Wild Mercury Sound

More on Robert Plant, plus Ivor The Engine

John Mulvey

A pretty tendentious post appeared on the blog last night from someone who styles themselves Sad Indeed. "After seeing the live performance download MSNBC Today show 10/24, not only is Robert Plant coming off as sad as hell - a lifetime of dedication to the mermaid has broke his heart - but Krauss and Plant had NO chemistry and were out of synchronicity," Sad Indeed spiels.

"This was not tight harmonies," the rant continues. Krauss is way overrated as a vocalist, in fact it makes you all too well aware that miracles can be done in the mixing of modern tech - I really think that it is desperate and he would appear very much even sadder than sad if he were to continue to try to make this project into anything more then what has been done - pathetic. Perhaps fresh Zep with a mini tour would be wiser."

Now I can share the frustration of everyone who's failed to get tickets for the Led Zeppelin O2 show; I'm currently fuming because my wife appears to have snagged a ticket and I haven't. But that frustration seems to be prejudicing people like Sad Indeed against the Plant & Krauss album which, the more I listen to it, the more I'm blown away by.

In fact, I'm now wondering whether Plant should have come up with a new group name for the project, not just to deflect attention from himself, but to highlight what a collaborative endeavour it is. There's Alison Krauss, of course (I agree in part about her voice, because her solo records have often struck me as multitracked schmaltz, which she certainly isn't here), and the producer T-Bone Burnett. But when I listen to "Raising Sand" now, my ears go straight to the guitar lines, the twanging and febrile leads of Marc Ribot. It's a truly great record; does anyone know what that stuff about "a lifetime of dedication to the mermaid" means?

Anyway, this morning we're starting with the latest treasure unearthed by Trunk Records, a collection of soundtrack music from "Ivor The Engine" and "Pogles Wood" by Vernon Elliott. I'm aware that by listening to this stuff, it makes us look like slightly creepy nostalgists, fetishising ancient children's TV programmes. But like Elliott's "Clangers" music which Trunk released a few years ago, this is wonderful stuff which isn't predicated on an obsession with '60s and '70s children's shows.

Elliott's music largely consists of lovely, ornate baroque miniatures, with a lot of woodwind to the fore. It's the sort of thing which should be unpalatably twee, but which actually succeeds in capturing a kind of elusive rural charm, an authentic magic that sometimes tips over into a certain spookiness.

Some pleasure, too, from the track titles, which include "Plant Growing", "Apprehensive Music", "Piccolo Attempt", "Donkey Departing", ""Effects: Coal" and "Effects: Get Art Of It", which seems to involve the animators Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin shouting, "Get Art Of It" in superbly inauthentic working class accents.


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