Classic Rock Review

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Led Zeppelin Houses Of The Holy (1973)


Review Imagine turning out four of the most successful and ground breaking heavy metal/blues-rock albums of all time, only to go on turning out more outstanding material. Very few bands in history have consistently delivered mind-blowing albums one after the other for an extended period of time the way Zeppelin has. Zeppelin had invented the sound of the decade, and by 1973, they were really ready to spread their wings (as if they hadn’t already).

“Houses Of The Holy” follows the same foot steps as “Led Zeppelin IV”, but the approach is much more easy-going. Jimmy Page’s riffs range from folk hooks as well as his classic blues-rock hooks, giving the album a lighter and looser feel. The album kicks off with epic “The Song Remains the Same”. “The Rain Song” is a moody, meandering tune, sprawling progressive rock arrangements touching on classical music, jazz, blues, and folk, as well as hard rock. Robert Plant’s vocals are soulful and heartfelt.

“The Rain Song” also shows Jimmy Page’s growth as a producer. “Over the Hills and Far Away” was a further progression away from the band’s original heavy blues into more diverse arrangements. The acoustic introduction is a variation of Jimmy Page’s own “White Summer,” which was highly influenced by Davey Graham’s “She Moved Thro’ the Fair.” The affectionate James Brown send-up “The Crunge,” one of my favourites, really adds to the diversity of the album.

“Dancing Days” gives you a solid taste of their classic hard rock strut. The reggae-influenced song “D’Yer Mak’er”, featuring John Bonham’s driving drums makes for an exceptional love song. The song was released as a single and reached the top 20, staying on the charts for total of eight weeks. Zeppelin’s spooky “No Quarter” is a jazz, bluesy jam. The songs starts off with John Paul Jones’ electric piano, reminiscent of the Doors’ “Riders On The Storm”. The song jumps into Bonham’s hard-hitting drums, then leads into Page’s blues-rock riff, backed by an analogue synthesizer. Plant paints a picture of creepy images within his soaring slowed-down vocals. “The Ocean” makes for a great closer, featuring a funky guitar riff from Page, into an a cappella, going out swinging.

It’s hard to pick a “best” Zeppelin album. Usually my favourite is the one I am currently listening too. “Houses Of The Holy” lives up to the reputation of their first four masterpieces. They took a chance and were unfazed by the spotlight. This album adds dramatic influence to heavy metal, blues-rock and hard rock as we know it today. Don’t miss out on this flawless classic.

Review In the early 1970’s, Led Zeppelin were at their peak. Led Zeppelin were one of the top established bands in the world by the time of the release of ‘Houses Of The Holy’ in Spring 1973. This was due to the release of four magnificent albums, displaying music from ground breaking blues hard rock songs to acoustic masterpieces. However, it was mostly in the release of their fourth album, Led Zeppelin IV, that the band really sored to superstardom.

Songs like ‘Stairway To Heaven’, which quickly became a generational rock anthem and other great songs made Led Zeppelin IV the band’s best sounding album to date. As a result, the band faced the dilemma of making the follow up to a hard rock masterpiece. Scaling to the heights of Led Zeppelin IV seemed impossible; so were the band able to pull it off with ‘Houses Of The Holy’?

Many will disagree with me but in my opinion, Led Zeppelin’s finest hour came with this album. Furthermore, I would go as far to say this is rock music’s finest hour of the 70’s. So why do you ask? How is HOTH better than albums like Led Zeppelin II or IV? Where are the tracks that better ‘Stairway’, ‘When The Levee Breaks’ or ‘Whole Lotta Love’ for that matter? The answer, for me, lies in how much ground the band covers in this album.

This album is the mix of the original rocking Zeppelin, with the new, experimental and more developed band. This album, albeit having only 8 tracks, covers the sounds of funk, reggae, riff rock, synthesizers, acoustics to name but a few. Plus this is all in 40 minutes. I’ve never heard an album quite like this one. True, it is not as all round consistent as LZ IV but it is in diversity that makes HOTH (the first album the band gave a true name to) a winner of an album.

‘Houses Of The Holy’ is ingenuity and creativity but at the same time is the band truly enjoying the music their playing and you can sense this in all the albums songs. Plant’s vocal range and different styles of delivery are evident through the album, Page’s guitar play cleverly changes gears through the album, JP Jones’ contribution is invaluable (especially on the keyboard) and Bonham’s drumming is first rate. The band opened loads of new avenues in rock music with this album; its impact has been subtle but downright effective. Ironically, the album was released in exactly the same week as Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’.

Two classics like these in one week is staggering and seldom ever seen. The fact that the band recorded a title track for this album which didn’t make it to the final song list shows how good the work. ‘Houses Of The Holy’, the song which appears on ‘Physical Graffiti’, is awesome and the fact that it was deemed too inferior for this album shows the musical quality within. The album will probably not strike you as being that great during the first few listens – I personally was disappointed with it at first; but this album gets better and better with repeated listens and the experimental songs really grow on you.

A Led Zeppelin fan favourite, ‘The Song Remains The Same’ opens the album. This is a 5 minute, upbeat rock song with some amazingly adept guitar work from Page. Plant’s high register singing to a fast rhythm works very well. Following this is a true masterpiece and sadly one that often gets underappreciated. ‘The Rain Song’ is the band’s search for a song in the vein of ‘Stairway To Heaven’. The slow, mellotron-based melody in this song is awesome.

The acoustic sections are moody and the end climax is thrilling, with Plant crying out for ‘Just a little rain!’ A relaxing song; and it cheers you up on a rainy day too! An acoustic opening follows in ‘Over The Hills And Far Away’. The build up into the rocking part of the song is legendary. The song fades out with a dreamy guitar/keyboard section which really cool. Finishing the first half of the album is ‘The Crunge’. This is perhaps the most experimental song on the album an I personally think it works really well; although some may disagree, finding this track annoying. Plant half sings/half talks on the vocals to a song with a funky beat. There’s a lot going on in this song, so give it plenty of listens; at the least its a funny listen.

‘Dancing Days’ opens the second half of the album. More great riffs from Page supplement some almost chanted Plant vocals. The instrumentals at the end build a great climax and overall the song is a really catchy listen. ‘D’yer Mak’er’ is next; this is Led Zeppelin successfully experimenting with reggae. The beat is cool and Plant’s vocals capture the song style very well. Then we have the next epic of the album; ‘No Quarter’ is another masterpiece.

This is Led Zeppelin’s eeriest and most captivating song. Plant’s vocals are chilling and give the song a suspicious aura. The song is on of John Paul Jones’ finest hours. His keyboard/synth part is awesome and captures the nature of the song and his bass solo mid-way through the epic is timeless. After this song fades out, we come to the classic finish with ‘The Ocean’. The hard rocking riff to this song is vintage Zeppelin, supplemented by pronounced drumming. This is a very strong finish. The racing guitar section at the end is a great way to end a unique album.

There was never an album quite like ‘Houses of the Holy’ before it and there has never been on like it made since. This is Led Zeppelin at their most creative and able, showing really how genius their music could be. Led Zeppelin IV might be the band’s most consistent and popular album, Physical Graffiti might be their epic and Led Zep I and II might be the hard rock gems, but it is in ‘Houses Of The Holy’ that you have the great band demonstrating their utmost ability and at the same time giving it their greatest passion and energy.

It is a sin not to own this album!!!


May 4, 2013 - Posted by | Led Zeppelin Houses Of The Holy |

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