Wednesday, October 20, 2010

CD of the Day: ‘The Principle of Moments,’ Robert Plant (1983)

Author’s note: In honor of Robert Plant’s new album, “Band of Joy,” I’m going back through his entire solo career to see how he got to this point.

No matter what era it’s from, a great song is a great song. You know it, you get it, you feel it. Immediately. Robert Plant’s “In the Mood” is one of those songs.

From the murky slow build to that first jangly guitar phrase to the big drum intro to Plant’s silky-smooth vocal delivery, “In the Mood” works. Plant hardly even sings much more than “I’m in the mood for a melody” over the course of nearly five and a half minutes, and yet the cut is never boring. It has an identity, movement … it makes me reach for the volume button every time.

I know tracks like “In the Mood” don’t grow on some magical music tree, but it’s a shame Plant couldn’t deliver songs like it more consistently in this first phase of his post-Zeppelin career. Because there’s just not much else to “The Principle of Moments” to get overly excited about. The unfortunately titled “Big Log” is the other major highlight, with a memorable guitar melody that is strong enough to compensate for a drum pattern that sounds like it was created on one of those synthesizers they used to have in elementary school music rooms. Plant’s vocal is more forceful and confident here, too, in a purer way than much of the other solo work to this point. I don’t know if “Big Log” was ever used in a movie, but its stark presence seems tailor made for the silver screen.

The rest of the album is a mixed bag. Opener “Other Arms” was a huge hit for Plant at the time but doesn’t hold up, sounding like a made-for-radio factory product of commercial studio players. “Horizontal Departure,” however, is a more honest hard-charging rocker that still licks and kicks today. “Messin’ with the Mekon” has an island influence more unfortunate than “D’yer Mak’er,” while “Thru’ with the Two Step” is an effective ballad, even if it does almost drown in stereotypical ’80s keyboards. “Wreckless Love” and “Stranger Here … Than Over There” make little impact positively or negatively.

So “The Principle of Moments” finds Plant fully divested from Led Zeppelin and transitioned to full-on pop/rock mode in the grand ’80s tradition: A couple great tracks, a couple dogs, and the rest easy-to-swallow filler. It’s less consistent than his solo debut, but is great when it’s good.

I have just one final question: Why was he so obsessed with reverb?

Grade: B

Favorite Track: “In the Mood”

Least Favorite Track: “Messin’ with the Mekon”

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