Pawed by Mott the Dog
re-mastered by Ella Crew
2 Stars **
Do you remember your old school reports? Believe it or
not some of the rock ‘n’ roll animals, who read these snippets of
purported wisdom in the hallowed pages of Chiang Mai’s leading weekly
tome, are actually young enough to still get school reports. (When are we
going to get a review of ‘Linkin Park’?) However, I must admit there
are more who actually write the reports, than receive them. Anyway, Mott
always used to get his saying things like ‘Could do better, if only he
paid more attention’ or ‘Underachieves due to lack of
concentration’, or the one I always dreaded, the one word review
‘Lazy’. Still, it was better than the report that said ‘Tries very
hard, but does not make much progress’.
Robert Plant’s ‘Dreamland’ (2002) album would
receive one of the former reports, as this collection of songs seems to
have no focal point, but rather feels like thrown together. I find Mr.
Robert (Percy to his friends, for obvious reasons) Plant rather caught
between two stools. He had just come off the back of a couple of albums
and a worldwide tour with old running mate Jimmy Page, which had been the
biggest thing in the rock ‘n’ roll world that year. Enjoying the habit
of touring, Jimmy Page had gathered up ‘The Black Crowes’ and
continued touring, leaving Robert Plant behind to contemplate his future.
After a brief hiatus he put a new band together and came out of the
recording studio with this collection of songs. Unfortunately for
everybody the high expectations were soon shattered.
What you get is an album of some covers (a la David
Bowie with ‘Pin Ups’ and Brian Ferry with ‘Those Foolish Things’
in the seventies) and some originals. Well, it’s a bit more difficult
than that. To be more precise there are definitely six covers and two
originals with the originals being average songs. Nothing awful, but
certainly nothing to make you gasp as in the days of Led Zeppelin. Two of
the songs have writing credits for the band, but one of them, opening song
‘Funny in My Mind’, has the chorus of ‘The Country Joe and the
Fish’ song ‘I’m Fixin to Die’.
‘Win My Train Fare Home’ actually credits all the
band with songwriting as well as acknowledging elements of Arthur ‘Big
Boy’ Brown for ‘If I Ever Get Lucky’ and ‘That’s Alright
Mama’, Robert Johnson for ‘Milk Cow’s Calf Blues’, and John Lee
Hooker for ‘Crawlin’ King Snake’. Now that is a lot of elements to
get into six minutes of an original song.
The trouble with the six covers is that although they
are not bad, it would be an achievement indeed to completely ruin songs of
this caliber. All of these songs have been played better by both the
original artists and other musicians, who have already given definitive
versions. ‘Morning Dew’ by Tim Rose has been turned into a staple of
Nazareth’s live act and recorded on their debut album; ‘One More Cup
Of Coffee’ by Bob Dylan has been given a wonderful new spin by
‘Nutz’ on their third album ‘Hard Nutz’; ‘Song to the Siren’
by Tim Buckley was magnificently covered live by his own son Jeff Buckley
as well as countless other artists; and ‘Darkness Darkness’ by Jesse
Colin Young of the Youngbloods has been set in the stone of rock by
‘Mott the Hoople’ on their ‘Brain Capers’ album. As for ‘Hey
Joe’ by William Roberts, well, you just cannot play that song without
being compared to Jimi Hendrix’s first single and coming off second
best. Final song on the album is Alexander Lee Spence’s ‘Skip’s
Song’, originally recorded by his band ‘Moby Grape’. Now this is a
song that just shouldn’t be messed with. And mess with it is what Robert
Plant and his band of cohorts do. It leaves a very bad ‘taste’ in your
ears, encompassing these songs.
It’s not all bad, the band is competent throughout.
Porl Thompson (ex ‘The Cure’) should be singled out for some fine axe
work. Coming in to work with Robert Plant after Jimmy Page is always going
to be a thankless task (or Robert Plant’s ex-solo guitarist Robbie Blunt
for that matter). But Porl pulls it off adequately while not exactly
setting the world on fire with his version of reverb and fuzz tone.
Robert Plant himself whines and groans his way through
every song. This method of oohs and ahhs was satisfactory, even
groundbreaking in its quieter moments with Led Zeppelin, except then they
were able to follow that up with a musical one-two to your jaw and
stomach. Here there is no light, no shade - perhaps a few belting rockers
might have shaken off the lethargy ... But certainly as a whole this album
is difficult to listen to twice.
Oh well, back to school reports. I think we will just
mark this one ‘disappointing’.
Robert Plant - Vocals
Justin Adams - Guitars, Gimbri, and Darbuka
John Baggat - Keyboards
Charlie Jones - Bass
Porl Thompson - Guitar
Clive Deamer - Drums, and Percussion.
Funny In My Mind
One More Cup Of Coffee
Last Time I Saw Her
Song To The Siren
Win My Train Fare Home
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