The one topic Robert Plant knows he will inevitably cover in most interviews has been a hotbed of rumors for decades. Ever since Led Zeppelin broke up in 1980, the big question is always if the band will get back together. Even his latest discussion with Rolling Stone centered on the latest rumors and the "Stairway To Heaven" court proceedings. Their various one-offs, including a disastrous Live Aid appearance in 1985, the half-hearted 1988 Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary Celebration, and the inspired 2007 Ahmet Ertegun tribute concert, have proven unsuccessful at leading to a long term reunion. Beyond a brief reunion with Jimmy Page for two albums, Robert has focused on his solo career instead.
So why would he turn down the glory of a Led Zeppelin reunion? Simple - he is making some of his most inspired work with a band that fits him like a glove. The Sensational Space Shifters history with Robert begins with his first solo album back after the two with Jimmy. The new band he formed called itself Strange Sensation as they gave 60's folk and rock songs a Middle Eastern spin on Dreamland and brought life to Robert's first original solo release in 12 years Mighty Rearranger. Although Robert left briefly for his projects with Alison Krauss and Patty Griffin, he just couldn't stay away before bringing the band back as the Sensational Space Shifters in 2012.
So why does Robert belong with them over Led Zeppelin? First of all, the band reflects his current tastes perfectly. Since the mid 1980's, Robert has explored Middle Eastern sounds, specifically those of Saharan Desert bands like Tinariwen. He fuses those rhythms with the blues rock and British folk that inspired him in his younger days. Guitarist Justin Adams is particularly adept with his past experience in the Middle Eastern music world that gives his playing a unique twist. The more traditional blues rock based "Skin" Tyson plays off of Justin so well, balancing out the sounds coming from guitars. Keyboardist John Baggott provides an electronic sound that allows Robert to bring in some of his influences like Massive Attack. The most recent addition is Juldeh Camara, who plays traditional West African instruments like kologo and ritti along with providing Fulani vocals. Billy Fuller on bass and Dave Smith on drums round out the rhythm section that has to meld a variety of time signatures together.
The Sensational Space Shifters all come from diverse musical backgrounds that has led to tracks spanning from hard rock to gorgeous folk, heavily world influenced songs to traditional songs re-imagined, and plenty more. From the first tracks we've heard on the new album Carry Fire, Robert appears to have a rock lean while still incorporating the West African rhythms that inspired his direction over the past few decades. His live show is as powerful as ever, giving new life to Led Zeppelin songs that are so well known. Robert Plant performs live in downtown Los Angeles on March 2nd at the Orpheum Theatre. Click here for tickets and more information.