It is very obvious that Robert Plant has remained an artist with every intention to continue to explore new artistic avenues in music and grow as a composer, singer, and song interpreter. It would have been much easier to continue to sing Led Zeppelin style songs in that same voice and swagger and to sell out show after show in some connotation of Led Zeppelin. However, some artists refuse to continue on as an oldies act and wish to explore new musical adventures. Most fans wanted Zeppelin, but Robert Plant didn’t care. He did his own thing and has continued to be an artist.
You don’t have to buy a Robert Plant album, just like Robert Plant doesn’t have to reunite Led Zeppelin. However, I have always followed Robert Plant’s solo career and brought every album the singer has released. In the post Led Zeppelin years Robert Plant has released a catalog of music that has presented fans with an abundance of material. Here are ten of our favorite Robert Plant songs that represent various time periods during Robert Plant’s thirty eight year plus solo career
# 10 – Rainbow
Opening up our top 10 Robert Plant songs list is the beautiful track “Rainbow.” The song was released on the 2014 album Lullaby and the Ceaseless Roar. The album was Robert Plant’s first record in which he composed most of the music after ten years of releasing albums that consisted of mostly covers. “Rainbow,” is such a gorgeous song that defines the blues in Robert Plant’s soul that the singer has always expressed is what he searches for in every performance.
# 9 – Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down
On the haunting “Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down,” Robert Plant finds that blues note on the opening quarter note. The down-home Delta Blues guitar riff set up tantalizing Robert Plant vocals that are both chilling and earnest. This is great stuff. “Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down,” is a traditional song. Robert Plant’s version was used as the theme to the Starz television show Boss starring Kelsey Grammer.
# 8 – Fat Lip
The first two Robert Plant solo albums define Robert Plant’s search for a new sound outside his Led Zeppelin persona. It is interesting to listen to Robert Plant’s back catalog from a distance because the first two albums sound so much closer to his Led Zeppelin vocal performances now than they did when we first heard the albums upon initial release. But one can also hear the movement towards the commercial sound he becomes very successful with in the mid to late 80’s. However that 80’s sound was defined by overproduced records and too much reliance on technology, a fact that even Robert Plant has agreed with.
The song “Fat Lip,” presents fans with some great Led Zeppelin style vocal phrasing by Plant that would soon disappear in the coming years. Along with the great guitar riff, and Plant’s signature vocals, “Fat Lip,” was a no-brainer for our Top 10 Robert Plant songs list.
# 7 – Hurting Kind (I’ve Got My Eyes On You)
The song “Hurting Kind (I’ve Got My Eyes On You),” is the perfect representation of the overproduced Robert Plant sound that we wrote about in the last segment. In the mid 1980s, companies like Yamaha, Roland, Korg and many others were changing the sound of music with the development of high-end synthesizers, effects gear, and recording technology. Musicians, artists, and engineers were blown away by the onslaught of cool gear being released every few months. Of course, the gear became overused at the expense of the basic concepts of songwriting and musicianship for many artists.
Artists that were still composing great songs and performances overused the gear in ways that masked their talent instead of highlighting it. Robert Plant’s “Tall Cool One,” was a perfect example of those issues. “Hurting Kind,” wrapped up Robert Plant’s late 1980s period. It was released on Robert Plant’s Manic Nirvana album which was released in 1990. Fans loved that song. Hurting Kind (I’ve Got My Eyes On You) spent six weeks at the number one spot on the Billboard Mainstream Rock charts. However, that sound that was still reminiscent of the big 1980s would soon give way to something much darker as the Seattle scene would soon break into the mainstream, and bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden would force Robert Plant to shift gears on his next album.
# 6 – Little by Little
The most famous synthesizer of the 1980s that changed the sound of music was Yamaha’s DX7 . Utilizing what the company termed FM technology, the Yamaha DX7 showcased a bright metallic marimba-type sound that was used in countless records throughout the 1980s. Musicians would hear these sounds and actually right songs based on the synthesized patches. You can hear that distinct Yamaha DX7 sound all throughout Robert Plant’s “Little By Little.”
The song “Little by Little,” was released on the 1985 Shaken ‘n’ Stirred album. The album was a departure from the sound of Robert Plant’s first two solo albums and represented the transition to that big 80’s sound that would define Robert Plant’s work until the end of the decade.
# 5 – In The Mood
The great Robert Plant song “In The Mood,” was the second track on Robert Plant’s second solo album The Principle of Moments. The song was augments by an unforgettable guitar hook played by guitarist Robbie Blunt. The song was written by Robert Plant, Robbie Blunt and bassist Paul Martinez. One can hear from the great bass groove and guitar lick that both of those musicians were very instrumental in the writing of the songs.
The track has a very distinctive early 80’s feel and almost sounded a little like David Bowie. It was a very successful song for Robert Plant as it stayed in the number one spot on the Billboard Mainstream Rock charts for weeks.
# 4 – Slow Dancer
The song “Slow Dancer,” was released on Robert Plant’s first solo album Pictures at Eleven. This was as close to the Led Zeppelin sound that Robert Plant ever produced during his solo career. And that makes sense since it had only been two years since Led Zeppelin had broken up. The Pictures at Eleven album was the only solo Robert Plant album to be released on Led Zeppelin’s Swan Song label.
The album featured two legendary drummers in the names of Cozy Powell and Phil Collins. Cozy Powell who had played with Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Jeff Beck, Keith Emerson and many others was the drummer featured on “Slow Dancer.” The songs’ heavy groove and Jimmy Page like guitar licks echoed Led Zeppelin tunes like “Kashmir,” and “Achilles Last Stand.” For many it was the standout track on Robert Plant’s first solo album and one of our favorite all time Robert Plant songs from his solo career.
# 3 – Please Read The Letter
The beautiful heartfelt song “Please Read the Letter,” was written by Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, Charlie Jones, and Michael Lee. The original version of the song was written for the Jimmy Page Robert Plant album Walking into Clarksdale which was released in 1994. At this point in time, Robert Plant had been yearning to get away from the big arenas and focus on working more in with the music in small clubs. You can hear it in the music he was writing and in his vocal phrasing. And that all made sense. Robert Plant had basically ruled the world as the biggest rock star of all time, he was a God in the eyes of millions of fans. Any human being who had been through all of what Robert Plant had been through both on a professional and personal level would undoubtedly want to escape into a smaller universe of time and space. That escape was fully represented in the work that he was attempting to compose.
While “Please Read the Letter,” was a beautiful track on the Page Plant album, the version Robert Plant recorded with Allison Krauss was simply breathtaking. On the Raising Sand album, Robert Plant seemed to find what he had been searching for. His voice seemed at ease and at its most earnest since his Led Zeppelin days. Critics responded to the song with intensely favorable reviews, The song “Please Read The Letter,” won a Grammy for Record of the Year in 2009. The Raising Sand album was released in 2007 and also won a Grammy as album of the year at the 2009 Grammy Awards.
# 2 – Other Arms
Led Zeppelin albums always had great one-two punch opening tracks on their albums. Led Zeppelin IV had “Black Dog,” which segued into “Rock and Roll.” Houses of the Holy had “The Songs Remains The Same,” dripping into the “Rain Song.” On Robert Plant’s second solo album The Principle of Moments, the iconic singer followed Led Zeppelin tradition with the great one-two punch of “Other Arms,” into “In The Mood.” I can remember being in a club in the Bronx one night in the early eighties when someone dropped a dime in the jukebox and played B17. As soon as Robert Plant’s vocals began howling out of the giant jukebox speakers, the entire club began singing the lyrics to “Other Arms.” I realized at that point in time while still mourning the demise of Led Zeppelin, we still had Robert Plant and that the sound of that voice continuing on through good times and bad times would still be a part of our daily lives forever.
# 1 – The Greatest Gift
Robert Plant’s Fate of Nations released in 1993 was a complete departure from his late 1980s catalog of albums. Gone was the overproduction and big 80’s sound. Rober Plant had returned with an album more focused on songwriting and authentic instrumentation and arrangements. It’s not to say that the sound wasn’t big, it was just more organic. The entire album was mesmerizing. However, the one song that we thought stood out was the beautiful track, “The Greatest Gift.”
Fate of Nations was an album of brilliant prose and a step back into Plant’s past. In 1993, Robert Plant had come full circle and then lifted off into a new phase of his career. From the Fate of Nations album onward to the present day Robert Plant has released a string of brilliant albums all focused on authenticity in art and creativity. Plant has cherished and respected the Led Zeppelin legacy in the most respectful fashion by leaving it be for what it was. He found his true solo voice on Fate of Nations and his continued to explore his calling in the most impeccable fashion.
Top 10 Robert Plant Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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