Shaken 'N Stirred

Robert Plant

Atlantic, 1985

http://www.robertplant.com

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/15/2016

Robert Plant’s interest in all genres of music is well known to everyone who has ever followed the singer’s career, but once he was on his own, it took a while to really start exploring that. Plant’s first three post-Zep albums (his two solo discs and the Honeydrippers project) seemed like baby steps at breaking out of the Led Zeppelin mold; it wasn’t until his third disc, 1985’s Shaken ‘N’ Stirred, that the eclectic Plant began to surface.

That’s not to say Shaken ‘N’ Stirred is a great album. It’s utterly reliant on mid-‘80s synthesizers, electronics and a tinny sound that’s hard to shake, but the songwriting is pretty different from what Plant had done before. The songs incorporate elements such as African rhythms, off-kilter time signatures, songs that inexplicably slow down or speed up and the general sense of non-commercial oddness associated with, say, Talking Heads. Other than “Little By Little,” which plays it straight with this sound and was consequently a minor hit, this is an album of detours that takes some getting used to.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“Hip To Hoo” and “Kallalou Kallalou” have some interesting ideas but falter as album openers, failing to achieve any kind of momentum – although the bridge of “Hip” is pretty good, if reminiscent of what Genesis was doing around the same time. The darker “Trouble Your Money” is the first solid song, anchored by skittering drums, jazzy bass lines and the occasional guitar fill. It is made all the better because it arrives in the middle of the clanking, jerky “Pink And Black” and “Too Loud.” The former completely apes the pounding drum riff of “My Sharona” without apology and is big dumb fun.

“Little By Little” is surprisingly dense, bookended by a long introduction and Plant’s repeated mantra of “I can breathe again” closing out the track, with a catchy six-note keyboard riff propelling the action forward in the middle. Unfortunately, things go downhill from here, with “Doo Doo A Do Do” (awful song titles this time out) and “Easily Lead” thudding messes with no real point or riffs to speak of, songs that have lots of sound but little ideas to cohere them. “Sixes And Sevens” is better, closing the disc with the same sort of dark pop of “Trouble Your Money.”

Shaken ‘N’ Stirred works best when it is allowed to breathe, when Plant’s ideas can take focus and not be inundated by the overweening synthesizers. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen nearly enough, leaving the album something of a noble disappointment. Plant wouldn’t really venture down this synthesized guitar-free path again, leaving this as an album with a small handful of gems for fans willing to dig but little else to recommend it.

Rating: C-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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