1001 Albums You Must Die Before You Hear
#19: Robert Plant – Shaken And Stirred (1985)
MATT KELLY saw Robert Plant as someone to trust to always do the right thing. That is, until he released this piece of unmitigated poop.
It may sound callous given the circumstances but it’s been argued that Led Zep’s reputation is as good as it is partly because they never made it to the ’80s, the decade that humbled so many of Zep’s classic rock peers.
Nineteen eighty-five provided evidence that they might not have fared so well in the widely panned Live Aid Led Zeppelin reunion, during which a visibly drunk Page made numerous errors and Plant was glaringly rusty, living to regret a decision to skip rehearsal.
But perhaps even worse is Plant’s 1985 studio album, in which Percy goes full synth-pop and does not come close to pulling it off.
This is not an “I hate synth-pop so I hate Plant for trying it” rockist rant – Depeche Mode are one of my favourite bands.
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Plant’s solo career has proven him to be a musical chameleon, and his frequent toying with surprising and unexpected styles is a big draw. Yet in practically every other case it feels authentic, that Plant is exploring genres he “gets”. Shaken And Stirred, by contrast, has a very “down with the kids” vibe, an older musician having a go at what’s hip these days.
Song titles like ‘Hip To Hoo’ and ‘Doo Doo A Do Do’ underscore this vibe, and the whole thing is quite uncomfortable. (I’m not sure what ‘Doo Doo A Do Do’ is, but I suspect this album is a big pile of it.)
The absolutely horrendous ‘Too Loud’ is about as far as anyone needs to go. An annoying chirruping vocal from Plant, horrific cheesy synths, the weakest guitar fill you’ve ever heard, a shockingly bad synth horn section – it’s fucking TERRIBLE.
Plant’s attempt to siphon off some new wave cool comes off try-hard, the tracks are stuffed with unnecessary noises that irritate and disrupt melodic/rhythmic flow, and thin, lifeless electric drums completely waste a performance from Little Feat’s Richie Hayward.
It’s not as though Plant is nailing it either – witness his pathetic yelps of “Stop! Stop!” on ‘Hip To Hoo’ with its misplaced stadium synths and backing vocals that seem more in sync with the track than Plant’s lead.
There’s no material really worth saving here – even the hit single ‘Little By Little’ leaves me absolutely cold, all boring tempo and no hooks.
It’s a similar experience to hearing Steve Winwood’s Junction Seven – like Winwood, I thought Plant was a steady pair of hands, the last person you’d expect to drop a clanger like this. (Though in its defence, Shaken And Stirred is not as bad as Junction Seven, shudder.)
A record that has me alternately snoozing or wincing, SAS is justly gone and forgotten.