Houses of the Holy by Led Zeppelin

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Houses of the Holy by Led Zeppelin
Houses of the Holy by Led Zeppelin

Album Released: 1973

Houses of the Holy ::: Artwork

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1.The Song Remains The Same5:30
2.The Rain Song7:38
3.Over The Hills And Far Away4:49
4.The Crunge3:17
5.Dancing Days3:43
6.D'Yer Mak'er4:22
7.No Quarter7:00
8.The Ocean4:31


This is one hell of an odd record. It sounds like Led Zeppelin were attempting to take themselves in 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 like it'll be another butt-whomping Heavy Metal classic, but instead 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 slow-paced drunken bit where Robert Plant starts to sing. I wish they'd added some distinct atmosphere or emotion to the mix, but they didn't, it's just an ordinary barely-above-average guitar song.

“The Song Remains the Same” isn't the album's best example of prog-rock. For that, look no further than “No Quarter”, which does have its own special atmosphere and texture. It begins quiet and creepy with rubbery keyboards, which sound like 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 pick up, and they're awesome of course. Eventually Plant starts to sing, and he does it with subdued passion. Overall, it's a brilliant song, and single-handedly made their prog-flirtations worthwhile.

There are also weird attempts at other sorts of music, most notably Funk and Reggae. The reggae “D'yer Mak'r” is one of my favorites here, thanks to its memorable melody and fun instrumentation. The only drawback (and not really a big deal) are the lyrics, which are pretty stupid even for Led Zeppelin. The funk outing “Crunge” is so weird that it makes me think of an early Talking Heads jam session rather than say, Isley Brothers style funk. Perhaps that means it was 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 blues-ish sort of way.

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by Reviewer: Don Ignacio (blogging at Don Ignacio's Album Reviews)

It always cracks me up that - along with the actual lyrics - all the oh's and ay's are printed in the CD booklet (I don’t want to draw big conclusions from that, like they were so stoned the scatting contained Satanic messages! ... it’s just funny).

Anyway, Houses of the Holy was Led Zeppelin’s weirdest album yet, but the problem is I can’t exactly pin down why. I guess it’s the diversity of styles and the atmosphere, plus it lacks the homogeneity that made the third album much better than it really is. Instead this is a loose, sprawling, maybe even messy album that switches from ‘nonsensical’ to ‘mysterious’ to ‘carefree’ in a split second.

A lot of people have criticized the album and the band for trying to do too many things at once, as they'd incorporated not only Blues, Rock and Folk, but this time around also Funk and Reggae, but I’ve always considered such diversity an asset in Led Zeppelin's case.

Granted, their funk workout “The Crunge” feels a bit awkward at first, and Plant stretches those syllables for way too long, but were there any other bands of the time that even dared to release something like this? Plus, it sounds great, especially those drums and guitar parts, which steal the show throughout this album.

Houses of the Holy certainly isn’t the band's best album – it lacks the unity of the untitled one, and the raw brilliance of the debut – but it does contain some of their best songs. “No Quarter” is in my Top 5, it might even have been the first Led Zeppelin song I liked. For there was a time I considered these 1970’s dinosaur bands a bunch of self-absorbed wankers, but that’s over a decade ago – and they were, of course - but I’ve always like the unsettling, mysterious drama of "No Quarter", the way Jones’ keyboards evoke this blurry atmosphere of weightlessness. Sounds weird, but I’m sure that everyone who loves the song knows what I mean. Then the guitar kicks in, the keyboards go to a higher register, until the riff takes over to disappear again, letting Plant’s distorted vocals further the atmosphere. It’s one of the band’s most 'open' songs, a free-floating anthem with several layers of keyboards (I love it when the piano kicks in on top of the ‘watery’ synthesizer). Perhaps not that interesting when regarded on a purely structural level, but it’s certainly one of their most sonically pleasing and intriguing songs.

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by Reviewer: Guy Peters (blogging at Guy's Music Review Site)

Jimmy Page must've been at his wits end following the commercial success (but critical failure) of Led Zeppelin IV. He had just produced four albums of such intense Rock that he'd actually changed the course of music history.

That music was exactly as Page had envisioned - a perfect blend of heavy and light, teenage theatre that could best be described as 'physical'. His band was selling out arenas throughout the world and selling enough albums to make their families secure for generations. On top of all that, Zeppelin had just released their best album with what many felt was their single greatest song ...

But they were still not respected. They were still considered a second-tier Rock band, behind The Rolling Stones, The Who, and other first generation British Invaders, nothing more than goofy phonies, too loud to be meaningful. Particularly with The Who releasing a revolutionary album making heavy use of synthesizers, the brilliant Who’s Next, and the Stones at an even higher point of critical love with Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street, the boys from Led Zeppelin were considered juvenile, their music nothing but teenaged fodder.

Page had tried to silence the critics with his more recent releases. Each was fashioned with the goal of critical acceptance, by virtually eliminating cock-rock from the band's repertoire. He even tried to downplay the band’s name and image, releasing an album with no information on the cover, and wearing beards and unflattering clothes on stage, so that only the music would matter. But when none of this worked, when Zeppelin was still not respected, Page finally felt it was time for a change. It was time for him to demonstrate that Led Zeppelin was capable of diversity, and experiment. And with this new goal, the band recorded Houses of the Holy.

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by Reviewer: Jason Motell (blogging at Almost Credible Reviews)

It's odd that the title track for this album actually appears on the next record, Physical Graffiti. I bet that was Plant's fault - after all, he pretty much ruins half this album.

I mostly liked Plant's vocals on the previous four albums - he sounded raunchy, even bluesy (for a white guy) - but on Houses of the Holy he sounds so whiny on almost every song that it becomes annoying. And his singing is horribly off-key on the awful "The Song Remains the Same" (although that was probably on purpose), and the otherwise pretty "Rain Song".

This was Led Zeppelin's second experimental album (Led Zeppelin III being the first), and sees the band messing around with reggae, doo-wop, and funk, with mixed results. The reggae comes off well enough with "D'Yer Mak'er" which is pronounced 'Jamaica' but better-known as Oh, Oh, Oh. The doo-wop ending of "The Ocean" is alright, pretty short, but the funky "The Crunge" is bad. Really bad. Really, really bad ... makes me wanna cry, in a bad way.

Still, there are some great moments too. Jones gets a chance to shine on this album, first with his string arrangements and delicate piano on the aforementioned "Rain Song", and later with his brilliant synths and moody middle piano part (that reminds me of The Doors' "Riders on the Storm") on the amazing dark Viking-epic "No Quarter".

My opinion of Houses of the Holy is a little different from those of most hardcore Zep fans, so this review doesn't really reflect the opinion of the masses ... so maybe you'd like "The Crunge". No actually, you won't.

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by Reviewer: Marco Marco

'What the hell is this?' was the cry from legions of Zeppelin fans when Houses of the Holy - the eagerly-awaited follow-up to Led Zeppelin 4 - turned out to be a complete washout.

Yet it's not the songs that are the duffers here, it's the weak production that's at fault - when I first played the album I thought there was something wrong with my stereo - throughout most of it, Plant sounds like he's singing with his head in a bucket. And just listen to "The Song Remains the Same" - weak and wimpy lightweight rock aimed at an American West Coast audience.

Luckily all was not lost, as the band redeemed themselves by following this bilge with the quite wonderful Physical Graffiti.

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by Reviewer: Paul Mouse