Manic Nirvana

Robert Plant

Es Paranza Records, 1990

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


With the release of his fourth solo album Now And Zen, former Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant seemed to recapture some of the magic he once shared with his former bandmates -- not surprising, seeing that Jimmy Page guested on two tracks.

But when it came time to record the follow-up album, Plant seemed like he wanted to try to hold onto that magic without relying on his past. The end result, Manic Nirvana, proved one thing - he couldn't. This is a weak effort that nearly reduces Plant to a bad Zeppelin clone, though he does hold out some promise towards the end.

To be honest, I had forgotten how much I disliked this album, having not listened to it in well over four years. The lead-off track (and first single), "Hurting Kind (I've Got My Eyes On You)," is indicative of how much trouble this album is in from the get-go. Sounding suspiciously like a re-tread of "Tall Cool One" from my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Now And Zen, Plant and company lay down a half-hearted attempt at rock while Plant moans and wails like an alley cat hit by a car. Memo to Plant: this schtick worked when you were 20.

Plant can't even help but to dig up the bones of the past on "Your Ma Said You Cried In Your Sleep Last Night," lifting a portion of the first verse from Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog" -- good grief! For an artist who was so cutting-edge at the start of his solo career because he turned his back on the ghosts of Led Zeppelin, he's sure making up for lost time now... and it's just not working.

Take tracks like "SSS&Q," "Tie Die On The Highway," "I Cried" and "Big Love," and add them to this mixture, and it really seems like Manic Nirvana is headed towards the great cosmic dumper. Fortunately for Plant, he is able to pull two miracles out of his open-shirted sleeve right at the end.

The first comes in the all-too-brief "Liar's Dance," a vocal-and-acoustic-guitar number which breaks loose from the self-plagiarizing activities of Plant's two most-current albums at the time, and allows Plant the freedom to truly emit as a vocalist. (It also showed the path he was going to start treading on his future album Fate Of Nations... but we're getting ahead of ourselves now.)

The second comes in the album's closing track, "Watching You". It returns to a rock beat, but coming off of "Liar's Dance," this one seems to have a little more originality injected into it, and it works better. Where were these tracks a half-hour ago, I found myself wondering.

I fully understand Plant's past, and I realize that he'd be a fool to deny it throughout the length of his solo career. But Manic Nirvana proves that the good ol' days of Led Zeppelin were, at the time of this release, 10 years behind Plant, and it might have been a good idea to let those days finally go after exorcising them on Now And Zen. Instead, Manic Nirvana sounds like an album of Now And Zen rejects.

Rating: C-

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© 2000 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Es Paranza Records, and is used for informational purposes only.