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Led Zeppelin Houses Of The Holy (1973)

Led-Zeppelin-Houses-of-the-HolyFrom classicrockreview.com

Led Zeppelin took stock of their phenomenal fame with Houses of the Holy, with deep contributions from each member of the rock quartet. This fifth album was released in 1973, nearly a full year after it was recorded in the Spring of 1972 at Stargroves, an English country estate owned by Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones. The major reason for the album’s delay was trouble with designing and printing the unique album cover by the artistic company Hipgnosis, with the band completely rejecting the initial artwork and the first prints of the final artwork accidentally coming out with a strong purple tint. When they finally got the artwork correct, the album was banned from sale in many locations because of the naked children on the cover who pay homage to the Arthur C. Clarke novel Childhood’s End.

Produced by guitarist Jimmy Page (like all Zeppelin albums), the album featured sophisticated layered guitars, the addition of obscure instrumentation, and other rich production techniques. Beyond the Stargroves recordings, the album contains recordings from Headley Grange (site of recordings of their previous album Led Zeppelin IV) with the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio, along with Olympic Studios in London and Electric Lady Studios in New York. There were also several recorded songs not included on Houses of the Holy but released on later albums such as Physical Graffiti and Coda.

The album featured styles and sub-genres not heard on previous Led Zeppelin albums, such as funk, reggae, and doo-wop. The album is an indirect tribute to their fan base, who were showing up in record numbers to their live shows. It perfectly straddles the band’s early, more blues-based period from their later work, which consisted of more richly produced studio albums that tilted more towards pop and modern rock. Bass player and keyboardist John Paul Jones temporarily left the band for a few days during this album’s recording but soon returned and stayed with the band until the end.

The fact that this album features different sounds is evident right from the top with “The Song Remains the Same”. This song is odd on several fronts, from the pitch-effect vocals of Robert Plant to the extremely bright multi-tracked guitars of Page. Still, the song is great and is set up as a sort of journey, not a rotation. The song is a jam that feels loose yet does not get lost for one second, due mainly to the steady and strong drumming of John Bonham. The song was originally an instrumental which was given the working title “The Overture”, before Plant added lyrics and the title to it. It was originally going to be an intro for “The Rain Song”, and these songs were often coupled together in concert. “The Rain Song” Is an extended piece with eloquent acoustic and electric guitars weaved together. The song also features a long mellotron section (some would say too long) played by Jones, adding a surreal orchestral effect above Page’s guitar before returned to the climatic final verses and soft and excellent guitar outtro.

Parts of “Over the Hills and Far Away” written by Page and Plant during the 1970 sessions at the Welsh cottage Bron-Yr-Aur for the album Led Zeppelin. The song is mostly acoustic throughout but works into a harder rock section during the middle, making it one of the most dynamic Led Zeppelin songs ever. Jones and Bonham add a tight rhythm to Page and Plant’s etheral dynamics. The song was released as a US single, but failed to reach the “Top 40″, faring much better on classic rock radio through the decades. Over the Hills and Far Away single“The Crunge” is a funk tribute to Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding and James Brown and evolved out of a jam session built around Bonham’s off-beat drums and a bass riff by Jones. This song features an overdubbed VCS3 synthesizer to replicated the funk “horn” section, which gives it a totally unique sound of its own. During the jam Plant calls for a “bridge” (imitating Brown’s habit of shouting instructions to his band during live recordings). When no such section materiializes, the song (and first side) uniquely ends with the spoken “Where’s that Confounded Bridge?”

The closest Led Zeppelin ever came to writing a pure pop song, “Dancing Days” was actually inspired by an Indian tune that Page and Plant heard while traveling in Mumbai. The guitar overdubs are simply masterful in this upbeat song about summer nights and young love. It was played live as early as November 1971 and, although not officially released as a single, it received heavy radio play in the UK. “D’Yer Ma’ker” was released as a single and became the band’s final Top 40 hit (although they didn’t have many of those). The song has a unique sound with Bonham’s exaggerated drum pounding backing a reggae-inspired riff by Page and Jones and Plant’s bubblegum pop vocals. The distinctive drum sound was created by placing three microphones a good distance away from Bonham’s drums, giving him much natural reverb to make the banging sound more majestic. The name of the song is derived from an old joke about Jamaica, and was often mispronounced as “Dire Maker” by those not privvy to the joke.

John Paul Jones centerpiece “No Quarter” provides a great contrast with a much darker piece about viking conquest, with the title derived from the military practice of showing no mercy to a vanquished opponent. The song features a distinct, heavily treated electric piano throughout with an acoustic piano solo by Jones in the long mid-section. Page doubles up with electric guitars and a theremin for effect, while Plant’s voice is deep and distorted. The album concludes with the upbeat rocker “The Ocean”, which refers to the “sea of fans” at the band’s concerts. Launching from a voice intro by Bonham, the song returns to the heavy riff-driven anthems that were popular on their earlier albums. But this song does contain its own unique parts, including an overdubbed vocal chorus, performed a Capella, by Plant in the middle and a doo-wop outro section that contains a boogie bass with strong guitar overdubs, bringing the album to a climatic end.

Houses of the Holy has been certified eleven times platinum and is often included on “greatest albums” lists. It is an odd but brilliant album by Led Zeppelin which finds a balance uncommon by hard rock bands of any era.

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January 5, 2014 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Houses Of The Holy | | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Houses Of The Holy (1973)

Houses_of_the_HolyFrom amazon.com

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 | | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Houses Of The Holy (1973)

18afa7ad743a2b03e57e301a50a67f318de1192eFrom classicrockreview.com

Led Zeppelin took stock of their phenomenal fame with Houses of the Holy, with deep contributions from each member of the rock quartet. This fifth album was released in 1973, nearly a full year after it was recorded in the Spring of 1972 at Stargroves, an English country estate owned by Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones. The major reason for the album’s delay was trouble with designing and printing the unique album cover by the artistic company Hipgnosis, with the band completely rejecting the initial artwork and the first prints of the final artwork accidentally coming out with a strong purple tint. When they finally got the artwork correct, the album was banned from sale in many locations because of the naked children on the cover who pay homage to the Arthur C. Clarke novel Childhood’s End.

Produced by guitarist Jimmy Page (like all Zeppelin albums), the album featured sophisticated layered guitars, the addition of obscure instrumentation, and other rich production techniques. Beyond the Stargroves recordings, the album contains recordings from Headley Grange (site of recordings of their previous album Led Zeppelin IV) with the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio, along with Olympic Studios in London and Electric Lady Studios in New York. There were also several recorded songs not included on Houses of the Holy but released on later albums such as Physical Graffiti and Coda.

The album featured styles and sub-genres not heard on previous Led Zeppelin albums, such as funk, reggae, and doo-wop. The album is an indirect tribute to their fan base, who were showing up in record numbers to their live shows. It perfectly straddles the band’s early, more blues-based period from their later work, which consisted of more richly produced studio albums that tilted more towards pop and modern rock. Bass player and keyboardist John Paul Jones temporarily left the band for a few days during this album’s recording but soon returned and stayed with the band until the end.

The fact that this album features different sounds is evident right from the top with “The Song Remains the Same”. This song is odd on several fronts, from the pitch-effect vocals of Robert Plant to the extremely bright multi-tracked guitars of Page. Still, the song is great and is set up as a sort of journey, not a rotation. The song is a jam that feels loose yet does not get lost for one second, due mainly to the steady and strong drumming of John Bonham. The song was originally an instrumental which was given the working title “The Overture”, before Plant added lyrics and the title to it. It was originally going to be an intro for “The Rain Song”, and these songs were often coupled together in concert. “The Rain Song” Is an extended piece with eloquent acoustic and electric guitars weaved together. The song also features a long mellotron section (some would say too long) played by Jones, adding a surreal orchestral effect above Page’s guitar before returned to the climatic final verses and soft and excellent guitar outro.

Parts of “Over the Hills and Far Away” written by Page and Plant during the 1970 sessions at the Welsh cottage Bron-Yr-Aur for the album Led Zeppelin. The song is mostly acoustic throughout but works into a harder rock section during the middle, making it one of the most dynamic Led Zeppelin songs ever. Jones and Bonham add a tight rhythm to Page and Plant’s ethereal dynamics. The song was released as a US single, but failed to reach the “Top 40″, faring much better on classic rock radio through the decades. Over the Hills and Far Away single “The Crunge” is a funk tribute to Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding and James Brown and evolved out of a jam session built around Bonham’s off-beat drums and a bass riff by Jones. This song features an overdubbed VCS3 synthesizer to replicated the funk “horn” section, which gives it a totally unique sound of its own. During the jam Plant calls for a “bridge” (imitating Brown’s habit of shouting instructions to his band during live recordings). When no such section materialises, the song (and first side) uniquely ends with the spoken “Where’s that Confounded Bridge?”

The closest Led Zeppelin ever came to writing a pure pop song, “Dancing Days” was actually inspired by an Indian tune that Page and Plant heard while traveling in Mumbai. The guitar overdubs are simply masterful in this upbeat song about summer nights and young love. It was played live as early as November 1971 and, although not officially released as a single, it received heavy radio play in the UK. “D’Yer Ma’ker” was released as a single and became the band’s final Top 40 hit (although they didn’t have many of those). The song has a unique sound with Bonham’s exaggerated drum pounding backing a reggae-inspired riff by Page and Jones and Plant’s bubblegum pop vocals. The distinctive drum sound was created by placing three microphones a good distance away from Bonham’s drums, giving him much natural reverb to make the banging sound more majestic. The name of the song is derived from an old joke about Jamaica, and was often mispronounced as “Dire Maker” by those not privvy to the joke.

John Paul Jones centrepiece “No Quarter” provides a great contrast with a much darker piece about viking conquest, with the title derived from the military practice of showing no mercy to a vanquished opponent. The song features a distinct, heavily treated electric piano throughout with an acoustic piano solo by Jones in the long mid-section. Page doubles up with electric guitars and a theremin for effect, while Plant’s voice is deep and distorted. The album concludes with the upbeat rocker “The Ocean”, which refers to the “sea of fans” at the band’s concerts. Launching from a voice intro by Bonham, the song returns to the heavy riff-driven anthems that were popular on their earlier albums. But this song does contain its own unique parts, including an overdubbed vocal chorus, performed a Capella, by Plant in the middle and a doo-wop outro section that contains a boogie bass with strong guitar overdubs, bringing the album to a climatic end.

Houses of the Holy has been certified eleven times platinum and is often included on “greatest albums” lists. It is an odd but brilliant album by Led Zeppelin which finds a balance uncommon by hard rock bands of any era.

April 9, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Houses Of The Holy | | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Houses Of The Holy (1973)

From donignacio.com

18afa7ad743a2b03e57e301a50a67f318de1192eThis is one hell of an odd record. It sounds like Led Zeppelin were attempting to take themselves into a more prog-rock direction, but they weren’t too sure how to go about it. The album opener “The Song Remains the Same” starts out sounding like it’ll be another butt-whomping heavy metal classic, but instead it sort of wanders around with a bunch of Who-style power chords without ever going anywhere. It’s fun to listen to for sure with the possible exception of that slowly paced drunken bit where Robert Plant starts to sing. I wish that they would have brought some sort of distinct atmosphere or emotion in the mix, but they didn’t. It’s just an ordinary, barely above average guitar song in the end.

Although “The Song Remains the Same” isn’t the album’s best example of prog-rock. For that, you needn’t look further than “No Quarter,” which to my surprise does contain its own special atmosphere and texture. It begins quietly and creepy with rubbery keyboards, which sound to me like it’s illustrating some sort of swamp. (I hope I’m not the only person who thinks of a swamp… Sometimes I feel like I’m in a psychiatrist’s office describing inkblots when I talk about music…) The guitars and drums slowly pick up, and they’re awesome of course. Eventually Plant starts to sing, and he does it with some real subdued passion. Overall, that’s a brilliant song, and single-handedly made their prog-flirtations worthwhile.

There were also weird attempts at other sorts of music, most notably funk and reggae. The reggae “D’yer Mak’r” is one of my favorite bits here thanks to its memorable melody and fun instrumentation. The only main drawback (and not really a big deal to me) are the lyrics, which are pretty stupid even for Led Zeppelin. The funk outing “Crunge” is so weird that makes me think of an early Talking Heads jam session than actual Isley Brothers style funk. Perhaps that means its ahead of its time or maybe it’s just awkward because they didn’t know how to go about it. It’s interesting, though. The detached groove takes a little getting used to, and Robert Plant clearly had no idea how to sing to it. He’s just sort of squawking in a default bluesish sort of way.

When it comes to choosing my favorite moments of Houses of the Holy, I have to stick with the more traditional stuff. (I know, that’s hard to believe since I’ve always been claiming to not care for their classic style! Am I a Led Zeppelin fan, after all?) “Dancing Days” is a really butt-whomping mid-tempo hard blues with a catchy riff and a memorable vocal melody. I even like Plant’s vocal performance there, who is keeping himself (for once) from belting out extraneous “uh-huhs” and “baybuhs.” It even seems a bit alien to me, because some blessed soul is playing a strange off-key keyboard in the background.

Led Zeppelin nearly bested “Stairway to Heaven” with another ballad “The Rain Song,” which is one of the most beautiful things I laid my ears on. They brought out a Mellotron for that, and … wow, not even Genesis made that instrument sound so nice! Although to be fair Genesis and The Moody Blues made that instrument one tiny part of their overall landscape, and Led Zeppelin created a texture no more complicated than an acoustic guitar and a Mellotron. But what a pretty song!

I usually applaud a band that wants to experiment, and Led Zeppelin found a quite few interesting things in their attempt. I liked their funny reggae tune, and I really liked their full-on prog outing “No Quarter.” But some of the others come off as rather clunky and unexciting, which makes me wonder if they were just better off just sticking to heavy metal and ballads. Despite what I might have been insinuating in previous reviews, heavy metal and ballads aren’t a bad thing!

March 3, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Houses Of The Holy | | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Houses Of The Holy (1973)

18afa7ad743a2b03e57e301a50a67f318de1192eFrom treblezine.com

Many know that the group of Plant, Page, Jones and Bonham took their name from a famous cliche often spouted by the Who’s Keith Moon, “going over like a lead zeppelin.” But the band did everything but. Manager Peter Grant made sure the band took calculated step after calculated step to become one of the biggest rock bands in history, and a thing of myth and legend. After four eponymous and numbered albums, the mighty Zep finally put a real title to one of their outings, the fifth long player, and its last on Atlantic, Houses of the Holy. The album would act as both a natural extension of one of the biggest selling albums of all time, its predecessor of the four runes, and as a springboard for experimentation. One can argue that IV was their artistic peak, but after Houses of the Holy, their American tour broke sales records set by none other than the Beatles.

One can rarely write about albums of the seventies without dropping the name Hipgnosis. The duo of Storm Thorgerson (how’s that for a rock `n’ roll sounding name?) and Aubrey Powell designed the record sleeves for some of the best album covers of the decade and beyond. Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel, Wings, 10cc and T. Rex all employed the graphic artists, and yes, so did Zeppelin for the famous “naked pink children climbing the stone temple” on the cover of Houses of the Holy. Album cover art aside, the band’s reputation also added to their mystique, still having nothing to do with the music. Peter Grant often found himself putting out fires, sometimes literally, set by the band, now famous for trashing hotel rooms and the like. Cameron Crowe, who used the band, along with the Allmann Brothers and the Eagles, as a blueprint for Almost Famous‘ Stillwater, tells a great story about Grant introducing himself to Bob Dylan who replies, “I don’t come to you with my problems, do I?”

Houses of the Holy begins with the layered tracks of the guitar odyssey of Jimmy Page, transforming into the dreamy lyrics of Plant in the now famously titled, “The Song Remains the Same.” (Later, a tribute album would be cheekily called The Song Retains the Name). Hardcore fans were at first thrown by the “jamming” quality of the song and album, but even the band itself said they were probably a year ahead of everything else. “The Rain Song,” a slow acoustic number follows, and then comes the easily recognizable and classic Zeppelin song, “Over the Hills and Far Away.” The song is vintage Zep in both music and lyrics, beginning with Plant cooing, “Hey lady, you got the love I need” with Plant and Jones then kicking in with the blues rock at a minute-and-a-half in. “The Crunge” is the only song from Houses of the Holy that doesn’t appear on their later-released box set and it’s mostly because fans either love or hate it. Meant as a tribute to James Brown, Page says that the band initially wanted to include the dance steps to the song on the sleeve.

Another musical experiment, the reggae influenced “D’yer Mak’er” was another story altogether. The song reached #20 on the US charts and is now familiar to millions. Unlike any other Zep song before it, it was slow to catch on with loyal listeners, but eventually found its way to heavy rotation on the radio. “Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh, you don’t have to go-oh, oh-oh-oh-oh” is not necessarily the first lyric that comes to mind when thinking of Led Zeppelin, but upon hearing it, is immediately synonymous with the band. “No Quarter” presents another strange vocal and keyboard odyssey as in the opener, this time seven minutes long. Page’s fuzzed out guitars are vastly different than his blues riffs, but just as influential. Finally, Beastie Boys fans are sure to recognize the opening riff to “The Ocean,” a song supposedly dedicated to the “seas” of fans who come to their concerts, played in arenas that they called, you guessed it, “Houses of the Holy.” Plant’s cartoony high voice in the song only adds to the experience, which ends up to be another playground for Page’s brilliant riffing. The harmonized vocals that separate the song are a strange and beautiful interruption, but only make the reemergence of the guitar that much more explosive.

Houses of the Holy is one of five Zep albums that made Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Albums list. Only the third album, and the last three didn’t make the cut. (Huh? III has “Immigrant Song” and “Tangerine”!) And while it may have placed fifth out of the five, it still contains some of the group’s best tracks, most famous riffs, and exploration into other realms of rock, not to mention having one of the best album covers of all time. In two more years time, Led Zeppelin would go on to make Physical Graffiti, and upon its release, all six of Zep’s albums would appear on the top 200 albums chart at the same time, which had never happened before with any band. I think that people tend to forget just how big Led Zeppelin really was, sometimes remembering only “Stairway to Heaven,” now played almost in jest when appropriate. But whenever I put on any one of their albums, especially the “tight but loose epic,” as Cameron Crowe calls it, I know that “Dancing Days” are here again.

February 22, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Houses Of The Holy | | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Houses Of The Holy (1973)

18afa7ad743a2b03e57e301a50a67f318de1192eFrom sputnikmusic.com

Houses of the Holy is a rock album that I’d call art. The album isn’t scared to go into new territory and I think that the band perfected each genre they tackled within these 8 tracks. Varying from progressive to funk to reggae to rock, Zeppelin was still able to rock better than anyone with this album. Some may find this album to have been risky, but Zeppelin was able to take risks, because they knew they would succeed. Now before you attack me for being biased, I am not solely basing this review off of my personal feelings towards the band or the album. This love for Zeppelin wasn’t always here, there’s a reason their music captured my soul. Clearly the music is wonderful if I feel this way now.

The Song Remains the Same: This song reminds me a lot of David Bowie’s “Sound and Vision”, due to both songs being extremely upbeat and probably due to the orange cover art of their albums. It is a very personal connection that probably only I have, but it’s there. The song is extremely fast and very happy. It is a song about international music and was originally written as an instrumental prelude for “The Rain Song”. The guitar skill of Jimmy Page is shown in this song quite well. I don’t know what else to say about this song, except that it is a fantastic start to an amazing album. 5/5

The Rain Song: Zeppelin’s most beautiful piece of work, even beating out “Ten Years Gone” or “Thank You”. This song is in drop D tuning and it’s lovely guitar playing and lyrics really makes you feel emotional deep down. The lyrics are very sweet. This is one of the most underrated songs in Zeppelin’s whole catalogue and should be played to any girl you are trying to get to fall for you. One of the album’s stand outs. 5/5

Over The Hills and Far Away: Another beautiful track that has a crazy shift in it. The song starts out as an acoustic song with Robert Plant singing some slow, loving lyrics until the songs kick your ass and gets harder and louder. One of Zeppelin’s greatest songs. Just as the lyrics on “The Rain Song” are, the lyrics in this song are also very well written and sweet. After a few minutes, the song fades away and you think it is over, until it builds up again then fades away. Genius. 5/5

The Crunge: The most controversial song off of the album. Some find it as one of the band’s worst songs, some find it funky and fun and some find the extremely off time drumming of Bonham to be charming. The song is known for the ending, where Robert Plant mutters: “Where’s that confounded bridge?”, which is a tribute to James Brown. I would give this song a 5/5 as a personal rating, but as an unbiased rating, I’d give it a 3/5

Dancing Days: One of the most fun Zeppelin songs. This song is very groovy and has a fantastic riff. The lyrics are very abstract and strange, which only adds to the charm. Another song I’d give 5/5, but from a more casual listener’s perspective, a 4.5/5

D’yer Mak’er: Yet another “lovey” song off of the album, “D’yer Mak’er” was the band’s attempt at reggae. Well some found it to be anything but reggae and a not so serious song, this song became a classic. I’d give this song a 5/5 rating, because it is one of Zeppelin’s most famous and loveliest songs. 5/5

No Quarter: Zeppelin’s sole progressive song and the song off of the album that showcases John Paul Jones talents the most. This song has some fantastic guitar work, spacey keyboards, great mythical (or military) lyrics and some phenomenal drumming. One of the album’s best. 5/5

The Ocean: One of the best closing songs to a Zeppelin album. The song starts out with the famous chant of Bonham saying: “We’ve done four already, but now we’re steady and then they went: one, two, three, four”, which then leads into an orgasmic attack on the ears. The song is a pretty straight forward hard rocker, until the end where the song shifts into a duwop style outro. This amazing album couldn’t have had a better closer. 5/5

In the end, this is the Zeppelin album that I love the most (although I and II are extremely close) and all 8 of it’s tracks are wonderful compositions. There is no filler in this record and it’s so good that I just had to go out to get it on vinyl as well as the cd of it I’ve owned for years. This is a perfect album to me and something my ears crave to hear almost weekly.

February 20, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Houses Of The Holy | | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Houses Of The Holy (1973)

18afa7ad743a2b03e57e301a50a67f318de1192eFrom Rolling Stone

For me, Led Zeppelin began as the epitome of everything good about rock: solid guitar work, forceful vocals and rhythmic backing, devotion to primal blues forms, and most of all, thunderous excitement on stage and vinyl. But as superstardom came to them, so too came the gradual evaporation of those qualities from their sound. In the same way that the Rolling Stones evolved into a senior, “safe” bizarro-perversion band, Led Zeppelin has become a senior, “safe” heavy-metal band. But by its very nature safety cannot coexist with heavy-metal fire and macho intensity (or bizarro-perversion, for that matter), which is probably why Houses of the Holy is one of the dullest and most confusing albums I’ve heard this year.

Even after a hundred listenings I’m still not convinced this album is by the same group that brought us the likes of “Communication Breakdown,” “Heartbreaker” and “Black Dog.” The powerfully simplistic rhythms and surging adrenaline drive that made those songs so compelling is nowhere to be found. Only once is it attempted, on “The Ocean,” but there it’s so diluted with pointless humor that the necessary musical tension never develops. Jimmy Page’s guitar spits jagged fireballs with John Paul Jones and John Bonham riffing along behind him, but the effect is destroyed by ridiculous backup cooings and an overbearing “killer” coda that’s so blatant it can only be taken as a mock of straight rock & roll. “Rock ‘n’ Roll” to the contrary, Led Zeppelin’s forte has always been rockin’ the blues; if they took themselves seriously they’d realize that they are foolish to step outside that genre.

The only other tune approaching the Zep’s past triumphs is “The Song Remains the Same,” a slice of Whodom that works solely as a vehicle for Page’s guitar antics. And that’s really what Led Zeppelin’s been about from the start. Interesting things abound in what amounts to a 5:24 guitar solo — groin-rattling riffing, a clever fuzz run, and some finger-picked figures executed with a finesse that belies their macho origin. And Page manages to run through this hefty gamut without once being self-indulgent. It’s not the music that made Led Zeppelin famous (their style is hardly interchangeable with the Who’s), but at least it’s got more than an amp or two of the excitement that they’re renowned for. And on this album, that alone is a major triumph.

Two songs are naked imitations, and they’re easily the worst things this band has ever attempted. “The Crunge” reproduces James Brown so faithfully that it’s every bit as boring, repetitive and cliched as “Good Foot.” Yakety-yak guitar, boom-boom bass, astoundingly idiotic lyrics (“when she walks, she walks, and when she talks, she talks”) — it’s all there. So is Jones’ synthesizer, spinning absolutely superfluous electronic fills.

“D’yer Mak’er” is even worse, a pathetic stab at reggae that would probably get the Zep laughed off the island if they bothered playing it in Jamaica. Like every other band following rock’s latest fad, Led Zeppelin shows little understanding of what reggae is about — “D’yer Mak’er” is obnoxiously heavy-handed and totally devoid of the native form’s sensibilities.

The truly original songs on Houses of the Holy again underscore Led Zeppelin’s songwriting deficiences. Their earliest successes came when they literally stole blues licks note for note, so I guess it should have been expected that there was something drastically wrong with their own material. So it is that “Dancing Days,” “The Rain Song” and “No Quarter” fall flat on their respective faces — the first is filler while the latter two are nothing more than drawn-out vehicles for the further display of Jones’ unknowledgeable use of mellotron and synthesizer.

“Over the Hills and Far Away” is cut from the same mold as “Stairway To Heaven,” but without that song’s torrid guitar solo it languishes in Dullsville — just like the first five minutes of “Stairway.” The whole premise of “graduated heaviness” (upon which both songs were built) really goes to show just how puerile and rudimentary this group can get when forced to scrounge for its own material. One would think that the group that stole “Whole Lotta Love,” et al., might acquire an idea or two along the way, but evidently they weren’t looking. Let’s hear it for androids!

When you really get down to it Led Zeppelin hasn’t come up with a consistent crop of heavymetal spuds since their second album. Their last three efforts have been so uneven that had they started with Led Zeppelin III I’m convinced they wouldn’t be here today. While they’ve been busy denying their bluesrock roots, Robert Plant’s vocals have lost their power and the band’s instrumental work has lost its traces of spontaneity. In simple fact of matter, Houses of the Holy was 17 months in preparation, yet Led Zeppelin I (the product of a mere 15 hours) cuts it to shreds.

So all in all it’s been two separate groups we’ve called Led Zeppelin, and I’ve tired of waiting for the only legitimate one to return. An occasional zinger like “When the Levee Breaks” isn’t enough, especially when there are so many other groups today that don’t bullshit around with inferior tripe like “Stairway To Heaven.” Beck, Bogert & Appice, Black Sabbath, the Groundhogs, Robin Trower — the list is long and they all fare musically better than the Zep because they stick to what they do best. Page and friends should similarly realize their limitations and get back to playing the blues-rock that moves mountains. Until they do Led Zeppelin will remain Limp Blimp.

February 20, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Houses Of The Holy | | Leave a comment