Houses of the Holy by Led Zeppelin Review
Led Zeppelin’s fifth album, Houses of the Holy is probably their third most underrated album after Presence and In Through the Out Door. This is a shame as it builds on the success of the first four albums and takes the band in different directions. Their first album not to include any cover versions, or updated blues/folk songs, Houses of the Holy makes use of keyboards and more textured arrangements than previous albums.
The Song Remains the Same is a tour de force by Jimmy Page and is essentially a structured guitar solo over which which Robert Plant manages to get a word in edgeways now and again. It’s a superb opener with some ferocious musicianship from the entire band.
The Rain Song slows things down a bit and shows that there was more to this band than amplified blues and acoustic Tolkien-inspired folk. The lush orchestration in addition to some refined guitar is highlighted by a remarkable mellotron section in the middle. Apparently written in response to a George Harrison comment that the band never wrote any ballads, this is how a ballad should be.
Over the Hills and Far away continues the strong start to Houses of the Holy. Starting off as just Robert Plant’s voice and Jimmy Page’s acoustic guitar, the song builds to an electric, riff-driven second half before the the song fades back to Jimmy Page’s guitar.
Houses of the Holy slips a little with The Crunge. This James Brown tribute is more of a cringe (cheap shot, I know) but still has a melody that sticks in your head – even if you don’t want it to.
Dancing days has a similar catchy quality but is a much better song and features one of Jimmy Page’s many innovative guitar solos.
The cod reggae song D’yer Mak’er (pronounced Jamaica) is an odd song in Led Zeppelin’s repertoire and the second miss step on Houses of the Holy. In spite of a bout of bad judgement and taste, at least Robert Plant doesn’t affect a Jamaican accent and the song does have a decent melody.
Jimmy Page and Robert Plant liked No Quarter so much they decided to name their 1994 reunion after the song. This original shows that their fondness for the song is not misplaced. Plant’s spooky lyrics accompanied by some excellent keyboard playing by John Paul Jones. His piano solo matched by Page’s later guitar solo during the song.
“We’ve done four already but now we’re steady….”, so starts Houses of the Holy’s last track, The Ocean. The voice here is John Bonham who was referring to the number of takes the band had done prior to getting the desired sound. The Ocean in the title refers to the fans of the band who would appear in front of the stage a sea of faces, resembling an ocean. The song is based around a memorable riff and closes with a “doo-wap” refrain and nice guitar solo from Jimmy Page.
Whilst Houses of the Holy may not include famous tracks like Led Zeppelin IV before it or Physical Graffiti, released a couple of years later, there is some fine music here. Fans new to the band could do worse than starting here.
Rated Sound gives Houses of the Holy by Led Zeppelin a rating of 8/10.
Houses of the Holy (1973) by Led Zeppelin Track Listing
1. The Song Remains the Same
2. The Rain Song
3. Over the Hills and Far Away
4. The Crunge
5. Dancing Days
6. D’yer Mak’er
7. No Quarter
8. The Ocean