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Robert Plant



     Between 1969, when Led Zeppelin released their first album, and 1980, when the band broke up after the death of drummer John Bonham, Robert Plant was just about the biggest rock star on the planet. With his raspy caterwaul, wavy lion's mane, decadent lifestyle, and unwillingness to speak to the media, the charismatic frontman defined the mystique of the seminal hard rock band.
     Following Led Zeppelin's demise, Plant launched a successful solo career with 1982's Pictures at Eleven (on Zeppelin's label, Swan Song Records) and 1983's The Principle of Moments (Es Paranza), which found him working in a more melodic pop vein than Zeppelin's crushingly powerful blues-derived proto metal. After the challenging, somewhat avant-garde, synth-based Shaken 'N' Stirred (1985), Plant returned to the glorious power of the Zeppelin era with 1988's Now and Zen and 1990's Manic Nirvana (all on Es Paranza). Plant hasn't been as active over the last decade or so, with much of his work revolving around his ballyhooed reunion tour with Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page and the duo's two albums, 1994's No Quarter and 1998's Walking into Clarkdale, both on Atlantic Records.
     The featured song, "Little Hands," comes from the Birdman Records compilation More Oar, a tribute to the late great Skip Spence. Spence is one of the most sadly overlooked artists of the '60s. A member of the great San Francisco psych band Moby Grape until an unfortunate incident with an axe sent him to a mental hospital, Spence was a brilliant, eccentric psychedelic blues artist who recorded a single record, Oar, before struggling for the remainder of his life from the debilitating effects of mental illness. Plant gives the song a wonderfully gentle, vulnerable treatment that draws out its elegance and poetry.
     You can also check out Spence covers by Tom Waits, Beck, and Mark Lanegan.

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