Houses of the Holy (1973)


 
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 Maker 7. No Quarter 8. The Ocean

 

Led Zeppelin keeps churning out great album after great album. This one finds them being a tad bit more experimental in the studio – things like layering and all that. There’s a few times when their new-found indulgence has some small negative effects. Very small and very minor. I’m a bit sensitive when I make such an observation. When one gives this band’s first 5 out of 6 albums a perfect five-star rating, one can get defensive when making small criticisms.

Before talking about the negatives, let’s talk about the good stuff. In addition to many familiar groves, the they also seem to be expanding in terms of styles. There’s a bit of dance on this record (Dancing Days), a bit of Reggae (D’yer Maker), and even a bit of funk (The Crunge). Had one not heard any of the above-mentioned tunes, one might tend to be hesitant. Funk? On a Led Zeppelin album?? Fortunately, the band never loses their signature trademark, so nothing here is really that shocking nor jarring. They sound perfectly natural on all of these tracks (Speaking of D’yer Maker, it’s pronounced “Jamaica”. I’m surprised how many disc jockeys still don’t know that).

Although I love every track on this album, there are elements in several areas that I find a bit out-of-place, maybe even unnecessary. For instance, there are two “keyboard” tracks on this album, both more than seven minutes. The Rain Song is a much more mellow piece, whereas No Quarter is very heavy and borderline acid-laden. These songs succeed where they should. In fact, if possible, they almost succeed too well. These songs are so infectious that they almost drag one away from the whole experience of the rest of the album. When we get to the next track after each of these songs, it almost feels as though we’re being violently shaken awake. It almost feels as though each of these songs should have been shaved by about one minute or so in order to make them a bit less heavy.

Over The Hills and Far Away is another excellent track that made the rounds on mainstream. For some strange reason, the last 30-45 seconds feature nothing but a very light harpsichord-ish playing that seems, quite frankly, a waste of time. Fortunately, if it drives one too crazy, all one has to do is click the “next” button. Still though. Then there’s other distractions such the acapella part of The Ocean and the fact that Plant sounds as though he’s trying a bit too hard to sing in a different register on The Crunge. None of these are major issues, but one wonders if they couldn’t be slightly fixed or enhanced. Perhaps this is just the price one must pay when one is experimenting in the studio. If that’s the case, it’s highly acceptable as the pros far outweigh the cons.

So credit this album as one more masterpiece in the band’s collection. The above-mentioned sins don’t bother the masses, so odds are, it very well could be one of your very favorites after repeated listens.

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