Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Jimmy Page & Robert Plant - Wonderful One

Led Zeppelin is the best thing that ever happened. That is not hyperbole.

Sometimes people actually argue what was the greatest classic rock band of all time, and the other nominees are typically The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Pink Floyd, all of which are insanely awesome bands, but I am very steadfast in my opinion that Led Zeppelin takes the prize and in a big way.

The only real argument that might hold some ground as to how Led Zeppelin is not the greatest band of all time, is the idea that after John Bonham died Led Zeppelin never did much, which is true because the band never came back together with a new drummer to make any new material, however, if you think Jimmy Page and Robert Plant simply spent the last thirty six years staring at the walls of their gothic-Celtic castles you would be very wrong.

Robert Plant has had ten solo albums since Led Zeppelin, which is one more then there are Zeppelin studio albums. Meanwhile Jimmy Page had a single solo album in 1988 titled “Outrider” and collaborated with Roy Harper, The Firm, David Coverdale and The Black Crows on studio and live albums. All of these things flew under the radar of the popular listening audiences and this is understandable to a degree since none of these things Page or Plant contributed too captured the perfection that was Led Zeppelin, except when Page and Plant worked together and unfortunately almost no one paid attention to that either.

Page and Plant reunited in 1994 and decided to perform many of the Led Zeppelin classics with a different style, a more acoustic style, with a Moroccan flare I believe. They never recorded these new realizations on a studio album, instead they took their idea on tour, to Morocco I guess, and recorded a live album titled “No Quarter” named after the popular song from 1973’s “Houses of The Holy.” The new style was slower and this ironically did not really work for the most famous songs off the album “Kashmir” and “No Quarter,” at least not in my opinion, but it did work for more emotional songs like “Thank You” and the “That’s The Way” and Page and Plant basically reinvented “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” and for the better in my opinion.

All and all the recreation of the Zeppelin classics was largely a fine artistic endeavour, but that alone may not warrant a great deal of attention, and evidently we can see that it did not, and I wonder if the commercial success and popular appeal of the “No Quarter” album might have been strengthened if a greater emphasise to the original tracks had been made. There are three original tracks on the live recorded album and a forth on the DVD. “Yallah” or “The Truth Explodes” is the first to appear on the playlist and it is very influence by the Moroccans. “City Don’t Cry” is a very sweet tribal song about the love of the city and the spirits within. “Wah Wah” is the single that did not make it to the original recording and it falls into a similar vein as “Yallah.” The song that matters the most and I think deserves a lot more attention, even though it was a single off of the album, is “Wonderful One.”

“Wonderful One” is definitely the best new song, and quite believably the best track off of, “No Quarter.”

Sometimes the best sign of a really good musician is now they show restraint. We all know what Jimmy Page is capable of, how fast and intricate he can play, he is literally the best who has ever lived, so when he plays nothing but a collection of repeating guitar licks that dance about the mist of the steady drum beat, there is a reason for it, and that reason is that it is beautiful. The only deviation in any instrument during “Wonderful One” from the opening set pattern is the lead guitar during the chorus in which case it sounds like the same chord casually played with downward and upward strokes and nothing more, again further restraint show by Mr. Page, and again it works... wonderfully.

The song structure is dependent on the lyrics. The structure is very simple, verse, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, verse, with the opening verse being the same as the last, brining the song back to continuity. It is within these lyrics where the deepest beauty of all rests.

Robert Plant has written many a sweet love song over the course of his life, but as far as sentimental emotional invocation is concerned, “Wonderful One” may be his best work. Another thing Robert Plant has frequently done is made vague reference to mythical persons, sometimes characters of literature and mythology, sometimes fantastic creatures of his own design. So when he sings about the Queen of Love and her daughter and a golden tongued thief, there could be any number of possible references Plant is making or just a magical scenario he has conjured up all on his own. Dappling with magical suggestions in what amounts to be a love song is highly effective at making, arguably the most powerful human emotion, seem all the more grandiose; this is perhaps felt best in the moving chorus:

“Show me your eyes,
Oh light of the sun.
Touch me with fire,
My mind is undone.
All life inspire,
My freedom has come.
I drift through desire,
My wonderful one.”

“My wonderful one,” is a lovely way to refer to someone you love, it has a nice ring to it.

Robert Plant is hardly the first poet to compare a woman to the sun, but there is some added charm the way this woman lifts the narrative character into a higher state of being. Embracing freedom and conquering desire are signs of enlightenment, and this ties in perfectly with our romantic notions of how love changes everything, for the better, and what a wonderful fantasy that is. This woman, and the love she represents, is the very light of the sun, shining inspiration and hope onto all of us, defying everything, making everything possible; or something like that.

It is a really nice song, listen to it.

- King of Braves

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