After the success of the absolute overwork and bestselling album Untitled / IV from 1971, which was littered with hits, it was now time for the London giants to build on this success. Although the album was not released until 1973, Led Zeppelin started the recording process in 1971 directly after the IV and were already finished with Houses of the Holy in the summer of ’72.
By this time, both riff machine Jimmy Page and musical jack-of-all-trades John Paul Jones had set up their own home studios, allowing them to show up in the studio with almost finished arrangements, with Mobile Studio doing better. Houses of the Holy, like large parts of III and IV, was recorded in the Mobile Studio of the Rolling Stones. Partly at Mick Jagger‘ country estate Stargroves, where the Stones also recorded, and at Headley Grange, another house that Led Zeppelin had previously used for writing, making music and recording. As usual, Jimmy Page is the producer of the album, even though her manager at the time, Peter Grant, is considered executive producer. There are also no strangers to the controls. Eddie Kramer, who has mixed all Jimi Hendrix releases, as well as Keith Harwood and George Chkiantz. With a delay of two months, which was related to delays in the production of the elaborate cover of the design studio Hipgnosis, which is based on a photo of the basalt rocks Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, the first album of Led Zeppelin, which received a title , saw the light of day on 28.03.1973. It was to be their last album on Atlantic Records, as they formed their own label, Swan Song.
It starts with the fanfare-like guitar intro of “The Song remains the same”. From second one there is something powerful on the ears. John Bonham violently dismantles the drumskins. John Paul Jones subtly and pleasantly underpins Mr. Page’s brute play. With the entry of Robert Plant‘s vocal part, the tempo decreases, and the number becomes more groovy, but subsequently falls back into the same pattern and alternates again and again with the fast playful section. Especially the low notes in the riffs give the already quite varied opening piece a rousing dynamic.
It gets much quieter in track number two, which is the longest track of the album. Due to George Harrison’scriticism that Led Zeppelin unfortunately did not write ballads, they did just that. A quiet, beautiful acoustic guitar, which is based on “Something” by the Beatles in terms of notes, is supported by an orchestra produced by Jones on the Mellotron and sucks the listener into a dreamy world, which Plant ‘s calm voice accompanies at the beginning. As with “Stairway to Heaven”, the drums start quite late, which makes the song pick up a little more speed. “The Rain Song” seems very complete through the arrangement. Here it is again the small fills, both of drums and electric guitar, which round off the whole.
We stick with the acoustic guitar and one of my absolute favorite riffs on this instrument. “Over the Hills and far away” is a versatile piece, as the electric guitar is changed in the middle and the playful folky start gradually turns into the finest rock. Lyrically, Robert Plant refers to life on tour, which is where the title is based on.
Side one ends with a jam-like funk piece with improvised vocals. It is the first piece that was not only written by Pageand Plant. Both Bonham and Jones have writing credits for “The Crunge”.
Page two starts very groovy with “Dancing Days”. The music matches the title. Unlike “The Crunge” it is definitely danceable and makes you feel good and want more.
Then something completely different. On “D’yer Mak’er” the guys make reggae based on John Bonham‘s idea. The title, if pronounced correctly, is Jamaica (D’yaMaik’a), but is also slang for the question of whether you slept with a woman – Did you make her? Even though John Paul Jones dismissed the song as a joke at the time, the success of the number proves right and it became a top 20 track in the United States as a single. The dominant drums drum the listener through the song. Plant’svoice fits extremely well with “Dyer Maker”, as does Jimmy Page’s sophisticated guitar playing. And to respond to Jonesy’s statement – a damn good joke.
Versatility is the common thread running through the album. “No Quarter” is probably the song from the repertoire of John Paul Jones. Psychedelically dreamy and carried by spacey synthesizer sounds, the theme is laid for the piece. The gloomy mood is lifted by Page‘s riff with a proper fuzz effect, only to return to calm or the quiet key tones. The drums reinforce “No Quarter”‘s effect and carry the piece one sphere further.
Finally, the zeppelin takes off again into classic realms. “The Ocean” works according to the tried and tested recipe. A straight to the ear reef from Page. It’s just amazing with what grandiose talent Jimmy Page shakes guitar riffs out of his sleeves. But back to the rest of the band. Bonzo’s extraordinary drums make the loudspeaker cones flutter one last time and thunder through the ear canals of the listeners. In addition, Robert vocally accelerates again and goes into his classic high register.
Typical for Led Zeppelin, the critics were only moderately enthusiastic about the work in 1973 and criticized in particular the funk and reggae experiments. But it is precisely this willingness to experiment that makes the album so special. The record is versatile and yet clearly remains a Led Zeppelin album. They stayed true to their line with Houses of the holy, but expanded their sound even more, making this album the transition between the untitled first four classics and the late works of the then (and perhaps still today) biggest band in the world. Nowadays, fortunately, it is viewed by experts with the necessary respect. An album that maybe not so many have on their notes, but definitely listens to them. “A must have for every serious collector”, so to speak.
Led Zeppelin – Houses of the Holy
A1 – The Song remains the same
A2 – The Rain Song
A3 – Over The Hills and far away
A4 – The Crunge
B1 – Dancing Days
B2 – D’yer Mak’er
B3 – No Quarter
B4 – The Ocean
Robert Plant – Vocals
Jimmy Page – Guitars
John Paul Jones – Bass, Keyboards, Mellotron
John “Bonzo” Bonham – Drums