No '60s frontman has enjoyed a greater renaissance than Robert Plant. After Led Zeppelin's 1982 breakup, he earned some success as a solo artist with his first two albums, but they sound dated now, like he was ripping off The Power Station's Robert Palmer rather than vice versa. Plant scored his only legitimate crossover hit in 1984 with the Honeydrippers' '50s-inflected crooner pop tune "Sea of Love," and it was downhill from there. An interesting acoustic reunion with Jimmy Page (1994's No Quarter) preceded the 1998 cash-in Walking Into Clarksdale.
After two decades of mediocrity, Plant finally served notice of his continuing vitality with 2005's Mighty ReArranger. Even if somewhat unfocused, this overlooked album found Plant incorporating an intoxicating blend of world music, folk and rock influences. The awe-inspiring 2007 duet album with Alison Krauss, Raising Sand, transplanted Plant's evocative pipes into the backwoods to great effect. The meld of a broken-down lyric and Plant's radiant tenor achieves sublime beauty. He maintained that momentum and spirit with 2010's Band of Joy, re-incorporating rock elements absent on the Krauss album. The triumphant record cemented Plant's makeover as an Americana artist. —Chris Parker