Rainbow has been released as a single, at least here on the American side of the Atlantic Ocean. You can purchase it now through Amazon (click on the link above) or at iTunes. As well, purchasing the album through Nonsuch Records website will get you a free MP3 download of Rainbow now.
What's not clear is if Plant made Rainbow available in Europe, or whether he made Little Maggie available there (it is even possible neither was released as a single in Europe). What is known is that a YouTube version of Little Maggie that was restricted from American audiences was released, as, it appears, Rainbow's video was restricted from European audiences.
lullaby and... The Ceaseless Roar opens with the traditional folk song Little Maggie. Little Maggie's genesis traces back as early as 100-years ago when, according to the Traditional Tune Archive, fiddler Tommy Jarrell remembers hearing the song in North Carolina. Like many traditional songs, it has varying lyrics, but Plant seems to have chosen to stay close to the traditional (see Bill Munroe, for an example).
The song has been covered by Bill Munroe, Ricky Scaggs and Bob Dylan, The Stanley Brothers and the Kingston Trio among others. Besides it's traditional nature, it was considered "core repertoire" during the 60's folk era.
Plants version maintains the tempo of the Bill Munore, but has a very different feel. His return to England seems to have inspired him in much the same way moving to America seemed to do a few years ago. Little Maggie has a very celtic feel to it, although it also hints at a Middle Eastern or Indian feel in the banjo breaks.
Little Maggie is the kind of song Plant has always loved, those traditional songs coming out of the American south. While it may be a new song to many Robert Plant fans, I imagine it's a song Plant has known for a very long time.
Rainbow is one of the 9 (of 11) new, original songs by Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters (not the "Sensational Shape Shifters," as one media outlet called them today). Slate Magazine (yes, they're the guilty party) called Rainbow "some of Plant’s best work in years." Although the writer seemed to enjoy Raising Sand quite a bit, so what does she know?
What Rainbow is though, is a good solid pop song, with a bot of a rock edge. Vocally, Plant extends his range here a bit more than previous efforts, but still stays in his comfort zone. That's alright though, if the music fits, and Rainbow really seems to. Upbeat, edgy with a happy message, Rainbow is a very good song. However, as time goes on there's four or so songs on The Band of Joy that I find I really like, so whether Rainbow is his best in year remains to be seen.
Parts of three other songs are currently being previewed on iTunes (and presumable other sites that are selling the album digitally), Pocketful of Golden, Turn It Up and Somebody There.
Pocketful of Golden is a ballad, very much in the pulled back Band of Joy style that we have heard from Plant the past few efforts. It is possible even that Pocketful of Golden comes from the original sessions with the Sensation Space Shifters back in the fall of 2012, when he was also still recording with Band of Joy.
Somebody There runs to more pop, a nice song with an infectious melody. Frankly, this is the kind of song I find irresistible, and may in time turn out to be one I like a lot. But not yet, not on this short clip.
I'm lost inside America and I'm turning inside
I'm turning into someone else, I heard so much about.
I'm blinded by the Neon, the rites and the might
I'm stuck inside the radio...
Melodically, the above vocals have the feel of Might Rearranger's Tin Pan Valley.
Overall, the glimpse of Robert Plant's new album (note: the Sensational Space Shifters are not listed on the cover) is promising. Certainly Rainbow, the first single which you can buy right now, is a good little song worthy of your $1.29.