Imagine, if you will, a die hard Zep fan buying Shaken ‘N’ Stirred, Robert ‘squeeze my lemon’ Plant’s third solo album, which was released in 1985, and dropping the needle on the first track Hip to Hoo.
Until Plant’s signature voice arrived in the mix, they probably thought the wrong album was slipped into the the sleeve, and after he started singing, they probably still hoped it was someone’s idea of a joke.
To this day, the album is a divisive one, with many long time Zep fans dismissing it as Plant trying to be faddish.
And I will admit the production on it is such that it is regrettably dated in several respects.
But I’ll be damned it I don’t respect its sheer eclecticism, its willingness to push the boundaries of what a classic rocker should sound like, its embrace of contemporary sounds, including hip hop rhythms, and its willingness to be somewhat hard to get a handle on, thanks to Little Feat drummer Richie Hayward’s nesting doll rhythms.
In truth, this wasn’t such a drastic departure from the preceding Plant solo album, The Principle of Moments.
But if you hadn’t been paying attention, it probably made you feel shaken & stirred.
The negative reaction to the album from several critics and various fans seemed to encourage Plant to retreat to a more traditional sound.
And while he has since moved away from trying to climb that stairway to heaven, he’s never been quite as daring as he was here.
If you can overlook the brittle 80s production, the sometimes abrasive synths and the occasional dud idea, you’ll find this enjoyable, maybe even essential listening, as I do.
If not, you can at least impress your 90s alternative music loving friends by telling them that Toni Halliday sings on this one.