The Honeydrippers

The Honeydrippers, Vol. 1

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A telling thing about Robert Plant at his peak is how he would sneak on-stage with Rockpile and sing Elvis songs, or how Swan Song signed Dave Edmunds when his retro-rock was about the furthest thing from the monolithic Zeppelin of Physical Graffiti. Plant always harbored deep, abiding love for early rock & roll, a fact that was often obscured by his restlessness, too, a side that he indulged on his first two post-Zep solo albums -- glistening, modern albums with a heavier debt to Robert Fripp than Little Richard. Two albums in, he switched tactics for the EP detour The Honeydrippers, Vol. 1, an unabashedly retro-rock project that hauled out five golden oldies from the pre-Beatles era and served them up authentically, or at least as authentic nostalgia. There is a certain sense of pastiche here, particularly in how "Sea of Love" is drenched in oceans of strings, far more than on the Phil Phillips original, which manages to evoke the era of lily white pop covers in a way that no straightforward cover could, but that's part of the charm of the record. Some may find this kind of pastiche a bit distancing, even campy, but there's a genuine warmth in Plant's performance, and his ad-hoc group of Honeydrippers -- including Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page in uncredited cameos -- have a great time running through these handful of oldies, particularly "Rockin' at Midnight." It may not be much more than a lark, but it's truly fun, even if it might have been slightly more fun making it than it is listening to it. [A remastered expanded version of The Honeydrippers, Vol. 1 was reissued as part of the 2006 box set Nine Lives and was then reissued as a separate disc the following year.]

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