Itís no secret that current rock savior Jack White owes a debt to Robert Plant, the man who started all this heavy-metal blues screeching in the first place. So itís a hell of a coincidence to hear Plant howling Bob Dylanís "One More Cup of Coffee," a song the White Stripes have been performing since their early days, on his first solo album in nine years. Unintentional as the gesture may be, itís a fitting reverse tribute from one of rockís most dignified elder statesmen.
Plant tackles an idiosyncratic jumble of blues, folk, and psych-rock standards on Dreamland, and even the handful of originals on the disc represents a huge step away from the commercial arena rock of his early solo career. He lets out a few of his legendary orgasmic moans on "Darkness, Darkness," a loose, ambling meditation on the Youngbloodsí original. His versatile young band (featuring members of the Cure and Portishead) bring "Hey Joe" to a noisy climax that all but transforms the song into a modern-day "Dazed and Confused." Tender readings of Tim Buckleyís "Song to the Siren" and Moby Grapeís "Skipís Song" emphasize passion over artifice, and the slamminí original "Red Dress" prompts another favorable White Stripes comparison. Plant may not be trying to keep up with the kids, but heís doing a pretty good job of it all the same.
(Robert Plant opens for the Who next Friday, July 26 at the Tweeter Center. The show is officially sold out.)