Book Reviews

Published on December 28th, 2014 | by Mike Ainscoe

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ROBERT PLANT – The Voice That Sailed The Zeppelin

Written by Dave Thompson

Published by BACKBEAT BOOKS

Bearing in mind the old adage that you only get one chance to make a first impression, and offering up such a slightly dubious title, here’s another prolific rock writer in Dave Thompson who, with over a hundred books in the rock and pop arena, turns his attentions to the iconic figure which is Robert Plant. Of course there are a wealth of books which already offer variations on the Led Zeppelin legend, yet in the grand scheme of things it’s worth considering that in his career, Plant spent only about a quarter with Zeppelin so there’s a whole new area amounting to thirty plus years of post Zeppelin to consider.

What makes this book a little different is the structure and organisation, which turns the notion of a simple chronology around. Instead, we get parallel chapters which switch from Plant in Zeppelin to the early days and solo career – organised as well into even numbered chapters for Zep, odd for non Zep. Seems straightforward enough.

As you’d expect, the book also pulls on contributions from  many of the associated figures from the Plant/Zeppelin story,  however what’s not made clear is how many have been interviewed directly  or how much (seemingly most) is accounted for from past encounters or from researched sources for this particular tome.  The claims of telling  the already well chronicled Zeppelin story from new and unexpected angles is intriguing, although with the plethora of Zeppelin bios on the market from the factual and detailed from the likes of authoritative Zep chronicler Dave Lewis, to the more sensational muck rakers, leaves one wondering what the new angles might be.  It may be that the Zep story is viewed more through the contributions of Plant himself, where he is often portrayed, as are Jones and Bonham, to being a role player in the Jimmy Page/Peter Grant ‘Jimmy Page plus three’ masterplan. Ironic then that in later years, Plant has always been the one who has held the cards when it comes down to the constantly thorny issue of Zeppelin reunions.

The main interest however, is in the coverage of Plant’s early years  and post Zeppelin years, which after all, take up a large majority of his musical career having been primarily and not unsurprisingly noted for his work in Zeppelin. As Thompson rightly points out, he’s the only former Zep member to maintain an unbroken career up to present day, and the single mindedness and increasing confidence in the commitment to treading his own path and finding himself comfortable in his own skin has been a major aspect of Plant’s continued longevity. All the while Jimmy page stands as the keeper of the flames in continuing to adhere to “the latest repackaging of the Led Zeppelin catalogue”.

The solo career from 1982’s ‘Pictures At Eleven’ through to the Page & Plant projects of the late nineties and the dalliances with the Sensational Space Shifters, the acclaimed work with Alison Krauss and rekindling the Band Of Joy bring together the sheer variety of his work. Viewed in isolation, the willingness to never stand still and remain comfortable in his own skin really comes home to roost, all the while discreet references are made to the women who have passed through the Plant life along with his loyal dedication to the cause that is Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Without digging too deep, there may be those scholars who would baulk at the minor inaccuracies which appear, for example a  classic 1977 live Zeppelin shot which is labelled 1973 grates somewhat and surely someone somewhere will take pleasure in exposing a few factual details and some awkwardly written  sections in which the American English gets a little confused in translation (‘gilt/guilt’ anyone?) but one doesn’t become the author of such a vast canon without working quickly possibly at the expense of detail and accuracy. Altogether though, ‘The Voice That Sailed The Zeppelin’ is an enjoyable enough read, but perhaps another Plant bio which will be filed alongside those of Paul Rees and Neil Daniels and missing the chance to plug the gap and present a fully definitive account of the man.

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About the Author

Mike's mellowed in his old age, discovering the delights of traditional folk and acoustic music and the constant stream of new music coming through his passion as a gig-goer, music photographer and writer. With favourite artists and favourite songs which change daily, even hourly, he adds another spoke to the Sonic Bandwagon wheel of fortune.



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