going to resurface while the engine of the band, Jimmy Page would be happy re-editing and remastering their vintage (and glorious) catalogue?