Robert Plant – Manic Nirvana

The album cover belies the contents. Here, he looks like the Golden God, and the cover promises great rock and majesty within. And is it there? Well…

No. Not really. Not in the way I expected, which was big guitars and drums and that wailing good time that only Plant’s voice can incite.

What we get, instead, is a collection of tightly/thinly-produced cheesy 80s rock songs (in 1990!). Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Clearly that was what they were going for, with this one.

We all know Hurting Kind (I’ve Got My Eyes On You). It typifies that sound I’m hearing. Big Love is slinky fun. Actually the intro sounds like Alannah Myles’ Rock This Joint’s riff. Was this around the time they were banging? Coincidence?

S S S & Q (a dumb title) is 80s rock. I Cried is one I liked, it has a cool build. She Said is more cheesy 80s. Nirvana is an OK tune but those guitars… Also, I hear a faster Negative Creep in that brief intro – was this lifted? An homage? They’re both from around the same time. Weird.

Tie Dye The Highway is a cool, mid-tempo groove. This is better. Your Ma Said You Cried In Your Sleep Last Night is one I didn’t like until 1:55, when it becomes OK. But it’s still too long, overall. Anniversary is the second tune in a row wasting too much time bulding, but here the pay-off is alright. I liked the guitar.

Liars Dance is an album highlight, an acoustic blues/vocal thing that immediately drew my ear. Yes! And lastly it’s Watching You, an interesting, pounding thing with middle eastern vocal accents.

In sum? That voices saves a lot of the meh music here. I think the riffs were strong but they got buried and lost in the overall sound. I won’t need to play most of this very often.

And you may wonder at me thinking Plant lifted things from other bands. Why should he have to, he’s ROBERT PLANT! But let’s be serious here, folks, how close were Led Zeppelin to their influences? One wonders.

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Posted on December 15, 2014, in posts by aaron and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. I had this album – bought the red cover used when I was in uni. I might have liked three songs on the entire album and barely listened to it. I sold my copy to the hock shop. I bought it for Tie Dye more than anything.

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    • This is the one you guys were talking about before, and Mike posted up ‘has anybody got this?’ or whatever? Wow! I totally didn’t make that connection. Yeah, I dunno I think th esongs were really strong but the production and the sound were way too 80s for me to listen to it very often. Alas.

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  2. Got this one but it’s never really stood out to me. I’ll have to look it out and give it another spin. I liked his early solo albums and those were pure 80s so maybe I’ll like this too.

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    • Yeah man, if you’re LOOKING for that sound, it’s all over this one. But me, well, I don’t know exactly what I was expecting, but from that cover and title and the man himself I wasn’t quite expecting so much cheese. Still good riffs, just… wow. But hey man, find your copy and GIVE ‘ER!

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  3. I’m glad we’re in agreement about Manic Nirvana, by far my least favorite Plant solo album. A lot of people I know consider it their favorite, but I think many of them had missed his earlier releases and this was their first Plant album after Zeppelin. Even Now & Zen, which has a very dated sound now, contains much stronger material and is more likely to appeal to Zeppelin fans who don’t want Plant to change or grow as a singer & songwriter. Another excellent & very fair review.

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    • Thanks Rich! Always happy to see you around here! 🙂 Yeah, I really wanted this to be more… well, rockier, somehow. Which is weird to say because I know the riffs are there. I’m not sure I was looking for more Zeppelin-sounding stuff, just more… RAWK, ya know? I still wanna give it another listen, to be fully fair two listens may not have been enough.

      Could the issue have been in the production, do you think? I mean, even living with the 80s sound, did you find this really compressed, or thin, or just off-sounding somehow? Or is that just my ears?

      I know Plant is pretty restless, musically, all over the map. And that’s awesome. His later stuff has, by and large, been really fun and appealing. This one, though… I’m hoping it’s a grower.

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      • The production sound didn’t affect my potential appreciation since that was the prevailing trend at the time, but I imagine it could turn off people hearing it for the first time all these years later. My issues had to do with the songwriting, which wasn’t as strong as his previous efforts (including the unfairly maligned Shaken N Stirred), and the fact that Plant was still trying to sing like a 25-year-old “golden god” when his voice wasn’t as strong as it used to be. It took him a few more years to start writing songs in a key that suited his maturing voice, and I think he’s become a stronger all-around vocalist since Dreamland (and maybe the Walking Into Clarksdale album with Page).

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        • Fair point well-made, Rich! Yep, I’m hearing most of these songs for the first time now, and they really do sound dated. If I’d heard them at the time, maybe I’d have just gone along with it. Then again, maybe not. I like my rock (generally) to have a bit more of a roomier sound to it than this had.

          Anyway, another great point about his voice. One wonders if he (probably) had people telling him to keep singing the old way, even when it clearly wasn’t working all the time, anymore. I mean, THAT VOICE is a gift to us all, so it’s only natural to wanna keep it the same as ever. I’m glad he’s come around to reality – still agreat voice, just different.

          I only got that Walking… Page/Plant album (on cassette for $0.50!) recently, and I can’t wait to give it a go. I am so far behind on all of this stuff, it’s crazy. All those years deep into the jazz and swing kept me from keeping current on a lot of the rawk! 🙂

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  4. She loves to go down,she loves to,go,down ,she loves she loves she loves….Big Love that is 80s crotch Rock summed up by Bobby Plant in 4 minutes…..I love the groove of that tune!
    Total,agreement with u on Liars Dance…one of his best tunes! Doug Boyle on acoustic guitar wickedly good!

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  5. This was the one with the funky red cover limited edition. T-Rev had it and sold it.

    I can’t speak much on Plant’s solo career. I do have that greatest hits that I like. A few songs came from this. At the time, I liked that Plant was going “harder” but I didn’t have the album. My sis did, she was a bigger Plant solo fan than I.

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  6. There was talk at the time of surprise surprise a Zep Reunion! When me and T went to see ZZ Top Oct /1990 in the Peg,Plant was there a week before so it was a toss up and we decided ahhhh we will wait it out for the Zep tour!
    Ha hahahaha……..

    Glad I caught ZZ though…..

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