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Robert Plant returns to the sonic landscape which he explored with Alison Krauss in 2007's Raising Sand - that of rattling drums, howling overdriven guitars, jangling banjos and mandolins, and a ghostly, ethereal female vocal. Patty Griffin provides the latter element here, but this outing - unlike the landmark date with Krauss that introduced so many listeners to the joys of Americana - sees Plant completely in charge, and ranging over a somewhat wider array of styles. It's early days, but I think this makes it more of a mixed bag; whilst he's to be commended for the range, some of these songs work better than others. My current favorites probably hark back to the "Raising Sand" sound: the tense, moody "Silver Rider", the densely compelling "Monkey", and the mysterious, almost frightening, take on "Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down". I've found myself returning to these tracks time and again this week, but there are many dusty jewels in the rest of this collection, which repays repeated listening.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 12 September 2010
Robert resurrects the name of his 60s band 'Band of Joy' for this album produced by Buddy Miller, guitarist on 2007's collaboration with Alison Krauss "Raising Sand". However, this isn't 'a back to the 60s' record, although some of the covers are from the 60s. In fact it's a very similar collection of songs to "Raising Sand", covers of old country, rockabilly, R&B and blues tracks, with a similar atmospheric sound - banjos and mandolins, with lashings of reverb and tremolo on the guitar. I really like the variety of the songs and the way that the producer creates a unifying overall sound from the disparate styles, similarly Robert's voice seems to fit all the different styles without compromising any of his usual vocal stylings.

I think that this is a more consistent album than "Raising Sand", although again chances have been taken and some songs work better than others, the best songs here are really excellent. My favourite tracks are the opening cover of Los Lobos' "Angel dance" and the following version of Richard Thompson's "House of cards", with 'Fairportesque' vocals from Patty Griffin. In fact I thought that Patty's backing vocals were really good throughout and I would have liked to have heard more of them. I also enjoyed the 50s country song "Falling in Love Again" (with Robert sounding a bit like Elvis), the 'Merseybeat' "You Can't Buy My Love" and the haunting "Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down". It will be interesting to see if this record sells as well as "Raising Sand".
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How easy would it be for Robert Plant to rest on his laurels, live on past glories and occasionally resurrect that popular beat combo Led Zeppelin for the odd lucrative tour? It is to his huge credit that as he gets older his musical journey takes more adventurous twists and turns, heading into constantly interesting and diverse new territory with a restlessness that would put many younger artists to shame. Another bonus is at the age of 62 his voice just gets better and better.

It is also the case that many had expected Plant to reconvene his wonderful collaboration with Alison Krauss and produce "Raising Sand part 2". But it appears that despite a number of recent sessions with her it didn't quite recapture the initial magic and Plant admits in the latest edition of Mojo that "you can only spend so trying to get it right". So what we have is the resurrection of a previous band name but a whole new set of musical collaborations which overall is effortless and a stonkingly good listen. And how could it not be? His hand-picked bunch of Nashville session musicians are made up veteran guitarist Buddy Miller's, drummer Marco Giovino, bassist Byron House, multi-instrumentalist Daryl Scott's pedal steel and to add the proverbial icing to the cake one of the queens of country Patty Griffin is present to provide possibly one the most experienced vocal foils in the history of modern music. Frankly this lot could play on combs and spoons and it would sound great.

The music follows the Raising Sand template and draws from a wide musical palette of gospel, country, blues and rock. Plant tackles head on songs ranging from artists as diverse as East LA's finest Los Lobos to those Kings of quiet slow core introspection the Minnesota trio "Low". Indeed I am and struggling to think of a better song I have heard this year than the moody but graceful Low cover "Silver Rider" (but see also "Monkey") with its echo laden guitar from Miller and tender vocals from Plant and Griffin. As it builds into a powerful force of nature you struggle to think of any song on the peerless Raising Sand which could have matched it and it improves on the original. The pace of opener "Angel Dance" which is a Los Lobos cover is altogether different full of looping guitar rhythms and an excellent upbeat vocal by Plant. Every more jaunty is the Beatles like "You cant buy my love" performed recently on the Andrew Marr show which Plant tells us that he first heard on compilation disk and is essentially a counterpart to the Fabs song recorded originally by the R&B star Barbara Lynn. In "The only sound that matters" Plant's project has unearthed a little known country gem which is genuinely lovely; alternatively he then returns us to Low's seventh album "The Great Destroyer" with an immaculate cover of its opener "Monkey", which is jam packed with raw/sinister power, angry guitar and some echoes of its distant cousin which is Radiohead's "Climbing up the walls". Plant and Griffin are immense on this and his patronage will also hopefully lead curious music lovers to explore the wonders of Low or check Mark Kozelek's cover versions.

Space forbids extended dialogue on the atmospheric gospel blues of "Satan your kingdom must come down", the great cover of Richard Thompson's "House of Cards" where Griffin's backing vocals come more to the forefront and "Central Two-o-nine" which is one of those great American train songs where you can almost hear the lonesome whistle, smell the smoke and the Appalachian pines. Splendid stuff.

For some breathlessly awaiting a Led Zep reunion I suspect this album may not satisfy, not least with the complete absence of hard rocking anthems. Similarly others will find "Band of Joy" to be a slightly darker and much more Gothic album than the light country air achieved with the gossamer vocals of Krauss on "Raising Sand". But on repeated listens this is an album that is easily an even match for its predecessor on the the enjoyability scale and the backing musicians throughout are faultless. As the years pass Robert Plant is turning into a true renaissance man with his albums becoming "Events" and awaited with genuine anticipation. While many of his peers and contemporaries seem largely content to plod on and tread water, you get the feeling that if Plant keeps producing albums of the sheer quality of "Band of Joy" he will soon be walking on it.
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on 5 September 2010
After the multi-million selling grammy award winning 'Raising Sand' with Alison Krauss, Robert Plant returns with another Americana tinged album. This time around it's not a straight album of duets, as female companion Patty Griffin provides harmonies rather than lead vocals. What is surprising about this album is just how good Plant's vocals are, probably his best since his Led Zeppelin days, and he clearly learned a lot from his time with Krauss and the result of this is an album that is much more easier on the ear than the majority of his previous solo offerings. The album starts with a joyous cover of Los Lobos's 'Angel Dance'filled with excellent musicianship which sets the scene for the rest of the album. This is followed up with an excellent version of Richard Thompson's 'House Of Cards; which then leads into the 'Central Two-O-Nine' with a very bluesy feel. The album is very eclectic and sometimes the songs don't quite run well together in the way that 'Raising Sand' did, but there are great songs throughout which include 'You Can't Buy My Love', 'Harms Swift Way' and 'Cindy I'll Marry You One Day'. Towards the end of the album the music flows more smoothly through a series of folk-esque songs and on the whole its a great set. 'Raising Sand' raised the bar very high for the follow up 'Band Of Joy' which doesn't quite live up to its predecessor but clearly Plant has a great passion for this type of music that shows throughout the album, and it really does suit his voice. If you enjoyed 'Raising Sand' then this is definitely worth considering.
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on 24 November 2010
What's a man to do when he's close to the age of retirement? Unless he's an unreconstructed workaholic with the boredom threshold of an eight year old he probably hopes for the time to pass quickly between now and when he can retire. But when you're someone fortunate enough to make a living out of what you enjoy doing the rules are rather different.

If you're Robert Plant you've always got the option of doing a handful of gigs a year with your old band but -bless him- he's not one for nostalgia even if there are legions out there who are. No, what he goes and does is get himself such a potent dose of dark Americana that he can ignore the lure of the metaphorical rhinoceros in the room that is that (still) popular beat combo Led Zeppelin, and then he goes and puts it on record.

This probably accounts for why `Silver Rider' is as euphorically melancholic as anything you care to name. While the guitars might be overdriven there's no striving for effect, and in that regard they simply follow Plant's vocal example.

Wasn't "Cindy (I'll Marry You Someday)" once beloved by chunky sweater-wearing types? Well even if it was through Plant's alchemy it becomes something else. Again his vocal is understated and a damn sight more in tune with the lyric than it was in what some would probably describe as his pomp.

He's got his way with what was once called driving music too, as exemplified by Townes Van Zandt's "Harm's Swift Way" which despite its title is one of the most upbeat things on the album. Plant and Patty Griffin don't sing harmonies so much as they coax less than obvious implications out of the lyric, while the band ducks and weaves in the manner of the most graceful middleweight.

So overall it's a damn sight more than all good. It's an example of a man doing just as he pleases with zest and a restless spirit. The world would be a much more interesting place if more of his contemporaries could manage the same.
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on 18 September 2010
This album arrived yesterday morning. In old fashioned speak - it hasn't been off the turntable since. Plant is one of a kind. Transcending the stereotypes that could have stopped him in his tracks many a year ago, he has continued to push and prod and nibble at the foundations of his musical passions. His taste is impeccable, his pedigree unquestionable, his choice of collaborators inspired, his voice unmistakable. Band of Joy is a true labour of love and consistent throughout - he is undiluted. Given the weight of the musicians here the balance of collaboration is perfect - quite an achievement given this line-up that no one is vying for position. Technically we could examine the production values (which are outstanding), the sources, the decision behind the song choices and Plant's contemporary relevance in the context of this stage of his career. But that would be tedious. So...Just play it and rejoice. Then play it again. Repeat as necessary.
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on 5 February 2011
How can you describe the unexplainable. Robert Plant the Singer, I suppose. The whole thing, the spacey production, the music, the words, and the musicians, are in his image, his quality, and his wish. You can get different music, but you can't get any better. I don't really want to put a finger on what to expect, but for those who wonder if they should buy it for the style of music, perhaps you generally have a slowish beat, tied up to an eloquent, intelligent, and elegant, rock band and lyrics, rocking between Americana and slow rolling Rock, surrounding and pointing to I would say, the bejeweled voice of Robert Plant simply making it unexplainable in terms of the highest quality of art, never mind the highest quality of Electric Guitar Band and Singer art.

It's out of this world stuff for me. As I say, not one single dud track, which for me, for starters is a first for any album.
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on 24 October 2010
You have to hand it to Robert Plant. Not for him the easy option of taking the huge cash on offer for a Led Zeppelin reunion. Instead the former rock god has had an interesting career, dabbling in bluegrass and folk.

This album mainly consists of covers, from Los Lobos to Low via Richard Thompson and Townes Van Zandt. Angel Dance, the opener is a kind of sprightly folk, while House of Cards is more a lumbering, slow-burning rock track. Plant covers not just one Low track but 2! Silver Rider is the more successful of the two, as Plant allows the band to stretch out with some superb guitar. Monkey on the other hand struggles to match the visceral intensity of the original. Nevertheless, they are great songs, and Plant does a decent job on them.

On the other end of the spectrum, You Can't Buy My Love is a kind of early 60s stomp, and we get some bluegrass in Cindy, I'll Marry You Someday and Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down. Townes Van Zandt's Harm Swift Way is transformed into country rock, working quite well.

Overall the album is a little hit and miss, but at least he's pushing himself creatively.
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on 15 September 2010
What is so interesting about Robert Plant is that he is constantly shifting his musical deliverance. This latest album is soothing, catchy, deeply sexy in places and produces tunes which make you stop what you are doing to listen carefully. Gospel, blues and deep south country are there for all to hear but beneath is the faintest whisper of England in the early 1960's; the background of rock and roll, a misty folkiness.
I've read several reviews which bemoan the fact that it's Robert Plant but not Led Zeppelin. But there's something about the eclectic mix of songs here that does echo the adaptability and chameleon transformations Zeppelin showed successfully, particularly in their later years.
Poor a glass of wine, lie back and enjoy.
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on 24 November 2014
Nice to hear a class act still going strong. As someone prepared to listen to different styles of music with out prejudgement it is nice to see ones singers also give it a go.
After the more Countryfied / Blue Grass - Raising Sand collaboration with Alison Krauss, we see a move to more world music with yet another good band of musicians. I'm not sure I really mean "world music" but Robert has moved on from the Country to somewhere else that is experimental but not far off pop in parts.
A great listen, great variety and a good buy, if not already purchased and you like Plant go for it.
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