It’s easy to get caught up in the brilliance of Led Zeppelin. As an outfit, they are certainly one of the most potent around. To include the mercurial guitar maestro Jimmy Page in your ranks and the powerhouse percussion of John Bonham and the dynamic rhythm of John Paul Jones too, and you have some serious credentials. But perhaps the brightest jewel in this particular crown is the supremely talented Robert Plant.
The band’s lead singer since the beginning (despite almost becoming a member of The Who), Plant isn’t just considered a great singer but the very artists who sculpted the definition of what a rock singer should be. While there aren’t many comparative performers in today’s rock scene, Plant helped to lay the foundations of vocalists everywhere with his impressive range, thunderous delivery and indisputable form. Though rightly seen as an integral member of Led Zeppelin, Plant actually affected the entire music industry with his work. Below, we’re looking at six bone-shaking isolated vocal tracks to highlight that talent.
One of the greatest bands to have ever walked the earth was always going to need a decent lead singer. Often seen as the focal point of the band, the frontman’s role is to be pointed weaponry at the very tip of the band’s charge to stardom. For Plant, a singer who was not only keen on their craft, and the honing of it, the life of a rock ‘n’ roll lead singer wasn’t necessarily all it cracked up to be. With luscious locks, a bare chest and a powerhouse performance, it’s easy to cast Plant in the usual role, but the truth is, he was always very different.
That’s not to say the singer wasn’t caught up in the lifestyle of Led Zeppelin. Following the band’s explosion on the rock scene in the late sixties, Plant, like the rest of the band, was swallowed up for a time in the hysteria. But, thankfully, one thing the singer always kept at the forefront of his life was his art. Plant always ensured that his performances were the best they could be, either on stage or in the studio.
Below, we’re looking at six bombastic isolated tracks which show the extent of Plant’s genius work. While rightly thought of as the archetypal rock singer, we’d suggest, listening to the below, he’s the best ever.
Robert Plant isolated vocal tracks:
‘Whole Lotta Love’
One of the band’s undeniably brilliant songs, ‘Whole Lotta Love’ is imbued with the very rasping, roaring and ripping rock vocal power that would lift Plant to legend status. Unbridled and unstoppable, Plant uses every ounce of his being to deliver one of the best performances on record.
Plant’s vocal on ‘Whole Lotta Love’ is what sets it apart. It is the performance of a supreme singer; it is a performance of epic proportions; it, essentially, makes the track what it is. The affectations on his vocal provide the song with hints of personality, deeply sexualised as they are, that would otherwise be lost.
The Led Zeppelin man ranges from growling mammal to shrieking phoenix and every incarnation in between. It’s a transformative moment that sees the mercurial singer at his essential best.
Taken from the iconic sophomore album Led Zeppelin II, which the quartet released in 1969 to huge acclaim, the vision for ‘Ramble On’ was one of fantasy from Robert Plant. Like many other artists his age, the singer had become inspired by the work of fantasy fiction writer J.R.R. Tolkein and with the track, refers to its impact on him.
The singer used moments throughout the lyrics to express his connection, lines like “the darkest depths of Mordor” and “Gollum and the evil one” are both doffs of the caps to the writer. It’s a section of lyrics that Plant later confessed to being embarrassed about.
However, the vocal performance is not something he should ever be ashamed of as it marks Plant out as one of the best.
‘Stairway To Heaven’
One of the greatest rock songs of all time, ‘Stairway To Heaven’ is one track that will always divide Led Zeppelin fans, and probably the band too. Zepheads tend to either adore or loathe the song. Adore it because the track is a bonafide classic and they loathe it because it is the universal Zeppelin song, making it too easy to enjoy and, therefore, not earning your Zeppelin stripes.
Whichever way you feel about it, one thing that can’t be denied is Plant’s imposing vocal performance for the track. Plant had millions fall weak at the knees for his gravel toned screech of the band’s early efforts.
On ‘Stairway’, however, he returns to a vulnerable and tender sound that showed the world he was capable of far more than offered in Led Zeppelin—it truly is one of his finest ever performances.
The track is taken from the band’s 1969 record Led Zeppelin II and is credited to all four band members, a remarkable feat and one that suggests an unmatchable unity within the group. It also showed the respect that each of the members of the group had for one another.
The talent on show in a Led Zeppelin studio must’ve been quite imposing, and it’s songs like this that we see the respect they held for one another.
Though the song certainly contains one of the greatest rock riffs in history, amply performed by Jimmy Page, the track’s real treasure comes with Plant’s iconic vocal performance. Though the wail of a rock vocalist became commonplace during the seventies, it has to be remembered that Robert Plant laid those foundations down a long time before.
‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’
When Led Zeppelin released Led Zeppelin III in 1970, the chances are that many people expected them to flop. They had produce two outstanding records, and nobody thought their express train to the top could continue to chug so heartily. But, as we know now, the band did just that and delivered one of the finest, most underrated, moments of their career.
It was through songs like the bombastic ‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’ that we can hear the group’s evolution from hard rockers into cultural behemoths. Plant’s vocal reigns supreme.
Always concerned with his craft, Plant’s tone is somewhat different too. Not only reliant on the gravelly wail that had become so adored, but Plant also used the record to show his more tender moments.
‘Kashmir’ is the track that Plant has mentioned on most occasions as being his all-time favourite Led Zep track, with him telling Rolling Stone: “‘Kashmir’ in particular. It was so positive, lyrically. It’s the quest, the travels and explorations that Page and I went on to far climes well off the beaten track… That, really to me is the Zeppelin feel.”
He also told Q107 about his adoration for the song in 2010: “I wish we were remembered for ‘Kashmir’ more than ‘Stairway To Heaven. It’s so right; there’s nothing overblown, no vocal hysterics. Perfect Zeppelin.”
It’s a song that has been widely cited as one of Zep’s best, usually by the members of the band, and shows a group who are capable of so much more than just heavy rock. But, there can be no doubt, that the singer is the most important part of the song.