The first song from Plant's 2010 album 'Band of Joy' finds the creatively restless legend assembling an all-new, super-talented and highly eclectic band. As Plant confidently explores his lower register, the new team adds a wonderful sense of looseness and yet, somehow, even more texture to an already detail-rich 1990 song by Los Lobos.
'Please Read the Letter'
A much more reserved and stately rendition of this song got a lot of praise when Plant re-recorded it with country-bluegrass singer Alison Krauss for their much-lauded 'Raising Sand.' But the original version, shown here, from Robert's 1998 studio reunion with Jimmy Page, is much more dynamic. The duo wear their battle scars proudly as Page's artfully-restrained guitar roar reaches out, as if from a distance.
'Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)'
Plant's commercially and critically-praised 2007 collaboration with Krauss may have seen like a surprising left turn for the former hard rock God. But if you've got a copy of the country-tinged 'Led Zeppelin III,' or his covers-heavy 2002 album 'Dreamland,' the decision to breathe new life into classics like this 1964 Everly Brothers single makes perfect sense.
'Little by Little'
It may have freaked some purists out to hear Plant singing on top of icy keyboards instead of distorted guitars, such as on this track from 1985's album 'Shaken 'n' Stirred.' But the song's subtle blending of pop and world music elements created one of the top Robert Plant songs, and a fine example of his broad musical knowledge and knack for blending genres.
'Sea of Love'
Atlantic Records president and early Led Zeppelin supporter Amhet Etregun asked Robert Plant to perform with an all-star group to cover standards from the '50s, including this 1959 chestnut from Phil Phillips. Their lush, string-heavy 1984 version of the tune became the top Robert Plant song (in terms of pop chart success), briefly leading Robert to fear he would be typecast as a crooner.
Reinterpreting blues and folk standards has been an important part of Plant's recording career since the earliest Led Zeppelin albums. But with 2002's 'Dreamland' album, he took things even further, filling nearly the entire record with cover versions, most notably this haunting, slow-building take on Jesse Colin Young's 1969 rumination on emptiness and loss.
'Tall Cool One'
Apparently satisfied that he had established himself outside of the shadow of Zeppelin after three successful solo albums, Plant welcomes distorted guitar back into his palette -- where it blends with stomping piano to create one of his biggest solo efforts. He further invited comparisons to his old band by having Page play a solo, as well as sampling guitar lines from classic Zep songs.
This elegantly yearning ballad from 1983's 'The Principle of Moments' album became Plant's first Top 40 solo single, and helped give him the courage to embark on his first-ever headlining tour. Backing him on drums, both on the album and tour (but excluding this single), was none other than Phil Collins, who was taking a break from his successful solo career.
'Shine It All Around'
Plant and his lovingly assembled band of diverse musicians created an intoxicating blend of rock, folk, R&B and world music on his most recent album of original material, 2005's 'Mighty ReArranger.' This steady, drum-heavy track shows how effectively Plant adjusted to the natural aging and deepening of his voice, expressing a wide range of emotions without ever attempting that former banshee wail.
'In the Mood'
Obviously, there are amazing vocal and songwriting talents on display in this fan favorite from the album 'The Principle of Moments.' But what makes this one of the top Robert Plant songs of all time is, well, the mood. Clearly, Plant seems to have mastered the ability to blend genres, performers, songs and locales to create the perfect environment for successful musical exploration.