Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, Fri., Dec. 8, 2006
Nine Lives (Rhino)
"The only thing I was sure of was that I wasn't going back and relive [Led Zeppelin] in any form." So assures Robert Plant about his unexpected solo career in the hourlong DVD documentary to Nine Lives, another 90 minutes of MTV video staples the 9-CD box set's greatest hits. The nine-album arc of the flaxen-haired Zeppelin frontman reveals a different tale. The "great triumph," as Plant calls his post-Hindenburg debut, 1982's Pictures at Eleven, synthesized the thrust of rock's immortal folk-blues juggernaut into a remarkably lithe, elegant extension of Zep swan song In Through the Out Door's airy "Fool in the Rain" and "All of My Love." Pictures pounding "Kashmir" on "Slow Dancer" can't drown out the rockabilly subtleties of "Pledge Pin" or lean musculature of B-side "Far Post," both still wondrous musical reincarnations. The Principle of Moments polished the formula ("In the Mood"), and here adds a meaty trio of additional tracks from Houston's Summit in 1983. The Honeydrippers EP the following year tapped even further into Plant's Fifties underpinnings ("Sea of Love"), before '85's Shaken 'N' Stirred took the more synthetic Principles ("Stranger Here Than Over There") to wonky extremes, though its axis remains "Little by Little" getting the Led out. Now and Zen (1988) tweaks the tweak into Plant's solo breakthrough ("Heaven Knows," "Ship of Fools"), peaking live with "Billy's Revenge" and the oceanic "Tall Cool One." With the Zeppelin genie finally out of the bong, Manic Nirvana fizzled on Jimmy Page boogie, none of it as ripe as Billy Vera B-side "Don't Look Back." Fate of Nations (1993) harmonized Bonham ("Promised Land") and nod ("29 Palms"), while a sincere reading of Tim Hardin's "If I Were a Carpenter" anticipated the Page & Plant reunion, the latter's solo rebirth on 2002's Dreamland, and a future Rod Stewart American Songbook recasting. Revving up Sixties mystics like Tim Buckley, Jesse Colin Young, and Skip Spence songwriters missing on walloping follow-up Mighty Rearranger proved well worth reliving.