Veteran rocker Robert Plant unveiled his new album project "Band of Joy" in London earlier today (June 1).

Speaking at a reception in events venue Il Bottaccio, Belgravia, which had been specially decorated as a rundown farm for the occasion, Plant introduced himself by saying: "I was in a psychedelic band and there's never been a more surreal point than this one."

Prior to the singer's brief appearance, for which he claimed to have coincidently been passing, guests were treated to the first playback of Plant's new record -- the eagerly awaited follow-up to 2007's "Raising Sand," the artist's multiple Grammy-winning album with Alison Krauss.

"Band of Joy" takes its name from the blues band that Plant fronted before he joined Led Zeppelin, although Plant is the sole original member to participate in this new incarnation.

As previously announced, Plant is set to tour "Band of Joy" later this year with a 12-city trek beginning in Memphis on July 13. Further dates are set to follow in the fall, according to a statement posted on the artist's official website (www.robertplant.com).

Universal is set to drop the 12-track record internationally Sept. 13. Its U.S. release will be handled by Rounder, according to a statement on the artist's website.

Commenting on the record, which was met with an enthusiastic reception from all present, Plant revealed that he recorded "24 songs in 15 days" for the record, adding, " The enthusiasm and rebirth of everybody involved was fucking phenomenal. It stretched us all."

Similar in tone and instrumentation to "Raising Sand", "Band of Joy" includes a series of knockout vocal contributions from American singer-songwriter Patty Griffin. Buddy Miller, who also features on the album, co-produced the album.

Darrell Scott, Byron House and drummer Marco Giovino additionally star on the record, according to Plant's web site, although at this stage Universal is remaining tight-lipped about whether any other guest musicians contributed to the record or on what tracks artists appear. Universal staffers at the launch also declined to confirm if Band of Joy was to be considered a solo project from Plant or whether it is a group endeavor with shared writing credits.

Billboard.biz, can, however, report that the new record forms a triumphant follow-up to "Raising Sand", replicating the raw organic sound of its predecessor while, at times, pursuing a rockier direction.

Standout tracks include album opener "Angel Dance," a driving blues number, "Silver Rider," an epic duet (probably with Griffin), which alternates between quiet relaxed verses and an infectiously catchy rock chorus, and "I'm Falling In Love Again," a beautifully soulful country ballad.

Elsewhere on the record, "You Can't Buy My Love" delivers a foot-tapping cross between Johnny Cash and Hamburg-era Beatles, while "Monkey" momentarily harks back to Plant's days in Led Zeppelin with its potent mix of feedback, grinding rock riffs and deep bass. The wonderful "Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down," meanwhile, is a blues number which pushes Plant's still-powerful vocals to the fore.

The album closes with blues rock number "Even This Shall Pass Away," which finds Plant singing, "What is wealth the King would say/Even this shall pass away" before culminating in an extended instrumental outro.

"'Band of Joy' was an appropriate title for an amazing group of people who had nothing to lose," Plant told the assembled media audience before leaving the room, declaring: "I'm off to make another one."

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