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Led Zeppelin - Houses Of The Holy CD (album) cover


Led Zeppelin


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3.95 | 980 ratings

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Easy Livin
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Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars Causeway to mediocrity

"Houses of the holy" is often identified as the band's most progressive release, yet it is among their least familiar and least popular. The blues influences of the early albums are almost eradicated here, being replaced by even older styles including classical music. After their early prolific period, it took almost two years from the release of "Led Zeppelin IV" for "Houses. . ." to appear. By this time, expectations were high, with music fans expecting the band to come up with another "Stairway to heaven" at least. The band did their best to oblige, even using a mellotron and synthesisers to orchestrate the sound, but in general the material lacks the dynamics and originality of previous releases.

The album opens with "The song remains the same", a piece which was originally intended to be an instrumental "Overture". Robert Plant's vocals are speeded up slightly, thus sounding higher and less gritty than normal. This gives the song a sort of Rush feel (or is that the other way round!) but the overriding flavour of the track is muddled and unfocussed. "The rain song", which follows, is a rare Led Zeppelin ballad with mellotron orchestration played by John Paul Jones. It is sort of in the way of "Thank you" from Led Zeppelin 2", but Plant's vocals are rather more weedy. The mellotron sound is wonderful though, and at 7 minutes, this is the longest track on the album.

"Over the hills and far away" is not the Gary Moore song of the same name. This is another acoustic number, but it is generally more upbeat with a lead guitar break. For me, it introduces the weakest series of consecutive tracks on any Led Zeppelin album. "The crunge", is credited to all four band members as it grew out of a jam session. It is devoid of music, lyrical content, and inspiration and for me is not worthy of any album, let a lone one by Led Zeppelin. "Dancin' days" is an average pop rock number. "D'yer mak'er", which is roughly pronounced "Jamaica", is a reggae influenced song, the title's play on words intending to reflect this. It is though, another instantly forgettable disappointment.

Fortunately, an element of respectability is restored with the final two tracks. The 7 minute "No quarter", which became a live favourite, is a "What is and what should never be" type loud and soft song. It features distorted vocals and liquid guitar sounds, the whole song appearing on the album at a slightly slower speed than it was recorded in order to manipulate the final sound.

The album closes with "The ocean", the title referring to the sea of people in the audience at a Led Zeppelin gig. The track has a distinctive riff, and as a whole probably comes closest to the blues rock of previous releases. At times, it sounds like a misguided attempt to create a "Black dog, part 2".

In all, a very disappointing album for a Led Zeppelin release. While a few of the tracks are adequate, none offer the excitement generated by previous releases.

Strangely, the track from which the album title is taken was dropped prior to release, only later appearing on "Physical graffiti". (See also ELP's "Brain salad surgery" and Queen's "Sheer heart attack"). The artwork for the album was and remains highly controversial, displaying naked, possibly alien, children climbing the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland. Indeed it is extremely likely that had the album been released today, the image would not have been considered acceptable at all.

Easy Livin | 2/5 |


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