Sunday, May 2, 2021

"Tall Cool One" by Robert Plant

Song#:  3481
Date:  04/16/1988
Debut:  85
Peak:  25
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Plant's third solo album, Shaken 'n' Stirred, wasn't quite as well-received as his first two. It would miss the Top 10 (#20) and only go gold, a drop from the platinum sales of his previous efforts. The LP was a bit experimental (i.e., less commercial) and it took Plant further away from the sound of his previous band Led Zeppelin. For his fourth album, Plant decided to move back to his rock and blues roots while updating it with the sounds and production techniques of the 80s. Now and Zen would be released and the first track to get some attention was "Heaven Knows," which took off and got to #1 at Rock. Hot on its heels, "Tall Cool One" was issued out as a single. It would also top the Rock chart. The attention there helped the song cross over to the Pop chart where it slowly caught on and finally peaked at #25. It would end up being Plant's second biggest solo hit on that chart after the #20 "Big Log" (1983). The pair of Rock #1s certainly brought attention to the album and it would return Plant to the Top 10 at #6. Eventually, it would end up becoming Plant's biggest selling solo album going triple-platinum.

ReduxReview:  Plant spent three albums trying to shed the Led monkey off his back and in some ways succeeded. However, much of it seemed so serious. It was like Plant didn't truly allow himself to have any fun. That changed with this track. He took the lyrics "lighten up baby" to heart and created a fun, rockin' track that merged his current solo career with his legendary past. It just sounded like Plant was at a place where he was enjoying himself and not forcing the songs out. The rock radio-ready "Heaven Knows," which should have been a Pop Top 40 hit, still had a joyous, uplifting sound even though it was a darker track. The whole album was a more focused affair and I enjoyed it. Now and Zen still remains the only Robert Plant solo album I've ever owned. I quickly bought into it after hearing "Heaven Knows" and this single. "Tall Cool One" was such a blast of fresh air coming from Plant. The charging rock-blues of the tune combined with Plant's voice, modern production, and clever Zep references was certainly "built to please." It really should have gone Top 10.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  For a couple of tracks on the album, including "Tall Cool One," Plant brought in his old Led Zeppelin bandmate Jimmy Page to play guitar. Page's appearance wasn't the only Zep connection in the song. It also included samples from several Led Zeppelin tracks. Snippets of "Black Dog," "Dazed and Confused," "Whole Lotta Love," "The Ocean," and "Custard Pie" could be heard. Plant's lyrics also included references to a couple of Zep songs as well. Apparently, the sampling idea came about due to another popular act at the time, the Beastie Boys. Having been fans of Led Zeppelin, the Beastie Boys used samples of a few Zep songs on tracks from their #1 debut album Licensed to Ill. They did it at a time when the legalities surrounding sampling were blurry and artists were still taking chances in not getting the samples cleared. The trio didn't seek permission to use the Zep snippets and of course that didn't necessarily sit well with Plant. However, Plant decided that legal action wasn't in his best interest and let the Boys off the hook. Instead, he thought that he may get a bit of revenge by incorporating samples from Beastie Boys tracks into his own songs. The problem was that the BB tracks proved to be lower in quality and didn't fit well with Plant's high tech production. Instead, Plant then decided to cop samples from his own band for "Tall Cool One." There would be no legal issues with doing that as he was the co-composer of the tunes and he was still on Zep's label Atlantic. The use of the samples made the song stand out and the nostalgia factor helped push the song to #1 at Rock.


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