Even as he attempts to shake off a monolithic past, Robert Plant allows the proverbial monkey on his back to make an appearance now and then. At least that's the general impression attached to his new CD Mighty Rearranger. A thoroughly solid effort, here's a record that offers its own distinctive dose of drama and dynamics, yet is moderately embellished with shades and strokes of retro-like Zeppelinisms. Accompanied by the Strange Sensation, whose playful interaction so masterfully shaped 2002’s Dreamland into a rootsy, organic delight – Plant blasts through a repertoire supercharged with optimism, vibrancy and plenty of chops. It starts out innocently as the North African backbeat and staccato guitar on “Another Tribe” sets the stage. From there, the levee breaks wide open for the first single, “Shine It All Around.” Once Plant declares, "These are the times of my life/Bright and strong and golden," it’s a sure sign of things to come. So he fires away with “Freedom Fries” and “Tin Pan Valley,” two prime-time hip shakers guaranteed to make Jimmy Page blush. Actually, it almost sounds as if Page is playing on “All The Kings Horses,” a soothing acoustic piece that, in spots, sounds eerily familiar (which has nothing to do with the fact that 20 years ago, Page’s band the Firm recorded another song entitled “All The King’s Horses”).
Elsewhere, Plant employs some modern-day foreshadowing during “The Enchanter” before heading through a minefield of Middle Eastern ramblings on “Takamba” and “Somebody Knocking.” The sultry, borderline rockabilly pulse of “Let The Four Winds Blow” is another engaging stroll down memory lane, leaving the title track vying for attention like another old-school sock-hopper rolling through town. It boils down to the album’s final track “Brother Ray” that, despite clocking in at only 1:12, ends the whole affair on a cheerful note. With every intention of forging ahead on his own, Robert Plant is on a wild streak of making records with loving care and handling. A Led Zeppelin reunion may be the dream for some, but if Mighty Rearranger is any indication, the golden-throated singer’s own aspirations all but transcend the expectations of the masses. He tosses off the occasional nod of where he’s been, but Plant isn't afraid to take chances and wander into unexplored regions, no matter what the consequences are. At 56, it's as if he's reaching his potential as an independent artist without saddling the burden of a Zeppelinesque past to delude his way.
~ Shawn Perry