Thursday, June 13, 2002

'Morning Dew': Robert Plant song review of the day (No. 1 of 10)

This news originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

Some Led Zeppelin fans are reluctant to listen to any solo material. But this quote above from Page in 1969 speculated that each member of Led Zeppelin's solo albums would be great. But Led Zeppelin no longer exists as a music-making force, and so that might be a good reason for fans to check out what does exist and decide for themselves whether it's great. Ever onward ...

Earlier this year, I provided a song-by-song analysis of John Paul Jones' new album, The Thunderthief. But I reviewed all nine songs in one e-mail, and several readers complained that the e-mail was too long. So what I'll do with Plant's new album is review one song each day.

Today's song is "Morning Dew," the first single from the upcoming album, Dreamland. It may already be familiar to some of you through radio play. One "Led Zeppelin History" reader tells me that Polish public radio is playing it! The single will be released commercially at the beginning of next week.

Plant's studio arrangement is totally new, and his live versions this year reflect it. A previous version played by Plant and the Strange Sensation on tour in 2001 was in a lower key, C; now, the arrangement is in E, placing restrictions on Plant's voice. His vocal range is higher in this version but really doesn't exceed one octave. Given the limited range and the lack of volume on the verses, there's not much room for Robert to show off throughout the song. He keeps the arrangement laid back.

In last year's shows, John Baggot's electric piano drove the song. But after the first verse of the studio version, the song is mostly driven by Justin Adams on guitar. An extended break between the second and third verses yields a chorus of female backup singers lending their "Oooh." At this point, Clive Deamer switches from percussion to drums. Also emerging are a string section and a groaning electric guitar courtesy of Porl Thompson. The song achieves a musical climax during the break but still manages to stay relatively somber.

After the minute-long break, Deamer accentuates every beat with a light tap of the snare drum. He keeps this up during the final verses as Thompson weaves in and out of each vocal line with some supplementary guitar.

Tim Rose's version from the 1960s was basically composed of three different verses, but he repeated them so often that he was already beginning his eighth stanza by the time the song faded out at 3:39. Plant's adaptation, with only three verses, is actually just a few seconds shorter than that. The time is made up with a decrease in tempo and with the addition of the break between the second and final verses.

Plant's voice on this track is not meant to be showy. The strength of "Morning Dew" lies in the group's arrangement and performance and the meaning of the lyrics. Plant told the BBC this month, "It addresses so many more things than just the current condition in India and Pakistan. It just talks in the simplest and most word free aspect of projecting reason through music. It talks about our blindness. We control so many things so poorly. We make amazing advances in one area of our culture, life and society and we make such huge gaffes built on such aimless crap on the other side." Not bad for three-and-a-half minutes!

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