RSS Feed

Houses Of The Holy

Atlantic (1973)
Rating: 8/10

So, a gap of a year-and-a-half… blimey, the boys must be slacking! Thankfully, Led Zeppelin finally releases an album with a proper title! Houses Of The Holy is an eight-track affair that runs for about 40 minutes, and musically it’s the same well-stirred cauldron of bluesy rock.

Album opener is the upbeat ‘The Song Remains The Same’ on which Jimmy Page plays a double-necked guitar to rattle out those jingles, jangles and occasionally driving yet mostly bluesy riffs – no surprise that this track started out as an instrumental.

‘The Rain Song’ is a seven-minute ballad which, in my humble opinion, comes too soon on the album, the band exploring more obscure angles to breathe life into those sun-drenched window panes. Led Zeppelin try their hand at strings and more synthesisers to create something akin to a film soundtrack.

The track is injected by the occasional reflective twang and pleasant melody, giving the number an orchestral feel which melts into the equally pleasing ‘Over The Hills And Far Away’ – another acoustic ballad best suited to a day spent overlooking rolling fields and lush horizons. Only halfway through does the track come to life, heaving like a stripped down boogie with the understated riff and John Bonham’s almost caressed skins.

The oddly titled ‘The Crunge’ has to be Led Zeppelin at their funkiest. Fast forward this track another two decades and you can hear where Prince got his struttin’ influence. Robert Plant is a sex machine on fire with his soulful licks, which cavort with Page’s funky guitar. It’s a drastic change from the usual folky bluesy numbers, but it walks hand in hand with the reggae-influenced ‘D’yer Mak’er’, which again sees the band at their most experimental. It’s a track light years ahead of its time, still struttin’ on that upbeat and bouncy guitar and Plant’s soulful croon, both tracks providing the most entertainment on this colourful opus.

Elsewhere, we’re treated to the jarring groove of ‘Dancing Days’ and the rockin’ swagger of ‘The Ocean’, with what has now become Page’s symbolic guitar arrogance. But no review of this album can go without mention of the wondrous seven-minute ‘No Quarter’, which begins like some remote sci-fi soundtrack until the sprawling guitar and cascading drums intervene. Plant’s vocals are a mere tortured warble amidst the buzzing guitar plod and occasional weirder piano-laced passages courtesy of John Paul Jones.

It’s fair to say that Houses Of The Holy is not everyone’s cup of tea, but when experienced in the right mood it can be one hell of an album, because, despite its progressive meanderings, it boasts a handful of classy cuts.

Neil Arnold

<< Back to Album / EP Reviews
<< Back to LED ZEPPELIN Articles