Robert Plant is one of the greatest vocalists in rock history.
I don’t think you’d find many arguing against that statement, but people will misread it so I will say it again.
Robert Plant is one of the greatest vocalists in rock history.
The Led Zeppelin front man could seemingly do anything with his instrument, adding power, subtlety, passion, anger and every emotion in between, to their music. Sometimes, when listening to Led Zeppelin, I’ll skip back to hear parts again, especially if I’m driving. I know a lot of his vocals were doubled on iconic songs, and they’re easy to find, but the raw performances that he was able to produce were just magic. The vocal giant has a new album on the way, Carry Fire (out on October 13 and available here), and whilst it’s a special album, I wanted to go back in time a bit. Now I know you’ll have your spine tingling Robert Plant moments, but if you’d indulge me, I’d like to share my 7 Robert Plant spine-tinglers with you.
Nobody’s Fault But Mine (Presence - 1976)
Turn it up, close your eyes, and lose yourself in a sonically brilliant version of this Zep classic. Robert Plant just oozes swagger, sex, and groove on a song about a man looking for deliverance from his perceived sins. Huge fan of this one.
Babe I’m Gonna Leave You (Led Zeppelin – 1969)
A cover song, originally done by Anne Bredon, is a monster in the hands of Led Zeppelin. The beautifully gentle beginnings showcase the delicacy of Plant’s voice, juxtaposed with his gruff howls and screams. This runs the full gamut of his abilities, and the control he has to switch between styles is one of the reasons he’s revered to this day.
Since I’ve Been Loving You (Led Zeppelin III – 1970)
This is another wonderful example of Robert’s power and control. So dim the lights, light an incense stick, slump in your beanbag, and be swept away in this story. I mean holy shit, we don’t have this anymore do we? A guy just baring his soul in the most incredible vocal way possible. Like an actor will conjure up feeling and a headspace to get the right performance, I wonder what techniques Robert used back then? 4:55 into this epic there’s the pause before he launches into a barking plea. I would say this is my all-time favourite studio performance of his.
The Immigrant Song (Led Zeppelin III – 1970)
I love this performance of Plant’s because of the sheer power he possesses. Those ah-aahhhhhh-ah parts just give you goosebumps and amp you up every damn time. It’s a helluva battle cry. This is one of the songs that influenced so many singers to get that balance of harsh and clean vocal abilities. Chris Cornell comes to mind when listening to this one.
In My Time Of Dying (Physical Graffiti – 1975)
At over 11 minutes long, this is the longest Led Zeppelin studio-recorded song, but somehow it never feels that long due to time changes, it’s more like 3 different songs in one. The reason I vibe on this is because no matter which direction the song goes in, Plant is there with the rest of them, using his instrument as it was intended, to feed and serve the song, not be above the song.
Going To California (Led Zeppelin IV – 1971)
Plant’s largely clean vocal in this song is what gives it it’s strength. Much how I wrote about his voice feeding and serving the song previously, that’s exactly what he does again here. His voice was a perfect conduit to another time, another world, remaining timeless. You could expect someone to write a song like that today, but ultimately, it would be a contrived throwback, whereas this was what was happening at the time, it was in the moment. Great performance.
Stairway To Heaven (Led Zeppelin IV – 1971)
It would simply be remiss of me, or anyone, not to include Plant’s performance on Stairway in an article like this. This is the introduction that so many new listeners had to Led Zeppelin. This is the one that people sing along to and try to figure out what the hell old mate is actually singing about. It showcases yet again how Robert was able to flow effortlessly between genres, modes, and styles, leaving all imitators in his wake.
There’s no doubt we could sit here ALL DAMN DAY talking about what are his best songs, but it’s not about that, it’s about what moves YOU, what speaks to YOU and how some songs will just urge you to close your eyes and soak in his voice. What are your spin tingling Robert Plant moments? Have you found some on his solo records or the new songs already released from forthcoming Carry Fire?
Check out our exclusive interview with the great man here.
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