In a recent interview, Robert Plant confessed that his newest album, lullaby And…The Ceaseless Roar, may be his last one. Which is sad news, if true, especially since it would mean he’s going out with a whimper and not a bang.
Recorded with his current backing band, The Sensational Space Shifters, lullaby And…The Ceaseless Roar kicks off with a cover of the traditional tune “Little Maggie,” which sets the mood for this album, a mellow one that is mostly made of folky guitars, airy vocals, and a foundation of Middle Eastern rhythms.
It’s a pattern that continues throughout lullaby And…The Ceaseless Roar on such songs as “House Of Love,” “Rainbow,” and “Poor Howard” (the latter of which cheekily throws in a bit of the song “Wah Wah” Plant recorded with his old pal Jimmy Page on 1994’s live Unledded album).
Though even when lullaby And…The Ceaseless Roar veers away from the formula, Robert Plant And The Sensational Space Shifters hardly rock out like Plant did with his previous group, Band Of Joy, on their eponymous 2010 album. The exceptions to this are, “Embrace Another Fall,” which builds drama with some loud guitars in the middle, but then quickly and rather awkward settles back into its original mellow mood, and, rather fittingly, “Turn It Up,” which brings in some rollickin’ guitar, but in a way that melds well with the rest of the music. The former of which is especially irritating since, had this awkward aggressive bit been excised, or continued on through the end, “Pocketful Of Golden” would’ve been one of the highlights of lullaby And…The Ceaseless Roar as opposed to a low moment.
There are also times when lullaby And…The Ceaseless Roar gets too slick. With slow piano and atmospheric tones that make it just way too smooth, “A Stolen Kiss” sounds more something you’d hear in a Disney movie than on a rock stage. Similarly, the chorus of “Somebody There” is so polished so much that it’s become slippery and way too obvious.
In the end, lullaby And…The Ceaseless Roar is not the best solo album Robert Plant has ever made. Though it’s hardly the worst; that distinction belongs to 1985’s Shaken ’N’ Stirred, mostly because it’s abundance of cheesy keyboards, sound effects, and production has kept it from aging well.
Instead, it’s just really uneven; his most uneven collection since 2007’s Raising Sand with Alison Krauss. Which is really too bad since, when it is good, it’s quite good, even if it isn’t his most rockin’ album. Because had this been a consistently mellow affair, this could’ve been Plant’s version of Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska; instead it ends up being mostly that with a couple tracks ruining the mood, his version of R.E.M.’s Automatic For The People if you will. Which is not how I’d want to go out, if I was Robert Plant.