April 18, 1988 12:00 PM

Robert Plant

In his solo career post-Led Zeppelin, singer Robert Plant has created intriguing music, seeding his rock style with exotic accents without losing its basic power. Now and Zen presents two extremes to Plant fans. There are songs that surpass anything Plant has yet recorded, a not inconsiderable achievement. Other portions of the album are disappointingly bland. The merits of the album begin with the captivating drama of Heaven Knows, a song perfectly suited to Plant’s vocal style, which flaunts the recklessness of a cliff diver. Tall Cool One is pure swaggering attitude, sounding like Marc Bolan’s T. Rex strapped into a killer roller coaster. This intoxicating song ends delightfully by sampling some of Led Zeppelin’s trademark riffs. (The patent holder on those hefty guitar pearls, Jimmy Page, lends a hand on both Heaven Knows and Tall Cool One.) On the debit side are conventional, zestless songs like Dance on My Own. Other songs come alive only in sections, such as the heady chorus of Helen of Troy or the tripping opening theme of Why. All in all, Now and Zen is schizophrenic, but like the girl with the curl in the nursery rhyme, when it’s good, it’s very, very good. (Es Paranza)

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