Led Zeppelin front man Robert Plant and country music songstress Alison Krauss returned this month with their second new release in the form of Raise The Roof. The 12-song, standard edition (Target offers the record in a deluxe edition that features two bonus tracks, bringing the total to 14) is the duo’s first new record in 14 years, and will receive support with a tour planned to launch in the new year. The 53-minute record is, at least in the ears and mind of this critic, a mixed bag that maybe was not entirely worth the exceptionally long wait. That is not to say that the album is a failure, but it could have been better at the same time. The record’s main positive (and negative) is its sequencing. This will be discussed shortly. A much clearer negative is the issue of record’s lyrical content. This will be discussed a little later. Another semi-positive comes in the record’s musical content. This will also be discussed later. Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of Raise The Roof. All things considered, they make the album one of the lesser of this year’s new albums that, again, simply proved to not be worth the wait.
Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ recently released album, Raise The Roof is a record that sadly will not have everyone wanting to raise the roof. It is not a failure, but it is also not a complete success. This is proven through the duality in the album’s sequencing. The sequencing is both positive and negative because it starts off weakly with its brooding opener, ‘Quattro (World Drifts In).’ Honestly, things do not really even start to pick up until the record reaches its fourth song, ‘Trouble With My Lover.’ The song’s arrangement immediately conjures thoughts of Peggy Lee’s rendition of Little Willie John’s classic song, ‘Fever.’ From there, things do finally pick up and remain relatively stable at least until the record’s end. So again, the negative of the sequencing is thankfully only temporary. To that end, it is not enough to be too problematic, but is still unavoidable in talking about the record’s shortcomings even with its more positive side in mind. While the sequencing is mostly a positive, the record’s lyrical content proves negative, but again not to the point that it makes the record a failure.
The lyrical content featured in Raise The Roof is so problematic because it is mostly the same thing from one song to the next – love gained and lost. Throughout the record, those overarching themes are so prominent. Even early on, audiences get the theme in the form of the album’s second song, ‘The Price of Love.’ This is one of the many songs in this record that focuses on lost love. It opens with Krauss singing, “Wine is sweet and gin is bitter/Drink while you can/You won’t forget her/You talk too much/You laugh too loud/That’s the price of love/The debt you pay with tears and pain/The price of love/It costs you more when you’re to blame.” Plant joins in with Kraus in the song’s chorus. The whole statement here is, as noted, one of those oh woe is me songs about love lost. The mood that these lyrics set alongside the song’s musical arrangement is melancholy to say the least. Some will appreciate that mood and the wording in the lyrics, but others will likely be far less receptive, even if they are going through so much of what is in this song. It really does make the song problematic in its own right. Add in that, again, love gained and lost is pretty much all that the songs’ lyrical content presents, and the problems only continue from here.
‘Going Where The Lonely Go’ continues to show the problem with the record’s lyrical content. Herein is yet another song that is just about love lost. That is made clear as Krauss sings in the song’s lead and second verse against the decidedly melancholy honky tonk style musical arrangement, “Rolling with the flow/Going where the lonely go/Anywhere the lights are low/Going where the lonely go/Making up things to do/Not running in all directions/Trying to find you/I’m just rolling with the flow/Going where the lonely go.” Now herein lies even more problem, not just with the lyrics, but with the music, too. The lyrics present the song’s subject as someone who is over that significant other. This is someone who is moving on, yet the song’s musical arrangement is so sad and melancholy. It really does not match. Meanwhile the lyrical theme is again that of a relationship that has met its end. It is anything but unique, but rather more of the same from Kraus and Plant in this record. It further detracts from the engagement and entertainment.
‘Can’t Let Go’ is yet another example of audiences getting more of the same, lyrically from this album. Herein is yet another song whose lyrical content is melancholy as it focuses on a broken relationship. This is made clear as Kraus sings, “Told you, baby/One more time/Don’t make me sit all alone and cry/Well, it’s over/I know it/But I can’t let go/I’m like a fish out of water/And a cat in a tree/You don’t even want to talk to me/Well, it’s over/And I know it/But I can’t let go.” The song’s second verse is similar with the mention of the candle “burning bright” and the subject feeling like he/she has “been shot.” What is so interesting is that in this case, the song’s musical arrangement is in direct contrast what with its energy. In the same breath, that energy helps to translate the sense of denial that the song’s subject feels in this case. To that end, the song works. Yet at the same time, the song’s lyrical content is still so much in the same vein as the other songs examined here and the rest of the album’s entries. Keeping that in mind, that audiences get the same kind of lyrical content from one song to the next, it detracts noticeably from the record’s presentation. It is not enough to make the album a failure, but it still certainly does take away from the album’s engagement and entertainment.
While the lyrical content featured in this record detracts noticeably from the album’s presentation, its musical counterpart makes up for that issue at least to a point. As noted in an examination of the songs here, that is made clear. The musical arrangements do well in their own right to help translate the emotion in each song’s lyrical approach. What’s more, the arrangements are unique of one another, too. The record opens with a light, piano-driven neo-folk piece that echoes influences of songs from Fleetwood Mac, what with the harmonies and subtle vocals. ‘The Price of Love,’ which immediately follows, is something of a neo-folk rock composition. Meanwhile, ‘Go Your Way’ bears a sort of country music approach. Plant’s vocal delivery here in its style and sound actually works surprisingly well. As the album progresses into ‘Trouble With My Lover,’ listeners get more of a bluesy style composition before things change again in its immediate follow-up, ‘Searching For My Love.’ In this case, audiences get a light, pop/country/rock style composition a la the Eagles. From there on through to the album’s end, the arrangements continue to change, ensuring together with the noted arrangements, listeners’ engagement and entertainment. Looking at the record’s bigger picture, it is really this item and the sequencing of the arrangements that really keeps things just interesting enough for audiences. Keeping that in mind, those two elements prove to be the album’s saving graces. That is even with the problems that the sequencing poses in mind along with the problems of the record’s lyrical content. Overall, the sequencing and the musical arrangements do just enough to make Raise The Roof a work that won’t leave audiences raising the roof, but will ensure the album is worth hearing at least once.
Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ new album, Raise The Roof is not a record that will make audiences want to raise the roof. At the same time though, audiences will agree that it is worth hearing at least once. That is thanks in part to the sequencing. While the sequencing causes the record to start off slow, it thankfully does pick things up not too long after the fact, and keeps them moving from then on. It also ensures that the album’s featured musical arrangements keep changing and in turn keep listeners engaged and entertained. These elements do just enough to make up for the shortcoming that is the record’s lyrical content. The record’s lyrical content is problematic because it lacks any real originality. Every single song focuses on either love gained or lost. There is no fun lyrical content, nor anything serious. It is all just that overarching theme of relationships, which really does become boring rather quickly. Even with that in mind, it is not enough to doom the album, but rather keep it from becoming one of the year’s top new albums.
Raise The Roof is available now through Rhino Records. More information on the record is available along with all of Robert Plant’s latest news at:
More information on Raise The Roof is available along with all of Alison Krauss’ latest news at: