KamerTunesBlog

Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time

Satur-debut – ROBERT PLANT “PICTURES AT ELEVEN”

When Led Zeppelin officially disbanded at the end of 1980 following the death of drummer John Bonham, fans were left wondering what the future had in store for the three surviving members. Guitarist Jimmy Page emerged first with the excellent Death Wish II soundtrack in early 1982 but it was vocalist Robert Plant who had the first post-Zeppelin commercial success a few months later. His solo debut, Pictures At Eleven, combines elements of his ’70s “golden god” rock star persona with a sleeker new wave sound that he would continue to embrace across his next couple of records, and the cover image is the ideal visual to accompany this music. You can read about why I love this album so much below, which was previously included in my Great Out Of The Gate series.

For more information on this series, please read the opening paragraph of the first post, which featured the debut album from Led Zeppelin.

 

 

From GREAT OUT OF THE GATE Part 2:

It should come as no surprise that I was thrilled when the lead singer of my favorite band began his solo career two years after Led Zeppelin disbanded. Aided by his friend Phil Collins on drums (former Rainbow drummer Cozy Powell played on 2 of 8 tracks), Plant collaborated with guitarist Robbie Blunt on a collection of tunes that veer from Zeppelin heaviness (“Slow Dancer” and “Like I’ve Never Been Gone”) to offbeat new-wave inspired rockers (“Burning Down One Side,” “Fat Lip” and “Pledge Pin”) and an exotic ballad (“Moonlight In Samosa”). A lot of wonderful albums were released in 1982, but I don’t think I played any of them quite as often as Pictures At Eleven. Plant’s voice was still in its prime, the musicianship is top-notch (Blunt is a sympathetic & tasteful guitarist and Collins is, of course, one of the best rock drummers of all time) and there’s not a weak song to be found. I love the majority of the dozen or so albums he’s released to date, and this one remains among my 2 or 3 favorites.

 

I was fortunate to see Plant on his first solo tour at Madison Square Garden in 1983, after the release of his sophomore album, The Principle Of Moments. Although I had never seen Led Zeppelin and would have enjoyed hearing some older songs, I also applauded his decision to only perform songs from his two solo records. I remember a lot of people screaming out Zeppelin song titles throughout the concert but I was content to only hear his solo material. How do fellow Zeppelin fans feel about his debut? And is there anyone out there who prefers his solo career?

25 comments on “Satur-debut – ROBERT PLANT “PICTURES AT ELEVEN”

  1. DanicaPiche
    November 2, 2019

    Thanks for another intriguing write up. You know, I’m not sure I’ve heard this. It’s hard to compare Led Zeppelin to solo efforts, I tend to see them as distinct entities. I like the individual Plant songs I’ve heard here and there but if I had to choose I’d pick Led Zeppelin every time and that may not be fair. The whole can be greater than the sum of its parts, and all that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Danica. Thanks for checking in. I tend to view solo efforts as completely separate entities from the artist’s main band because comparisons can be very unfair. Of course with Plant being the voice of Led Zeppelin and the band no longer existing, it’s hard not to judge his solo career against Zeppelin. In many ways this record is an ideal bridge between their final album, In Through The Out Door, and Plant’s more new wave-inspired solo albums that followed. So it’s the best entry point into his solo work for Zeppelin fans. Have you ever heard the Coverdale-Page album from 1993? It’s the most Zeppelin-sounding record you’ll likely hear, and probably the best thing Jimmy Page has done in the last 4 decades.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. deKE
    November 2, 2019

    I purchased this album after the first album I purchased in 1982 which was Coda by Zep. This is a great album that I need to pick up on vinyl at some point. A few months back i scored Now and Zen which I was pretty psyched to get which Is my fav Plant album.
    Cool post-Rich!

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    • If my memory is correct, Coda came out later in ’82 so I bought them in reverse order from you. As for Now And Zen, I was obsessed with that record throughout 1988 but when I’ve revisited it in recent years it didn’t hold up as well as I had expected. I think the production sounded fresh back then but didn’t hold up, although I still love a lot of its songs. Good luck finding Pictures At Eleven on vinyl. I can’t imagine it’s hard to get.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Aphoristical
    November 2, 2019

    I only know his next one with Big Log on it. I was disappointed by that at the time, kind of had a 1980s sheen and more adult focused than his Zeppelin stuff. I do enjoy his 2007 covers album with Alison Krause.

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    • Plant’s first several albums (other than The Honeydrippers EP) are awash in ’80s production flourishes. At the time they all sounded fresh but I can imagine they might sound a bit weak &/or dated to anyone hearing them for the first time decades later. Song-wise, however, I think they’re all fantastic, and Plant’s voice…while not the same as his peak in the early-’70s…is still in fine form. If you enjoy his collaboration with Alison Krauss I highly recommend his last couple of solo albums. His band is fantastic, and now that he’s not trying to be the 25-year-old golden god anymore, his voice packs a lot of punch.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. stephen1001
    November 3, 2019

    Before I was really aware of LZ, I knew (and liked) his solo song 29 palms from the much music countdown. And often, whatever one hears first becomes the preference.
    But I’ve since explored (and inevitably) enjoyed so many more LZ albums but haven’t checked out any of his solo stuff, so I’m afraid for now I’m with the majority that prefers the group to the solo!

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    • I always liked “29 Palms” as well as the album it came from (Fate Of Nations), but at that point I had slightly lost interest in his solo career following the misstep that was Manic Nirvana (even though a lot of fans love that record). Over the last 20 years or so, after his reunion with Jimmy Page ended and he continued his solo career, I think he’s released some of the most interesting music he’s ever recorded. But I still think his first couple of solo albums are the ideal entry point into his post-Zeppelin career.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Bill P
    November 3, 2019

    It has been really interesting to see the arc of Plant’s career. He starts as the “Golden God” and you almost feel he became trapped in that image or just felt it was unsustainable. He definitely embraced the lighter 80s AOR production techniques in his solo career. His music then is of that time but not timeless. Mainstream then and perfectly acceptable-yet-somehow-dated now.

    He flirted with his LZ roots during the Page & Plant era but even that was of the time. I can’t decide if the No Quarter album is just a response to the MTV Unplugged fad of the times or a shift towards more of the “quiet” music he makes today (such as the great stuff mentioned above with Alison Krauss). I was at the opening show on the Walking into Clarksdale tour and remember saying it was a “religious experience.” Much later, the day after the Ertegun tribute show in London, I remember searching youtube for bootleg videos (before they were all taken down) and being impressed with the form of the whole band. These were my childhood heroes back for one last hurrah. I wanted more. But you can never go back, can you?

    Along the way, we’ve seen “Percy” go through a range of artistic expression ending up as a distinguished elder statesman producing music he finds interesting while also avoiding the gravitational pull of nostalgia for his younger incarnation. And, I think we are richer for that variety.

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    • Hi Bill. You perfectly captured the arc of Plant’s career in your first paragraph. I think he felt trapped in the “golden god” persona and I’m sure his record company wanted him to continue with it, even as he embraced modern technology and veered away from the blues-based rock that Zeppelin was best known for. In my opinion, his weakest period was around Manic Nirvana, when he was in his 40s but still trying to sing like he was in his 20s. I liked the No Quarter album and video but never felt it captured the excitement of Zeppelin (I actually thought Coverdale-Page was much more impressive). Plant has really found his “mature” sound over the last 20+ years, ironically after Page-Plant split up. Not every song is a classic but he’s found great collaborators and he’s finally utilizing his voice wisely. I was also really impressed by how great he sounded at the one-off Zeppelin gig in 2007, but in many ways I’m glad he decided to end it there. I don’t think his voice would have held up over a worldwide tour trying to sing like that every night.

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      • Bill P
        November 5, 2019

        That Coverdale-Page was a pretty good disc. I know Plant once pejoratively referred to the singer as “David Coverversion” but it is a bit unfair IMHO. Coverdale has gone through a range of styles in the blues/rock/metal genre but there is no doubting his talent and desire to produce commercially popular music. I think he sensed an untapped desire for more Zep-like music and he got together with a peer (Page) and they had a fun go. He looks a bit like Plant. He can pull off the same bombast as a singer. It worked and I’m sure they had fun making that disc. That said, I don’t know if they would have continued with the same momentum. Itch scratched, the public would have moved on, especially with the grunge movement taking center stage. Who knows, maybe it urged Plant to get together with Page for the earlier mentioned mini-reunion project.

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      • All great points about Coverdale, Bill. There’s no doubt in my mind that the Page-Plant collaboration was a direct result of Coverdale-Page, and I wonder if that was Page’s hope all along. The production of the C-P album is phenomenal, and Denny Carmassi’s drumming is the key element in making it the most Zeppelin-sounding record by a band other than Zeppelin. He captured Bonham’s swing, while many other drummers just went for the power.

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  6. christiansmusicmusings
    November 3, 2019

    I think Zep is to you what The Beatles are to me, so I can definitely see why you were psyched when Plant came out with his solo debut. Hey, I‘m excited about Ringo Starr‘s new album, even though it‘s fair to say it’s not exactly Sgt. Pepper or Revolver!

    Other than “Big Log” and the excellent “Sea of Love” with the Honeydrippers, I really don’t know Plant’s post-Zep output well. But similar to The Beatles, I feel the brilliance of Led Zeppelin is perhaps impossible to beat.

    That being said, after having listened to “Pictures at Eleven,” I’m sufficiently intrigued that I want to hear more of Plant’s solo work. I definitely consider him one of the best rock vocalists!

    Like

    • You’re probably right about the Rich/Zeppelin to Christian/Beatles comparison. I guess the only difference might be the timing, as Page & Plant both released solo albums in ’82 when I was a teenager and still reeling from Bonham’s death and the end of Zeppelin. To finally have new music from my heroes was amazing.

      I think there is at least one Robert Plant solo compilation out there, so if you’re curious & don’t want to delve into his whole discography you might want to check that out. Even on the mid-’80s songs that will sound pretty outdated at this point, there are always great instrumental performances, and of course his voice never fails to impress.

      Liked by 1 person

      • christiansmusicmusings
        November 4, 2019

        BTW, have you ever seen Zep tribute band Get The Led Out? They are phenomenal, in my opinion.

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      • I’ve seen clips of them but never saw them in person. A few years ago I saw Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience. They were very good but it would be fun to see a truly great Zeppelin tribute.

        Liked by 1 person

      • christiansmusicmusings
        November 4, 2019

        GTLO are all about capturing Zep’s studio sound, for which they need six musicians. I’ve seen them twice, and both shows were fantastic.

        They are playing St. George’s Theatre in Staten Island on Nov 8 and the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park on Nov 16.

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      • Good to know that they’re more into recreating the studio recordings as opposed to visually reproducing the live experience. They will be on my radar the next time they’re in town. Thanks for the info.

        Liked by 1 person

      • christiansmusicmusings
        November 5, 2019

        I’ve thought about seeing them at the Paramount in Asbury Park where I saw them the last time, but I also have some stuff on my radar for this month, plus I’ve seen GTLO already twice. Though I suppose three would make a charm!😆

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      • I think twice is more than enough times to see a tribute band, so I’m sure they’ll forgive you for skipping their Asbury Park show. They played at one of the nicest venues near me, DPAC in Durham NC, back in August. If we had this conversation earlier in the summer I likely would have bought tickets, so I’ll hope they return next year.

        Liked by 1 person

      • christiansmusicmusings
        November 7, 2019

        Actually, I know a bunch of tribute bands I really like and have seen multiple times. But I guess I’m a bit of a music nut!😆

        Plus, in some cases, I’m friendly with the musicians and want to support them.

        Like

  7. 80smetalman
    November 3, 2019

    By the time of the Led Zeppelin split, the band was going into more progressive circles and I think Plant continued that journey with this solo album. Very good album BTW.

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    • I agree about Zeppelin moving into a progressive direction, which can be heard on much of Presence and In Through The Out Door. So perhaps Plant recruiting Phil Collins out of Genesis for his first two solo albums (and his first tour) was a nod to that. There was also the brief meet-up of Page with Yes’ Chris Squire & Alan White (as XYZ, as in Ex-Yes & Zeppelin), but when they tried recruiting Plant it didn’t work out. I’ve always wished they had at least completed an album together.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. David H
    November 24, 2019

    John Bonham died at the beginning of my 2nd year of high school (in Houston,) just as I’m getting into them! And then John Lennon not three months later! What a year.

    My friends & I loved both bands’ music, and knowing we’d obviously never see LZ, we were not so patiently awaiting Robert Plant’s tour, if there was to be one. We loved the first album.

    The second took a little longer to appreciate, but I finally “got it” at the beginning of the live show when the opening of In the Mood was used to stoke the crowd into a not-quite-frenzy, but I can definitely say it was one of the two or three great moments of my show-going “career.” In the Mood is just one of those songs that is so much better live. We’d gotten up early the day the tickets went on sale and counted down the days.

    And Phil Collins was kind of the icing on the cake. He was obviously already a Big Huge Deal by then, and could reasonably have said “Yeah, thanks Robert, but Phil Collins doesn’t play in *anyone’s* backing band.” That he did not just seemed like the coolest thing at the time. He wasn’t bigger than Robert Plant, of course, but whatever. I loved the show, thanks for bringing back the memories.

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    • Hi David. Thanks for checking in. You were one year ahead of me, as Bonham’s & Lennon’s deaths (and the end of Zeppelin) occurred during my freshman year of HS. Although there was lots of great music in 1981, as well as reports of the XYZ Band (ex-Yes & Zeppelin with Jimmy Page, Chris Squire & Alan White, which only made it to the demo stage), 1982 was even better because there was finally new music from Page and Plant. Having Phil Collins on those first two Plant albums made them even more special than they would have been without him, and I agree that his presence on that tour…as simply the drummer…was amazing. I have a cassette with a radio broadcast from that tour, and I’ve listened to at least one show on YouTube, but it would be nice if some of his early tours were documented officially.

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