At the time Plant was keen to distance himself from the legacy of Led Zeppelin and push his music in a different direction. However, he didn’t really achieve this until his second release The Principle of Moments and in places Pictures At Eleven is very reminiscent of Presence era Led Zeppelin. Not totally, but just enough, and particularly on arrangement and vocal delivery on three or four tracks, to make the connection obvious to anyone who wouldn’t know. Although it is difficult of course to imagine that there could be anyone who wouldn’t know !!
That though doesn’t prevent it from being an outstanding album and it has long been one of my favourite Plant offerings. ‘Slow Dancer’ is clearly the most Zeppelin like track with Plants performance in particular reminding of ‘Achilles Last Stand’ and the tempo and feel nodding towards a harder ‘Kashmir’.
Particular mention must also be given to the opening cut ‘Burning Down One Side’ which is for me as good as anything Plant has ever done outside the confines of Led Zeppelin and the gentler more bluesy ‘Like I’ve Never Been Gone’ which displays the natural talent in Plant’s voice. Elsewhere the album is full of intricate little melodies and arrangements marrying the power and passion of Plant with the more technical and almost crystaline in places guitar from Robbie Blunt and some eighties pop keyboard and synth styles from Jezz Woodruffe. There is also the bonus of some typically thundering drumming from Cozy Powell as well as the more restrained Phil Collins. Paul Martinez who had been in Paice Ashton Lord amongst others provided some pretty jazzy and funky bass for good measure.
At the time I remember a lot of Zeppelin fans were disappointed with this as it wasn’t Zep enough for them. However for some, and I’ll include myself in that, it lead to a re-evaluation as Zeppelin as they were a band at that time that many had grown tired of.
Robert Plant has given us some excellent solo releases since this debut but this still stands as one of the best of them. Possibly only bettered by the following years ‘The Principle of Moments’ and the outstanding ‘Fate of Nations’ some ten years later.