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24 September 2014 8,254 views 8 Comments

LED ZEPPELINJohn Bonham remembered 34 years gone….

Once again on this date, along with millions of fans worldwide, today I will have some quiet reflection on the passing of John Bonham , all of 34 years ago on September 25th 1980 …

Since that fateful day, so much has gone but so much remains…

And what remains most importantly of all is the everlasting love for a husband, father and brother. This was more than evident back in early August when I attended the John Bonham Memorial Fund concert featuring Deborah Bonham at St Stephen’s Church in Redditch .

On a night of high emotion and in the company of many a Bonham relation, the memory of John Bonham was celebrated in song by Totem (Clem and Sam Dallaway), Deborah, together with Pete Bullick on guitar and Gerard G’ Louis on keyboards, and with video tributes from Carmine Appice, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Fun Lovin’ Criminals’ Frank Benbini, Paul Rodgers and  Zoe Bonham plus written tributes from Pat Bonham and Mick Ralphs .

It was both heartwarming and moving to witness first hand this outpouring of love for John Bonham in the area where he was born. As I said at the time, somewhere out there  John, Mick, Joan and Jack Bonham would have been very proud…

You can support the John Bonham Memorial Fund via these links:

That love of course also extends to his vast influence as a musician.

To mark the 34th anniversary of his passing, I’ve rounded up 34 examples of his percussive perfection. Along with countless fans around the world I will be indulging in many of these remarkable performances as we remember the man who still remains at the heart and soul of Led Zeppelin…

John Bonham 1948 – 1980:

Always loved…Always remembered… Always played…

Play these today and remember him this way…


For What it’s Worth  Band Of Joy (1967)

* One of  the earliest recorded remnants of the teenage Bonham with the Band Of Joy and fellow Midlander one Robert Plant.

Robert Plant said: ‘’You can hear Zeppelin in there. Bonzo’s doing a lot of those drum figures and fills which were quite popular with drummers like Carmine Appice all that virtuoso drumming. It was like ‘’Here I am everybody: somebody get me in a really big band quick -I want to get away from Plant!‘’

Hear it: Robert Plant – Sixty Six To Timbuktu (Atlantic)

Good Times Bad Times (1969)

*From the dramatic two beat opening, John Bonham puts the whole kit through its paces. That pioneering use of bass drum triplets heralded the arrival of a very special drummer.(DL)

Jimmy Page said: ‘’In terms of John’s playing, a big point of reference is Good Time Bad Times. He’s playing brilliantly on everything else but this is right out of the norm – playing a bass drum pattern that no one else has ever heard.’’

Hear It: Led Zeppelin (Atlantic)

Communication Breakdown ( BBC Session 1969 )

* This take from their first John Peel session cut on March 3 1969 sizzles along -and Bonzo’s right at the heart of it. Unwisely omitted from the official BBC Sessions album.

Clock the percussive perfection: From 2 minutes 22 seconds the point were it veers off and the drummer free falls across tom tom and snare of the much employed maple Ludwig kit.

Hear It: Complete BBC Radio Sessions (Empress Valley bootleg)

 How Many More Times (Live BBC Playhouse Theatre 1969)

* An early live fave of course with that stimulating Gene Krupa inspired jazzy opening.

John Bonham said :‘’Gene Krupa was the first big band drummer to be really noticed. He came out and played the drums much louder than they ever had before. People didn’t take notice of drums until Krupa came along’’

Hear It: BBC Sessions (Atlantic)

Whole Lotta Love (1969)

One of one of their most potent studio moments and perhaps Bonzo’s best studio performance.

Clock the percussive perfection: Where else but that battering ram snare roll at 3.02 that leads into Page’s solo

Hear It: Led Zeppelin II (Atlantic)

Ramble On (1969)

* The pitter patter of bare hands against drum dominates throughout.

John Bonham said: ‘’You get a lovely little tone out of the drums that you couldn’t get with the sticks. You get an absolute true drum sound because there’s no wood involved’’

Hear It: Led Zeppelin II (Atlantic)

We’re Gonna Groove (Live Royal Albert Hall 1970)

* Simply Devastating. From the moment Bonzo warms up the kit through the frenzied opening and ride cymbal onslaught. Definitive John Bonham.

John Paul Jones said: ‘’I’ve seen all three James Brown drummers stand around him at the Newport Festival in disbelief wondering how one guy does what all three of them did’’

Hear It: Led Zeppelin DVD (Warner Music Vision)

Moby Dick (Live Royal Albert Hall 1970)

* Yes seeing is believing – superbly restored for the 2003 DVD this is 15 minutes of sheer percussive brilliance. Bonzo clatters, rattles, shakes and bangs his way into percussive immortality.

John Bonham said: ‘’My son Jason plays. I’ve got a kit made to scale for him. He’s got a great sense of time- even when we go out in the car he takes his sticks to bash on the seats.

Before the end of Led Zeppelin I’m going to have him onstage with us at the Albert Hall’’

Hear It: Led Zeppelin DVD (Warner Music Vision)

Since I’ve Been Loving You (1970)

* Proving there’s no sin in omission, Bonzo’s sparse incisive back beat allows the rest of them to build the tension.

Clock the percussive perfection: 48 seconds in with that positively nuclear cymbal crash over Page’s Gibson squeals and Plant’s instinctive shout of ‘’Oh!’’

Hear It: Led Zeppelin III (Atlantic)

Bathroom Sound (1970)

Not so much out on the tiles as inside the drum heads…and what an instrumental percussive feast…

Hear It: Led Zeppelin III Companion Audio Disc (Atlantic)

Gallows Pole (1970)

* Clock the percussive perfection: The tension builds and then blam!-  he’s in at 2.04 to gallop amongst the gallows.

Hear It: Led Zeppelin 3 (Atlantic)

 Poor Tom (1970)

* An invigorating New Orleans jazz straight eighth shuffle opens and carries the track throughout. An absolute masterclass of controlled percussion.

Hear It: Coda (Swan Song)

Rock And Roll (1971)

* Guaranteed to cause severe outbreaks of air drumming from the moment that cymbal crashing intro commences.

Clock the percussive perfection: It has to be that final flurry at 3.25. The most concise percussive statement ever committed to tape.

Hear It: Led Zeppelin 4 (Atlantic)

Four Sticks (1971)

* Yet another remarkable percussive statement. Bonzo tears along with a four stick attack clicking the rims of the drums in the process. Innovative and totally infectious.

Hear It: Led Zeppelin IV (Atlantic)

 When The Levee Breaks (1971)

* One drum kit, one stairwell, one microphone over the banister…a thousand samples…and the greatest of beats.

Robert Plant said: John always felt his significance was minimal but if you take him off any of our tracks, it loses it’s potency and sex. I don’t think he really knew how important he was‘’

Hear It: Led Zeppelin IVv (Atlantic)

Dazed And Confused (Live LA Forum 1972)

* A 25 minute tour de force with Bonzo in the middle of it all guiding them through early stabs at Walters Walk and The Crunge in the process.

Hear It: How The West Was Won (Atlantic)

The Crunge (1973)

* Talking of which – the boys get off on the good foot and Bonzo applies a ridiculous 9/8 time. Could anyone do The Crunge..?

Hear It: Houses Of The Holy (Atlantic)

D’yer Ma’ker (1973)

* Less reggae, more 50’s fun time led all the way by Bonzo’s huge upfront wide screen playing -leading to a deserved lead song writing credit.

Hear It: Houses Of The Holy (Atlantic)

The Rover (1975)

* First tried for Houses, it’s eventual release three years later was worth the wait. Bonzo’s machine gun snare torrents subside for  Page’s melodic embellishments.

Hear It: Physical Graffiti (Swan Song)

No Quarter (Live Madison Square Garden 1973)

* Clock the percussive perfection: From 9.01 as Bonzo plays behind Jimmy’s wah wah solo displaying a hi hat syncopation favoured by the likes of 70’s funkateers Sly Stone and Tower of Power

Hear It: The Song Remains The Same Soundtrack (Swan Song)

The Ocean (Live Madison Square Garden 1973)

* Totally uplifting. This is mid period Zep in all it’s unchained unabashed carnal glory. Via the DVD we can vividly see Page playing not only to an ocean but right off the drummer’s cues and shouts.

Hear It: The Song Remains The Same Soundtrack (Swan Song)

In My Time Of Dying (1975)

* Perhaps their most intense and brutal performance – and it’s Bonzo constantly underpinning it all.

Clock the percussive perfection: From 7.12 and those four military barrages of power shared by Bonham and Page before Robert comes in with the line ‘’And I see it in the streets’’

Hear It: Physical Graffiti (Swan Song)

Kashmir (1975)

* Led Zeppelin in full splendour  and yet another masterful Bonham contribution. There’s no doubt that the economy in his playing gave the song it’s vastness.

Robert Plant said: ‘’A lot of Kashmir was done to Bonzo. He was a real thrifty player. It was often what he didn’t do that made it work.’’

Hear It: Physical Graffiti (Swan Song)

Over The Hills And Far Away (Live Earls Court 1975)

* Always a live favourite – the studio version was merely the starting point for the tangents within the framework.

Clock the percussive perfection: From Plant’s shout of ‘’Acapulco gold’’ at 2.35 as Bonzo drives the rhythmic experiments of Page’s solo with a two hit snare run not dissimilar to that employed on Candy Store Rock

Hear It : To Be A Rock And Not To Roll (Watch Tower bootleg)

Achilles Last Stand (1976)

* The chemistry of all four perfectly in sync to pull off perhaps their most inventive composition.

Clock the percussive perfection: So many to choose from – how about 1.17 and the first fill ,then again at 2.29 and another burst of power, or there’s the point at 4.08 when the first machine gun rally with Page kicks in.

Hear It: Presence (Swan Song)

Royal Orleans (1976)

* Bonzo cleverly plays against the riff with a funky edge on another of his co compositions.

Clock the percussive perfection: 1.56 and the interjection of bongos with the main drumming. A deft touch.

Hear It: Presence (Swan Song)

Hots On For Nowhere (1976)

* As Charles Shaar Murray noted, what the Glenn Miller orchestra would have sounded like had they been a murderously heavy four piece rock band. This one swings along with some incredible fills.

Clock the percussive perfection. At 4.01 through to the finish as he clatters around the spiralling Page runs.

Hear It: Presence (Swan Song)

Bonzo’s Montreux (1976)

* Enter the John Bonham orchestra. Bonzo had long harboured a plan for a dramatic new solo piece and the period in tax exile gave him the opportunity to experiment in Mountain Studios. The result -another percussive landmark.

Hear It: Coda (Swan Song)


The Song Remains The Same (Live LA Forum 1977)

* Despite all the off stage lunacy surrounding them now, Bonzo came through when it mattered. It certainly mattered any time they played Los Angeles and this opening night in LA was a triumph.

Clock the percussive perfection: From 1.25 to 1.36 a ten second torrent of furious snare attack as the song builds.

Hear It: Listen To This Eddie (Empress Valley bootleg)

Fool In The Rain (1979)

* On this outstanding Bonham showcase we can hear the fusion influence of jazz players such as Benard Purdie and Alphonse Mouzon.

Clock the percussive perfection. Firstly at 2.25 when the whistle blowing ushers in a Latin samba delight, then to the dexterity of his playing from 3.32 to 3.50 and the entry of Jimmy’s solo.

Robert Plant said: ‘’If you listen to Bonzo on that album -things like Fool In The Rain ,well he was weaving with as much dexterity and finesse as on the early days. One or two of us might have been struggling at that point but Bonzo still had it‘.’

Hear It: In Through The Out Door (Swan Song)

Wearing And Tearing (1979)

* He’d mixed it with the punks down at the Roxy club in ‘77 so attacking this track with Rat Scabies like vigour was chicken feed. Fast and loose and then some…Punk rock? Never ‘eard of it…

Hear It: Coda (1978)

Sick Again (Live Knebworth 1979)

* Knebworth was a triumph for Bonzo -his playing throughout was exemplary. One of the surprise highlights of the set was this   stand alone version of Sick Again – and he is just phenomenal all the way.

Clock the percussive perfection: From 3.44 and onwards as he puts the metallic kit through it’s paces and whips up a storm right through to the stop gap ending at 5.07

Hear It: Led Zeppelin DVD (Warner Home Vision)

In The Evening (Live Knebworth 1979)

*More magnificence as Bonzo builds the drama with that phased tympani intro.

Clock the percussive perfection: From 7.10 onwards as he compliments Plant’s pleading and Page’s Stratocaster strut with a tribal tom tom assault.

Hear It: Led Zeppelin DVD (Warner Home Vision)

Stairway To Heaven (Live in Berlin 1980)

* And finally…

An extraordinary performance. Page’s solo on this last ever Zeppelin delivery meandered to take the track to nearly fifteen minutes in duration. Bonzo’s task was to intrusively follow the guitarist lead which he does with deft skill.

The camaraderie of recent weeks seemed to will them on to keep the flame burning for as long as they could on this final night.

A little over 80 days later Led Zeppelin were no more

Robert Plant said: ‘’The band didn’t exist the moment Bonzo had gone to me. Sometimes I still shout up there at that mass of blue and go ’’That was not a very good trick’’

Hear It : Last Stand (Toasted Condor bootleg)

John Bonham 1948 – 1080 Always loved…Always remembered…Always played…

Dave Lewis – September 25th, 2014


John Paul Jones with Dave Rawlings Machine:

Latest info via JPJ website:

Taking the Lead: Gillian Welch’s almost-silent partner leads a true “supergroup” in the Dave Rawlings Machine

By Dan Nailen


Dave Rawlings is best known as the longtime musical partner of Americana songstress Gillian Welch and as a producer and cowriter for artists unafraid of a little twang in their tunes, including Ryan Adams and Bright Eyes.

Comfortable playing second fiddle to Welch on stage or toiling in the shadows of a recording studio, he’s also led his own band, the Dave Rawlings Machine, for nearly a decade. Welch is the sole other permanent member, and there’s only been one album released — 2009’s Friend of a Friend. But late last year, Rawlings decided he’d like to tour a bit and put together an iteration of the Machine featuring an incredible crew of musicians. Punch Brother Paul Kowert, former Old Crow Medicine Show member Willie Watson and a fellow named John Paul Jones (yes, that would be Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones) are all part of the Machine again for a short stint on the road in 2014, fleshing out the guitar/vocal interplay he and Welch have showcased for years.

Seeing his name on the marquee still isn’t routine for Rawlings — he jokes, with a distinct high-pitched laugh, that there are “at least two people in the band I’d rather hear sing than myself” — but he loves the ability of the Machine to take his songs to places impossible for he and Welch to find as a duo.

“It’s been easier each run as we’ve been finding our way as a band,” Rawlings says of leading the current Machine. “I’ve grown into this a little bit over the years. The role of lead singer is one thing, but the role of being kind of a bandleader is more natural. Working with Gillian, or producing records, I’m used to thinking about a whole picture, or a whole group, and how it will sound at a given moment.”

The response to the recent shows has been overwhelming to the jocular Rhode Island native, now sporting a slight Nashville accent. The biggest difference between the Dave Rawlings Machine and what he and Welch typically do “lies in how we have to alter what we do to fit in with three other musicians.” And playing with Jones, Kowert and Watson, as well as Welch, well, “I’d be a fool not to do that as often as possible,” Rawlings says.

The Inlander asked Rawlings to describe what each “part” of the Machine brings to the group:

Paul Kowert

“If JPJ and Paul and I are just picking out a tune in a circle, Paul can keep up with anything we can play, improvising all together,” Rawlings says of the classically trained double bassist. “He’s got the ear and the ability to stay right with you, which is really a shocking thing on the upright, a challenging, physical instrument to play. There aren’t that many guys in the world who have that kind of ability.”

Willie Watson

“We’ve always had a similar appreciation for old-time music up through the early folk records,” Rawlings says of Watson, whose debut solo album Rawlings produced earlier this year. “Willie is a terrific singer; he’s vastly overqualified to be singing baritone to me. With this little group, I didn’t know how it would all fit when we started. Willie played some guitar, and some banjo, and then he started playing a little fiddle. He definitely brings that old-time spice, which is great.”

John Paul Jones

“He’s always had a real love of acoustic music, and he’s a really talented mandolin player,” Rawlings says of Jones, who took a break from composing an opera to join the Machine on this tour. “I have a little cross-picking thing I do on the guitar, and he does a similar thing on the mandolin. We played a little the first day we met, and we immediately sort of felt our two instruments and two styles fell in nicely together. That interplay, that ability for one of us to be soloing and the other to be trading off, that’s one of my favorite things about playing with the Machine — when he and I get really stirred up. For me, it’s hard to believe it happens, let alone happens on a nightly basis.”

Gillian Welch

“We’ve always been interested in the fact that if we take a song and I sing lead on it, as opposed to Gillian, there’s just a different feel to how we play,” Rawlings says. “That’s kind of why we started doing [the Machine] in 2005. I joke that the Machine is just like our other band, but with a worse lead singer. We’re both big fans of what we call ‘squirrely, male lead singers,’ not card-carrying, world-class vocalists. And if you think of people that sing that way, one of the things that makes it work is really nice-sounding harmony singing. And that’s what Gill does that really makes this all work.”

Dave Rawlings Machine • Tue, Sept. 23, at 8 pm • $32.50 • All-ages • Bing Crosby Theater • 901 W. Sprague • • 227-7638

See link at :


 Robert Plant :The Roaring 60s:

lullaby… and The Ceaseless Roar –

An Overview…


I’ve taken some time to get my thoughts down on the subject of the new Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters album. Despite having the album for some weeks, with the abundance of promotional activity surrounding it, be it interviews, reviews, TV Radio and the i Tunes gig, I found it difficult to sit down with a clear head and get some perspective on it all.

Finally, the time has been right and I’ve spent the last few days getting well acquainted with the contents of lullaby..and The Ceaseless Roar – on vinyl on the player  and on CD during morning trips to the train station in the car. Once I started assessing where it all stood in the scheme of things, it led me on to elaborate not just on the album’s content but also reminisce about this musician who has loomed large in my life for many a year.

For all his is idiosyncratic traits, being a Robert Plant fan remains a richly rewarding experience. Here’s why it still all works for me..…


So to the tenth Robert Plant solo album – in fact his eleventh if you include The Honeydrippers set from 1984.

As an ardent fan and long-time chronicler of his work, I’ve been with him on every step of this journey – right from the tentative beginnings of a solo career mapped out around the highways and byways of the north of England during The Honeydrippers ad hoc gigs of spring 1981 of which I was lucky enough to attended five.

The thrill of placing a white label advance copy of Pictures At Eleven on my turn table on a balmy Friday evening in early June 1982, remains a very memorable listening experience…it signalled there was life for this particular singer after Zep and we could all prepare ourselves for some interesting very musical times ahead.

From then on the have been many twists and turns. To give it an appropriate football analogy,  following Robert Plant’s solo ventures is a little like supporting Tottenham Hotspur as I resolutely do. Like Plant, the North London club is steeped in tradition and talk of past glory days is always prevalent. The fortunes of the team however, are somewhat mixed, offering moments of brilliance with mediocre but within all that, the entertainment value on the pitch is always high

You could say the same for Robert’s output over these past 32 years. Plenty of highs, a few lows, some marking of time, occasional strange curve ball moments but ever entertaining along the way – and of course always within the shadow of his work between 1968 and 1980. It’s something of a challenge being a Robert Plant fan – but I am always a little surprised when keen Zep supporters claim no interest in following his solo work – to me, this is still the man and musician who proclaimed ‘’are you cold?’ in front of my very ears as Led Zeppelin kicked into Immigrant Song at Wembley in 1971 , held the audience in the palm of his hand at the Forum, the Garden and in Earls Court and thanked us for turning up on a blind date in that field just outside Kenbworth all of 34 years ago. His heritage is ever present and ever lasting.

He carries that legacy pretty well I’d say – although his flippancy in interviews often obscures his pride for Led Zeppelin, be assured though for all the one liners, that pride is there deep down in his psyche.

While we are on that subject, such flippant comments are often in my view taken out of context to look much worse than they really are or were intended. – the latest being his seemingly dissing of the companion audio content of the Zep reissues. Robert is entitled to his own opinions and while he may not have the reverence that Jimmy places on it all, I still believe he cares much more than is portrayed. In interviews, he is never one for much deep reflection ‘’I do the gig and move on’’ I remember him once telling me with matter of fact intent.

Back to the story: Ten albums – that’s now as many as Led Zeppelin clocked up. From that initial naïve blast of Pictures At Eleven (which still sounds great) with the erstwhile Robbie Blunt as the song writing foil, he quickly recorded  The Principle Of Moments, a heady mix of 80s synths and riffs. After a weekend of rockabilly fun with Jimmy, Jeff and Nile for the Honeydrippers Vol One album in 1984, there was the somewhat difficult third album – the totally offbeat Shaken N Stirred which confused audience and band mates alike. Performing on a stage around that time that looked like a block of cheese only added to the confusion. Too Loud live anyone?

In 1987 he made the first of many a clean band sweeps, bringing in Phil Johnstone, Doug Boyle, Chris Blackwell and co for Now And Zen, a refreshing blend of chorus led songs that reconciled his past with the present in confident manner. At the same time he hit the Zep legacy head on ensuring more bums on seats on the live circuit by inserting Zep numbers into his set.

Manic Nirvana hit the racks as the early 90s hair metal phenomenon got into it’s stride. Some of it has not stood the test of time too well but he could still turn a retro trick or two witness Tie Die On the Highway and the acoustic Liars Dance. Elsewhere the content was more blatantly big love than big log.

Three years on, there was further reinvention with Fate Of Nations – aided by Francis Dunnery and the late Kevin Scott MacMichael, providing a melodic platform for Robert to present his most pure and organic work to date. Come Into My Life and I Believe are just two examples of a refreshing maturity and depth he was now bringing to his craft.

Just as he was seemingly in his solo career stride, the call of the past and MTV put him back on the road with Jimmy Page – the ensuing No Quarter Unledded and Walking Into Clarksdale albums providing their own set of anomalies ripe for discussion another time…

By the time he was back in solo career mode, the song writing muse was by his admission, at something of a low – so he took the opportunity to revisit his pre Zep era with the Priory of Brion working with old pal Kevyn Gammond before forming Strange Sensation with Justin Adams. It was around this time Robert began to develop a much deeper resonance to his voice leading to the breathy style first deployed on the Skip Spence tribute Little Hands

The 2002 Dreamland album was an intelligent blend of covers and new forays –later to expand more fully on the well received Mighty ReArranger. I actually struggle with that album’s over inventiveness as at times it sounds too cluttered and over played.

Career retrospectives Sixty Six To Timbuktu and the expansive Nine Lives box set, conveniently brought together his achievements to date with the singer noting that the ‘’future was bright ahead’’.

2007 and another curve ball – this time into the bluegrass world of Alison Krauss for the enormously successful Raising Sand. An admirable marriage of vocal styling that subsequently swept the Grammys and in doing so helped scupper any plans for a long term Zep reunion after that one night of glory at the 02 on December 10th of that year.

I actually found the ensuing tour with Alison somewhat insipid – the sharing of the stage did not work for me and the Raising Sand album is never high on the playlist. Given this sidestep into Americana, I’m therefore surprised how much I loved (and still do) the Band Of Joy album and tour that grew out of his penchant all things Nashville and working with the great Buddy Miller. There were some life affirming moments viewing that line up in 2010 and the album retains a warm glow all of its own – as I noted at the time it was hard to define exactly what it was about the Band Of Joy set up that worked so well but it was undeniable that something did. As I passed my 100 nights of being in front of that Shure microphone with Robert Plant on vocals – gig number 103 at the Birmingham Symphony Hall in November 2010 was up there with the best.

There was yet more side stepping in 2012 –or in this case shape shifting. Off we all piled to the Gloucester Guildhall in May of that year to view another ad- hoc line up debut that saw former Strange Sensations members mix with the African influence of Juldeh Camara. The gig was a heap of fun – although at the more high profile London Forum gig in the summer, the inclusion of now partner Patty Griffin in the set confused his audience somewhat .

Glos 9

Seemingly happily ensconced with Patti, one expected another Band Of Joy set and there was talk of a project with noted producer Daniel Lanois.

Instead, Robert took the Space Shifters on a tour that took them to the far corners of the world stretching from Australia to Argentina via the US. His wry comment to an Australian journalist that he had ‘’nothing on his calendar in 2014’’ foolishly fuelled the Zep reformation rumours…the wiser amongst us guessed it was a suitable smokescreen as he ventured into the studio with the Space Shifters unit.

That brings the story up to date as the fruits of that labour are now presented for all to hear on the new album lullaby..and The Ceaseless Roar

As we know from the various interviews he has conducted, this album finds Robert in a reflective state of mind – after his split with Patty Griffin, Robert has returned to the UK and principally to the black country and Welsh border area – the influence of which is more than apparent. It would appear the call of home is strong and there really is a feeling he gets when he looks to the west…

Put simply, this is Robert’s most deep and meaningful album lyrically since Fate Of Nations. Such is the confessional nature of songs such as Embrace Another Fall and A Stolen Kiss, one could almost dub this as a break up album in the grand tradition of Dylan’s Blood On the Tracks

Before the confessions, the album kicks off with the sure footed shuffle of Little Maggie. The traditional tune immediate sets out the Ceaseless Roar template. African touches via Justin and Juldeh the latter on the delightfully sounding ritti, Skin overlying banjo and guitar while behind them Billy Fuller and Dave Smith cook up an incessant groove that holds the whole thing steady. Across which John Baggott layers on various inventive synth loops. As for the singer, he’s displaying that eloquent breathy croon circa Dreamland and sounding all the better for it. By the way, the album’s closing track Abaden (Maggie’s Baby) revisits the opening track as a brief Gambian Juldeh vocal led stomp.

Before we go any further, it’s worth noting that such arrangements combining African roots and ethnic rhythms do not go down favourably with certain sections of Robert’s past audience. He also receives a fair bit of criticism for his live interruptions of Zep numbers on his current tour. Black Dog coming in for the lion’s share of the stick. I do wholeheartedly agree that certain numbers do not work live – No Quarter being a prime example. In fact like a number of fellow fans I’ve spoken to, I would much prefer solo numbers from his past rather than some of the Zep resprays – Pledge Pin, Life Begins Again, Come Into My Life, Skip’s Song and Ship of Fools being on my wish list I’d like to see Robert and the SSS perform live.  As for the Juldeh input, live and on record it works for me – in so much he adds a totally authentic angle to the proceedings which in tandem with Justin’s understanding of the African genre brings a fascinating tangemnt to proceedings.

Back to the album: Pocketful of Golden (something of a soul bearing lyric here too: ‘’I have a pocket full of golden, a little more with every day, inside my coat a silver lining, who knows the price I have to pay’ ) retains that percussive shuffle –Dave Smith is particularly effective playing around the beat – Plant is way down in the mix here maybe a bit too much but the overall swing of the song wins the day aided by an uplifting Justin Adams inspired motif that comes around with pleasing regularity. It’s also a great live number – witness the BBC One show and iTunes Festival performances.

Throughout the album, the theme of reflection is further mirrored by a few random lyrical inserts from the past-  notably on the above which opens with the lines ‘’If the sun refused to shine’’ –a line that will be most familiar to the zillions that have heard the closing track on side one of Led Zep II. There are a couple of other revolving themes from the past – the urgent strut of Turn It Up being in the vein of Tin Pan Valley – the scathing lyrical content this time aimed at Plant’s unrest in America.

Another nod to more traditional blues, Poor Howard (based on Leadbelly/Lomax’s Po Howard), apes the ‘’pretty little girl with the red dress on’’ line to be found in Red Dress off the Dreamland album. This is another Dave Smith rhythmic triumph with his manager Nicola Powell on backing vocals.

There’s also a whole lotta shuffle to be explored on the now highly familiar single Rainbow. Easily the most overtly commercial track Robert has recorded in years. Here the African percussion backdrops Robert’s do wop vocal delight. Perhaps already somewhat overplayed now –in a years’ time this will sound still sound great. File next to the similar sounding Another Tribe as another Ceaseless highlight – oh and listen out for the Love is Enough poem by William Morris.

Up On the Hollow Hill is the opportunity for the Bristol contingent to shine brightly on a trip hop heavy dense swamp romp. Plant again coming over all breathy and mysterious in the vocal department. House of Love is a lovely laid back affair similar to the Only Sounds That Matters on the Band Of Joy album – the vocalist excelling on the refrain that begins ‘’when I think about now’’ – another throwback line that harks back to the similarly titled number on the Page & Plant Walking Into Clarksdale album.

So to the confessional:

Embrace the Fall is an epic work both structurally and lyrically. Plant laid bare from the opening verse:

‘’Oh I often think of you, the hours before it rains, across the broken days, that brought me home again’’

Behind which swirling samples, African undercurrents and Jeldeh’s plucking builds the mood – a parallel can be drawn here with Life Begins Again Robert’s Transglobal Underground guest vocal track from 2001. Anniversary from Manic Nirvana and Slow Dancer from Pictures At Eleven are further reference points. Then there’s a touch of Welsh tradition in the guise of Julie Murphy reciting a 14th century Welsh poem. Some soaring guitar work brings matters to a fade. Most impressive.

The melancholy piano led fragility of A Stolen Kiss is a new departure. Robert delivering  a vocal of stark beauty recalling the broodiness of Elvis at his best (think Can’t Help Falling Love). More lyrical introspection witness:

‘’Love waits for no one, there;s so little time, its cruel and evasive and so hard to find and moving further and further each day I’m gone.’’

To leave proceedings on an upward note – the plangent sway of Somebody There (‘’come walk a mile beside me, come love me and guide me, hear my call’’) indicates that the future is once again bright ahead – this is a warm and friendly excursion and a likely second single.

Overall Conclusion: Often eclectic but with a strong sense of consistency, this is Robert’s most significant work on record for some considerable time. Given the amazingly positive reviews it’s garnered, we are witnessing yet another career high.

There’s a refreshing openness and honesty in the songs that basically tells us that even rock gods need love…and lots of it.

Given my own mind-set here recently – there are clear themes throughout this set that I can relate to and for that matter anyone can relate to. A comforting fact given that I’ve been relating to his words of wisdom for well over 40 years. On this album he touches on universal themes of ageing,  loneliness, longing and hope.

lullaby and the Ceaseless Roar therefore finds Robert Plant reflecting on his past, seemingly content with the present and excited about the future. Like all his best work, it looks back to look forward.

In his roaring 60s and beyond –  long may he roar…

Dave Lewis – September 24th, 2014.


Robert Plant: The Ceaseless Playlist:

lullaby player

Inspired by TBL contributor Stephen Humphries reference recommendations in his review of Robert’s new album, and my concentrated listening that led to the above ramblings – here’s a playlist that I put together that inter weaves the tracks from lullaby and The Ceaseless Roar with similar styled songs from his back catalogue. The end result is a ceaseless playlist (on heavy rotation on a pair of CDR’s here) that captures the now and then moods of the singer and these songs….

Try it yourself and see…

Little Maggie (lullaby..and the Ceaseless Roar)

Central Two –O-Nine (Band of Joy)

Somebody Knocking (Mighty ReArranger)


Rainbow (lullaby..and the Ceaseless Roar)

Another Tribe (Mighty ReArrnager)

Little Hands (Sixty Six To Timbuktu)


Pocketful Of Golden (lullaby..and the Ceaseless Roar)

Down To The Sea (Fate Of Nations)


Embrace Another Fall (lullaby..and the Ceaseless Roar)

Life Begins Again (Sixty Six to Timbuktu)

Slow Dancer (Pictures at Eleven)

Anniversary (Manic Nirvana)


Turn It Up (lullaby..and the Ceaseless Roar)

Tin Pan Valley (Mighty ReArranger)


A Stolen Kiss (lullaby..and the Ceaseless Roar)

Down By The Seaside (with Tori Amos – Encomium tribute album)


Somebody There (lullaby..and the Ceaseless Roar)

Dancing In Heaven (Mighty ReArranger)

House Of Cards (Band of Joy)


Poor Howard (lullaby..and the Ceaseless Roar)

Red Dress (Dreamland)

Angel Dance (Band Of Joy)


House Of Love (lullaby..and the Ceaseless Roar)

The Only Sound That Matters (Band of Joy)


Up On the Hollow Hill (lullaby..and the Ceaseless Roar)

The Enchanter (Mighty ReArranger)


Arbaden (Maggie’s Baby) (lullaby..and the Ceaseless Roar)

Shine It All Around (Girls mix) (Mighty ReArranger)



Robert Plant interview on CBS This  Morning Show:

See Link below:

 Robert is due to appear on the Tonight with Jimmy Fallon show on NMB Friday September 26th


 DL Diary Update:

 TBL 2014/15 Subscriptions:

Firstly, many thanks to all those who have re-subscribed for the 2014/15 TBL magazines – of which TBL 38 is well in progress.  There are still many of you out there – regular past subscribers who have yet to do so – do it as soon as possible -you will not want to miss out – the link to subscribe is below – and many thanks in advance.

There’s been more intensive work on TBL 38 this week with a couple of Skype sessions with Mike Tremaglio in overseeing the text. This is an absolutely packed edition and I’ve not finished yet – there’s still more to insert.

Have to say it’s been a bit of a tricky past couple of weeks here with various issues to content with and Adam leaving for University (he is bound for Eastbourne) on Saturday.

As usual music is something of a salvation as it was those 34 years back and on many other testing occasions – with Robert’s album hitting the mark as can be noted above, alongside Physical Graffiti and Presence which are always key inspirations when required.  The plaintive tones of Frank Sinatra and Nick Drake will also match the melancholy mood as September drifts away.

On a more upbeat note, next month, attention will turn to the Led Zeppelin IV and Houses Of The Holy reissues – of which much inspiration will be derived. So it’s ever onward into the autumn…more on all this exciting forthcoming activity soon.

Dave Lewis – September 25th, 2014.

YouTube clips:

Robert Plant and Patty Griffin performing Ohio last week…

John Bonham – remember him this way…we’re gonna goove…

John Bonham -remember him this way – playing to an ocean…

Until next time…have a great weekend…

Keep listening, keep reading…

Dave Lewis/Gary Foy – September 25th, 2014.

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  • Jacqueline said:

    Thanks, really enjoyed reading this! And your playlist. I had some similar thoughts about parallels to earlier songs when I heard “lullaby..”.

    Just one little mistake: “Life begin again” was recorded with Afro Celt Sound System, not Transglobal Underground. The welsh lyrics by Julie Murphy (sampled in “embrace another fall”) are wonderful, and thanks to the booklet of “lullaby”, we now know what that song (Marwnad yr Ehedydd) means, and I could learn to sing along in welsh, yay!

    btw: that song “Marwnad yr Ehedydd” caused me to do quite a lot of research, because when you listen to it in bagpipe versions (see youtube), you find striking similarities to an Indian blockbuster theme from 1954, “Man dole mera …”, the tune that every snake charmer in India plays ever since… I find both songs equally haunting. But I did not find out if that Indian composer saw a welsh bagpiper sometime in the early 50ies 🙂

  • lebourgchristine said:

    Hello Dave.Sorry I have already written, but I do not like the solo albums of RP! And yet I am a big fan! My story relates to LED ZEP!As many fans I grew up with them and thanks them!, their music has helped me at times difficult.I loved see RP in Paris and Cognac, but it is the Led Zep music that touches me.I’m in a weird period and I need to talk about my emotion for LED ZEP, then it is up to you, dear Dave, I write: you can understand me!Thanks

  • Wools said:

    RIP John Bonham, your loss still effects millions of people today. I enjoyed last evening with the tribute band Led Zeppelin 2 at the House of Blues in Las Vegas. I think you would have smiled all night long. Great show!
    Thanks Dave for the playlist’s!

    LAs Vegas, NV. USA

  • Larry said:

    Dave, your overview of Plant’s career juxtaposed against the new album is very well done. Really enjoyed that.

    I really like the new album. I’ve only got around to listening to it in the past few days and it’s refusing to leave the CD player. I don’t rate it with Fate Of Nations (still his solo peak in my opinion), but I think it’s an album of depth.

    Agreed wholeheartedly, he’s still the voice that blew us away in Zeppelin, and while it’s changed of course thru the years, when I hear it, it still strikes a positive note to my ears and psyche.

    Your comments also got me to thinking of his past work (and as usual, you’ll have me happily making a run thru the back catalogue)…Pictures At Eleven is still high on my list…Principle holds up for me despite the 80s trappings which I usually abhor, and despite that maybe I’m one of the few that actually liked Shaken, while Now And Zen didn’t work for me apart from one or two cuts (Ship of Fools first amongst them).

    I liked much better the big rock bombast of Manic Nirvana…as mentioned, Fate of Nations is the pinnacle for me, not only for the incredible album itself, but also for the plethora of great b-sides (almost another album unto themselves). The detour with Page seems odd now looking back, I don’t think their albums hold up real well, but I was (and am) very grateful for the gigs I got to see.

    Dreamland was good, not great…Mighty Rearranger I liked quite a bit…the Alison Krauss album was excellent, I thought. But the live show…when I saw her whispering When The Levee Breaks or Black Dog (can’t even recall which one now), the absurdity of it all was just too much, the utter nadir of the Zep resprays as you termed them. Band of Joy was terrific. Lullaby sounds even a little better than that to me right now. Rainbow and A Stolen Kiss are my favorites.

    What I am completely over are the absurd deconstructions of the Zeppelin material. I think he should simply play more of his solo tracks in concert. He could do an entire set of his vast collection of songs, and if he feels like he needs to do a little Zep, just fire off Whole Lotta Love and Rock And Roll in the encores and the punters will probably go home happy.

    I’m also over all of the sniping on all sides of the fence from the Zeppelin camp. It must be said that Robert is easily leading the league in that department, but it’s also unseemly from Page and/or Jones when they engage in it. Just let it go. They should know that their diehard fans all know the score, we know where they all stand, at least from their public remarks. Nothing is going to top Led Zeppelin, and they should all be comfortable with that. It will assuredly live on for as long as humans are listening to music. There’s nothing left to prove. What more could an artist want? What greater tribute could there be?

    It’s been a great ride and I feel real emotion and conviction in Robert’s singing on this new album. If this is possibly his last album as he recently hinted (although his comments must always be taken with a large grain of salt), then he’s notched up a compelling fini to a remarkable career, a trail blazing career. He has this fan’s gratitude whatever the case.

  • Rick Willis said:

    Dave I remember that awful morning at Astley High school where I learned of John’s passing. It was truly an awful piece of news to comprehend. The press cuttings surrounding his death are still with me next to the reviews of Zeppelin in Denmark on the warm up gigs for Knebworth. A great loss and so cruel to all.

  • Mark Williams said:

    Dave, firstly a superb ‘ Roaring 60’s ‘overview assessment of Sir Robert’s solo career retrospective and where’s he landed today with this brilliant new album. Whilst the quality of this new output is there for us all to revel in,it still tinges with sadness that this will inevitably mean,just like after ‘ Raising sand’, that any residual hopes of doing something with his early year chums, becomes a distant hope.

    Still, being positive,let’s just be thankfully that at 66 Robert remains as vital and relevant as he always was.

  • Ed-Washington DC said:

    Hard to believe the great John Bonham has been gone longer now that he was with us.

  • Larry said:

    Dave, thanks as always for the thought and eloquence you put into your commentaries. Despite the passage of so many years, Bonzo’s loss still feels so utterly painful. But the music he left behind is his legacy, and it speaks volumes that no drummer has risen to his stature in the minds of the public in all these subsequent years.

    And thanks also for the playlists! Will definitely cue those up!

    RIP The Mighty John “Bonzo” Bonham

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