Skip to main content

Enter your email below to be the first to hear about new releases, upcoming events, and more from Dig!

Please enter a valid email address
Please accept the terms
Best Robert Plant Albums: His Post-Led Zeppelin Solo Discography, Ranked, Reviewed
List & Guides

Best Robert Plant Albums: His Post-Led Zeppelin Solo Discography, Ranked, Reviewed

Richly diverse, the best Robert Plant albums have seen the former Led Zeppelin frontman reap significant rewards from his artistic risks.

Back

For many music fans, Robert Plant will always be the bare-chested golden god fronting the legendary Led Zeppelin. However, even at the very height of their stadium-slaying pomp, when Plant established himself as one of the best frontmen in rock history, the singer was capable of reining in his band’s machismo with more thoughtful, reflective songs such as Thank You and The Rain Song, while his thirst for communing with different cultures helped shape Kashmir, a Physical Graffiti standout that remains one of the best Led Zeppelin songs of all time. Plant has carried this same restless spirit into his subsequent solo career, which has now spanned four decades and yielded fantastic music hewn from rock, folk, Americana and far-flung ethnic flavours, all of which flow through the richly diverse discography that harbours the best Robert Plant albums.

Listen to the best of Robert Plant here, and check out the best Robert Plant albums, below.

15: ‘The Honeydrippers: Volume One’ (with The Honeydrippers) (1984)

Faced with the dilemma of how to move forwards as an artist following the demise of Led Zeppelin, Robert Plant temporarily deferred making a decision by forming The Honeydrippers: an ad-hoc covers band with an emphasis placed on rhythm’n’blues. The group initially existed solely as a live entity before Plant made his solo debut with 1982’s Pictures At Eleven, but, with the blessing of Atlantic Records’ then president, Ahmet Ertegun, the singer later put together an all-star line-up of the group, featuring Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck, to record the 1984 mini-album, The Honeydrippers: Volume One. Produced with aplomb by Nile Rodgers, the record featured slick and faithful performances of a clutch of 50s standards and yielded a US Top 5 with its string-driven version of Phil Phillips’ Sea Of Love, but the project proved short-lived. A mooted full-length album never materialised, and Plant returned to his solo career with 1985’s Shaken ’n’ Stirred.

Must hear: Sea Of Love

14: ‘Shaken ’n’ Stirred’ (1985)

Though Plant enjoyed making The Honeydrippers: Volume One, he also yearned to write some new original material, telling the Los Angeles Times that he “couldn’t sing Eddie Cochran songs forever”. For his third solo album, Shaken ’n’ Stirred, he reconvened with most of the musicians from 1983’s successful The Principle Of Moments and made a record which, thanks to featuring some of the bravest and most left-field material of his solo career, still stands among the best Robert Plant albums. The quirky, synth-laden Too Loud and the nervy, The Police-esque Trouble Your Money still fascinate, while Little By Little and Easily Lead coax out suitably impassioned Plant vocal performances.

Must hear: Trouble Your Money

13: ‘Pictures At Eleven’ (1982)

The fact that Robert Plant had been one quarter of Led Zeppelin ensured he had an audience in place when he embarked on a solo career, but, on the downside, the weight of his past with one of the most influential bands of all time could have shackled him. The situation wasn’t lost on Plant, who later told Classic Rock that making his solo debut, Pictures At Eleven, was a “learning curve” through which he “took a million pains to try and create my own individual sound”.

With help from a talented band including Phil Collins on drums and Robbie Blunt on guitar, Plant achieved his aim with his 1982 debut. Songs such as the hard-rocking Burning Down One Side and the Kashmir-esque orchestration of Slow Dancer respected Plant’s illustrious past, but the singer also broke new ground on the stark new-wave-isms of Pledge Pin and the exquisite, Spanish-flavoured ballad Moonlight In Samosa. He was understandably nervous of how it might turn out, but Pictures At Eleven went Top 5 on both sides of the Atlantic and, as one of the best Robert Plant albums of the 80s, proved a highly successful exercise in reframing his post-Led Zeppelin future.

Must hear: Moonlight In Samosa

12: ‘Carry Fire’ (with The Sensational Space Shifters) (2017)

Plant first collaborated with The Sensational Space Shifters on 2014’s impressive Lullaby… And The Ceaseless Roar, and the two parties reconvened for 2017’s equally potent Carry Fire. Once again, they seamlessly blended folk, rock and world music styles, though this time around they were augmented by Seth Lakeman, whose potent fiddle playing added a fresh dimension. Highlights are plentiful and range from the bucolic Season’s Song to the raging, anti-war workout Bones Of Saints, though the record’s apogee is surely an intense, lysergic-flavoured cover of New York City rockabilly artist Ersel Hickey’s Bluebirds Over The Mountain, which also features a seductive vocal duet between Plant and Pretenders’ mainstay Chrissie Hynde.

Must hear: Bluebirds Over The Mountain

11: ‘Dreamland’ (with The Strange Sensation) (2002)

Bearing in mind it received two Grammy nominations, 2002’s Dreamland rarely seems to receive the kudos meted out to other high-profile collaborations among the best Robert Plant albums, such as his two outings with Alison Krauss and even the short-lived yet commercially successful Honeydrippers. That’s a damn shame, too, for while the record is (give or take a couple of original tracks) effectively a covers album, it’s a well-chosen set performed by an all-star cast including guitarist Pearl Thompson (ex-The Cure) and Portishead drummer Clive Deamer. Emotive versions of Bonnie Dobson’s Morning Dew and Billy Roberts’ ever-sturdy Hey Joe are up there with the best of the tracklist, while Plant and company’s spine-tingling take of The Youngbloods’ Darkness, Darkness was more than worthy of those Grammy nods.

Must hear: Darkness, Darkness

10: ‘Lullabye… And The Ceaseless Roar’ (with The Sensational Space Shifters) (2014)

On paper, Plant’s cohorts in The Sensational Space Shifters might seem disparate, bearing in mind their personnel includes musicians from radically different backgrounds, including Gambian multi-instrumentalist Jules Camara and guitarist/banjo player Liam “Skin” Tyson, from Liverpudlian Britpop outfit Cast. As Lullabye… And The Ceaseless Roar made clear, however, they worked perfectly as a unit. Indeed, their collective sense of adventure allowed them to assemble a debut record taking in music as diverse as the stark piano-based ballad A Stolen Kiss, the frosty, Celtic-tinged ambience of Embrace Another Fall and the electronica-tinged desert blues Turn It Up while ensuring it all hung together as a satisfyingly cohesive whole.

Must hear: Embrace Another Fall

9: ‘Raise The Roof’ (with Alison Krauss) (2021)

Despite the 14-year gap between the release of Plant and Krauss’ multiple Grammy Award-winning Raising Sand and its long-awaited follow-up, Raise The Roof, it’s fair to say the latter title was still one of the most hotly anticipated releases of 2021. When it did finally touch down, Raise The Roof didn’t disappoint. It was again overseen by Raising Sand producer T Bone Burnett and featured a similar supporting cast, including guitarist Marc Ribot and drummer Jay Bellerose.

Raise The Roof also saw the duo return to the great US songbooks they had previously visited, via beautifully poised covers of The Everly Brothers’ The Price Of Love and Allen Toussaint’s Trouble With My Lover, but this time out, they pushed beyond Americana to tap into the British folk tradition, courtesy of gloriously inventive covers of Bert Jansch’s It Don’t Bother Me and Anne Briggs’ Go Your Way. As many would have expected, the results were greeted with widespread critical raves and a further flurry of Grammy nominations that immediately secured Raise The Roof’s place among the best Robert Plant albums. The record’s slow-burning quality will surely keep it high in the rankings for years to come.

Must hear: Go Your Way

8: ‘Walking Into Clarksdale’ (with Jimmy Page) (1998)

Plant and Page hadn’t collaborated on a full-length studio release since Led Zeppelin’s In Through The Out Door, in 1978, but with their old band still casting a fearsome shadow over the rock landscape, Walking Into Clarksdale immediately became one of 1998’s most sought-after releases. After their live reunion, No Quarter: Jimmy Page & Robert Plant Unledded, it would have been easy for the duo to have pressed on with a full-on Kashmir-esque rock/world music album, too, but instead they challenged themselves to make a modern-sounding alt-rock record with only bassist Charlie Jones and drummer Michael Lee in support, with go-to US producer Steve Albini in the producer’s chair.

To everyone’s immense credit, much of Walking Into Clarksdale genuinely didn’t sound like Led Zeppelin, either. Some familiar shimmering orchestration adorned both A Golden Horse and the intoxicating, Arabian-flavoured Most High, but certainly the restless likes of When The World Was Young, the Nirvana-esque Blue Train and the cinematic, noir-flavoured When I Was A Child represented the work of men whom Plant asserted would “rather be measured by what happened two years ago or two hours ago than what happened 25 years ago”.

Must hear: When I Was A Child

7: ‘Mighty ReArranger’ (with The Strange Sensation) (2005)

Dreamland, the first of Plant’s two albums with The Strange Sensation, was no slouch, but it’s arguably shaded by 2005’s Mighty ReArranger: a consistently big-sounding, hard-rocking set which was perhaps more the kind of thing fans might have expected from Page and Plant’s Walking Into Clarksdale. Nonetheless, Mighty ReArranger was a fine record on its own terms, with Let The Four Winds Blow and the Grammy-nominated Shine It All Around among its anthemic highlights, while the hard-hitting Freedom Fries criticised George W Bush’s presidency in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Fans able to grab import copies of the album’s French edition could also avail themselves of a bonus disc of live-in-the-studio recordings featuring takes on the Led Zeppelin classics Black Dog, When The Levee Breaks and Whole Lotta Love.

Must hear: Freedom Fries

6: ‘Now And Zen’ (1988)

A significant creative step forward from 1985’s experimental Shaken ’n’ Stirred, Plant’s fourth solo album, Now And Zen, still retained some of its predecessor’s new-wave stylings, but reintroduced into Plant’s sound some of the hard rock and blues textures found among the best Led Zeppelin albums. As if to further acknowledge that Plant was becoming more comfortable with his past, album highlight Heaven Knows bathed in a heady, Middle Eastern atmosphere in a similar vein to Zeppelin’s Kashmir, while the striking Tall Cool One featured a telling contribution from Jimmy Page. On release, Rolling Stone sagely decreed Now And Zen “a seamless pop fusion of hard guitar rock, gorgeous computerisation and sharp, startling songcraft”, and all those qualities ensures it ranks highly among the best Robert Plant albums.

Must hear: Heaven Knows

5: ‘Band Of Joy’ (with Band Of Joy) (2010)

Broadly in the same vein as Plant’s two Alison Krauss collaborations, Raising Sand and Raise The Roof, but with a little more moonshine-soaked country thrown into the mix, 2010’s Band Of Joy was helmed by alt-country icon Buddy Miller (Richard Thompson, Shawn Colvin) and recorded in Nashville with a bunch of skilled session musicians, with Patty Griffin taking on Krauss’ folky femme fatale role. Again largely consisting of covers, the album astutely cherry-picks from the more fatalistic end of the roots-rock spectrum, with excellent versions of songs by Townes Van Zandt (Harm’s Swift Way) and Richard Thompson (House Of Cards) rubbing shoulders with a glacial cover of Monkey that out-slows Low’s original, plus a truly eerie take of the traditional standard Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down.

Must hear: Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down

4: ‘The Principle Of Moments’ (1983)

Spurred on by the success of his post-Led Zeppelin debut, Pictures At Eleven, the gloves were off for Plant, who came back determined to make a second record which, as he put it in one contemporary interview, would “break the mould of expectation” and move him further away from Led Zeppelin’s quintessential sound.

By hooking up with sympathetic collaborators such as Phil Collins, guitarist Robbie Blunt and ex-Black Sabbath keyboard alumnus Jez Woodroffe, Plant achieved this aim with his second solo set, The Principle Of Moments: a confident, state-of-the-art rock record which has aged gracefully and remains potent today. Its centrepiece is the moody transatlantic hit Big Log, but with band and vocalist excelling on material as diverse as the reggae-tinged pop of Messin’ With The Mekon and the angular prog-pop of Horizontal Departure, The Principle Of Moments soon established itself as one of the very best Robert Plant albums.

Must hear: Big Log

3: ‘Fate Of Nations’ (1993

Long-term Plant fans were sent into raptures by 1990’s Manic Nirvana, arguably their hero’s heaviest and consistently hardest-rocking set since Led Zeppelin’s Presence. However, dedicated Plant watchers also knew that his solo career had been marked by a restlessness and an urge to avoid repeating himself, so it didn’t come as a surprise when his sixth solo record, Fate Of Nations, saw him heading in a different direction.

Pre-release interviews found Plant waxing lyrical about singer-songwriters such as Tim Hardin while also praising favourite titles from his own record collection, including albums by Traffic and Moby Grape, and he followed through by releasing a heartfelt cover of Hardin’s If I Were A Carpenter as the lead single from Fate Of Nations. For the most part, though, the album showcased highly personal, self-penned material that still ranks among the best Robert Plant songs, such as the Celtic-tinged Colours Of A Shade, the confident 29 Palms and the soaring I Believe. The latter was a truly poignant tribute to Plant’s late son, Karac, which he delivered with soul, warmth and dignity.

Must hear: I Believe

2: ‘Raising Sand’ (with Alison Krauss) (2007)

As we’ve seen, Robert Plant’s post-Led Zeppelin catalogue is pock-marked with critically acclaimed collaborations. Yet the one that most penetrated the mainstream – seemingly almost without trying – is Raising Sand: an otherworldly, yet highly accessible collection of Americana-soaked cover songs reimagined with soul, love and invention, and which won all five of the awards it was nominated for at the 2009 Grammys. Plant And Krauss’ sweet-and-sour vocals blend beautifully throughout, and even the more fatalistic selections (Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan’s Trampled Rose; Townes Van Zandt’s nihilistic Nothin’) are performed with candour and verve. It all makes for a landmark title and then some among the best Robert Plant albums.

Must hear: Through The Morning, Through The Night

1: ‘Manic Nirvana’ (1990)

Early in his solo career, Robert Plant made a point of creating music with no discernible link to Led Zeppelin, but by the time of 1988’s Now And Zen he wasn’t just collaborating with Jimmy Page, he was even sampling their prior work together on the song Tall Cool One. Having seemingly made his peace with his illustrious past, Plant unashamedly reconnected with his roots on 1990’s Manic Nirvana: an aggressive hard-rock album which provided a panacea for his long-term fans. However, while the record’s anthems (Big Love, Tie Dye On The Highway) certainly rocked and rolled with aplomb – and chimed with the zeitgeist while grunge was on the rise – the record also showcased Plant at his most adventurous. Indeed, it’s because Manic Nirvana also includes daringly different sonic seductions such as the soaring ballad I Cried, the James Brown-style groove of S S S & Q and a genre-defying doo-wop/hip-hop mash-up of Kenny Dino’s 1961 US hit, Your Ma Said You Cried In Your Sleep Last Night, that it tops this list of the best Robert Plant albums.

Must hear: Your Ma Said You Cried In Your Sleep Last Night

More Like This

Best Record Store Day 2024 Vinyl: 20 Releases You Need To Buy
List & Guides

Best Record Store Day 2024 Vinyl: 20 Releases You Need To Buy

Incendiary live recordings and an unreleased David Bowie album are essential purchases among the best Record Store Day 2024 vinyl releases.

Best Albums Of 2024: 10 Essential Releases Of The Year
List & Guides

Best Albums Of 2024: 10 Essential Releases Of The Year

From waves of neo-psychedelia to lashings of pop-punk ire, the best albums of 2024 prove this year has been packed with watershed moments.

Sign up to our newsletter

Be the first to hear about new releases, upcoming events, and more from Dig!

Sign Up