Compromise is something every lawyer, negotiator, and salesman fear. But that phobia doesn’t pose nearly as much threat to these people than to Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. The thought of give and take would not be an option for Led Zeppelin on their next album, especially after the success of ‘Zoso’. Their next project, ‘Houses of the Holy’ would take hard rock to soaring new heights, using overdubbed guitar trackings, and aspects from nearly any genre, Houses of the Holy proved to be great success, and includes some of the most creative tracks that Led Zeppelin have ever produced. It also happens to be tied for my favorite Zeppelin album, along with its successor, Physical Graffiti.
Everything about ‘Houses of the Holy’ is more dramatic than anything on Zeppelin’s first four records. Between the fluid keyboard-soaked ‘Rain Song’ and the folkish acoustic break on ‘Over the Hills and Far Away’, or even the bubbly reggae on ‘D’yer Mak’er’ and the down and dirty blues progression on ‘The Ocean’. Sure enough, nothing sounds outlandish or out of place, which is much better to hear than a six minute mandolin progression about a Lord of the Rings battle ( *cough* Battle of Evermore *cough*). Every member showcases their talent in subtle, yet powerful ways. John Bonham’s drumming is top notch on ‘D’yer Mak’er’ and ‘The Crunge’ and the groove on ‘No Quarter’ is tastier than a $15 New York Strip Steak. John Paul Jones supplies the perfect amount of bass trickery on the songs that call for it, like ‘The Song Remains the Same’, but the main focus on this record is his raucous keyboard arrangements. ‘No Quarter’ supplies the acid trip with a liquidy little line, where songs like ‘The Rain Song’ show a more classical edge, with a sound emulating that of a string orchestra. Rhythmically, this album couldn’t be more well done, and in place.
Melodically, ‘Houses of the Holy’ is much softer, for the most part. Jimmy Page’s guitar work reflects more upon clean and acoustic sounds, and Robert Plant ditches his raspy masculine wail for a softer, more touchy voice. While ‘The Song Remains the Same’ features a heavy, yet jovial guitar riff, and a vocal range similar to that of an eight year old girl, ‘The Ocean’ has the sleazy, and gritty blues rock melody.Needless to say, every single track features great guitar work, as well as cunning lyrics, helping to keep the mystical vibe that Led Zeppelin puts forth. One thing that interests me very deeply is Jimmy Page’s idea to use an ‘army of guitars’ on songs like ‘TSRTS’ where he plays two 12-stringers, and around 5-6 standard 6-string guitars. The wall of sound created is very heavy, and a wonderful idea on Page’s part. The guitar work on other songs like ‘No Quarter’ and ‘Dancing Days’ is a very blues based sound, basing lead parts heavily on blues scales, and the leads on the latter song during the pre-chorus are very fun to listen to. Robert Plant also supplies some wonderful vocals, as any fan would imagine. I’m not going to lie, and say that his voice is immaculate, because on some songs it can get very annoying and a tad pretentious. “Over the Hills and Far Away" is wonderful at the beginning, and is a wonderful song, but Plant’s screaming is a bit pompous and ear-shattering for my liking. Meanwhile, what seems to be the most disliked track on the album, the reggae breakdown ‘D’yer Mak’er’ is a very fun listen, and the bouncy groove is wonderful. Robert’s voice is at it’s peak on the album, and the split personality guitar sounds that switch from clean to distorted is wonderful, but the clean sounds fit the reggae much better than the crunchy distortion. The lead work is wonderfully fun and light-hearted. It shocks me that people do not like this song, because even if it is dissimilar to what you’d expect from Zeppelin, it’s wonderfully written.
When someone plays a difficult acoustic guitar piece, to me, it sounds much better than a wanking electric solo. Page proves to be quite finger-picker on the opening chords of ‘Over the Hills and Far Away’ and the chord progression and trade-offs between the acoustic and electric guitars are breathtaking, as is the solo and leads. ‘The Rain Song’ as well features some pretty acoustic playing, and at seven minutes, is the longest track on the album. The entire song is perfect to relax to, and on par with ‘Ten Years Gone’ for sheer beauty. “Houses of the Holy" only goes to show how diverse and multi-faceted Zeppelin’s music can be. There is not a bad song on it, but it still has some soft spots, as well as commercial appeal conflict, but is easily one of the best albums ever put out by a rock band. There is something on it for everyone’s liking, and really shows the talent on every instrument. So put on your headphones and sit back, because the hour that you spend listening to this album straight will make your head spin, or just calm you down. And that’s as good as it gets.
just think about the video game "Length vs. Gameplay" issue. its all about the adventure, not the quantity of events. just like the album. greatness all the way through. and your review was very well written. keep it up.
Zebra, there isn't really a pure 'Classic Rock' sounding track on the album, it's more mellowed out with the exception for 'Dancing Days' and 'The Ocean'. Very relaxing album, and I advise you to listen to 'The Rain Song' and 'No Quarter'.
Good review. I like this more than I used to, but it still falls behind all of the other Zeppelin albums recorded between their formation and 1975 in my opinion. They tried a lot of new stuff here though.
My favourite LZ album, No Quarter is their best song IMO. Great Review
The reason for only eight tracks on most classic rock albums is because of the "eight-track" player which was popular at the time and not able to play more than eight tracks
[quote=Official]Excellent review, my good sir. The only problem I have wiht many classic rock and metal albums is that some have less than 10 tracks, thus leaving one feeling unfulfilled.[/quote]
Believe me Official, when I say that there is nothing remotely close to unfulfilled on this album. I highly suggest you take a look.
Excellent review. This is probably my second favorite Led Zeppelin right behind Presence. I'll always be in love with The Ocean, and D'yer Mak'er was a great track the band experimented a bit with. This is truly a classic, and is also a great album for fans to start out with. Great job, Ent. Now do Presence, or I'll have to!
I love houses of the holy, I think it is the best zeepelin album of all time, I love every track and thats the kinda album i like. The OCEAN especially i give allot of respect because it shows how the band really adored there fans. They talk about looking out into the crowd and it is like an ocean a song for the fans and thats way i love.
I love this album, could be the greatest they have ever done!
I must say that when I listened to this album for the first time, "the Rain Song" became my favourite LZ-song (and still is, by the way). Some people always (and only) compare LZ with "Stairway to Heaven and that's about it. But if they would listen to this album they would understand who and what Led Zeppelin really is.