Priory Of Brion (Midas Touch MD 204011)
Broadwalk, Sheffield, England – September 25th, 1999
(74:30): Announcement, Season Of The Witch, Morning Dew, A House Is Not A Hotel, Wondrous Place, Girl From The North Country, If I Were A Carpenter, Darkness Darkness, Think, Early In The Morning, We’re Gonna Groove, Baby Please Don’t Go, No Regrets, Gloria, Trouble In My Mind, Evil Woman, High School Confidential
Before the music begins, and the first track on the disc, there is an announcement from Robert Plant. “Let me give you some information. This is a tapestry of songs that affected the songs I’ve been writing over the last twenty-five, thirty years with my friends….Our intention is to permanently enjoy ourselves and sometimes to do it in the most peculiar fashion. It should sound good on bootleg.”
When Page & Plant ended a European tour in December 1998 there was talk of a tour in Japan and recording of a follow up to Walking Into Clarksdale. But instead, Robert Plant walked away from that project and focused his attention upon The Priory of Brion.
This project reunited Plant with his old friend Kevyn Gammond from the Band of Joy, and grew out of Kevyn’s connections with music education at Kidderminster College. They set out to play cover versions of songs which influenced Robert and Kevyn in the early days. The full line-up was: Andy Edwards (drums), Kevyn Gammond (guitar), Robert Plant (vocals), Paul Timothy (guitar and keyboards), Paul Wetton (bass).
Priory Of Brion’s live beginnings were scattered dates in clubs around the midlands and Sheffield is the sixth. Midas Touch use an excellent soundboard recording of the set. The only flaws are an equipment shortage during “Morning Dew,” numerous cuts between numbers cutting out some dialogue and the final number “High School Confidential” cuts out after fifty-eight seconds.
The setlist is, as he explained in the opening, derived from the hippie songs from the late sixties but with interesting rearrangements. He opens with Donovan’s “Season Of The Witch” set to a funky groove courtesy of the Hammond organ. In fact, the organ lends a psychedelic vibe to many of the arrangements. It’s followed by “Morning Dew” with synthesized strings in an arrangement closer to Bonnie Dobson’s instead of Tim Rose’s more famous recording.
Dylan’s “Girl From The North Country” sounds interesting with a harpsichord playing harmony, lending a high Baroque feel to it. This is followed by “If I Were A Carpenter,” the only song from his solo period included in the setlist.
The next few songs are funk/blues numbers. James Brown’s “Think” is one of the most energetic songs played in the set. The organ makes it sound very white and nerdy though “Early In The Morning,” where Plant is indebted to Ray Charles, sounds much better.
Ben E. King’s “We’re Gonna Groove” is the only Zeppelin song in the set. The organ replaces Jimmy Page’s trippy guitar from the Coda recording and is followed by the blues standard “Baby Please Don’t Go.”
Before “No Regrets” Plant reminisces about the No Limit club in Sheffield and follows with a loud version of Them’s “Gloria.” The set ends with “Evil Woman” with “High School Confidential” as the encore.
Priory Of Brion is an excellent release of a strange period in Plant’s career. It is also one of the final issues by Midas Touch, a label responsible for many excellent releases in the nineties. With few recordings available from this period, this is a release worth having for the trippy arrangements Plant gives these songs.