Robert Plant and the Strange Sensation

At this late date no one expects Robert Plant to make another In Through the Out Door, let alone another Houses of the Holy. So it's tempting to assume that Mighty Rearranger, Plant's first album of original material in more than a decade, sounds great only because it doesn't find Plant dabbling in trip-hop or jazz or because he didn't hire the Dust Brothers to introduce him to a new generation that only knows Led Zeppelin from the time the Beastie Boys sampled "When the Levee Breaks." But stay with the record and you realize that Plant and his young bandmates (including two touring members of Portishead, who left their trip-hop at home) have recaptured the epic swing and titanic crunch of prime Zep without getting bogged down in the band's immovable myth. There's more tangy North African juice here than ever, and the gorgeous acoustic ballad "All the King's Horses," in which Plant sounds unafraid to voice his age, is almost worth going to California to hear. Lyrically, there are problems: In addition to horses, the king has men, and evidently there are lovelights in the world yet to be turned on. But this time Plant's earned that right.

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