Welcome to the 5th installment of my Led Zeppelin studio album reviews! These are tandem reviews with my amazing wife, Sarah who is posting her own reviews over at Caught Me Gaming. So be sure to check out her write up on Houses of the Holy right here!
As for me, I can sum up Houses of the Holy like this:
At the time, no other rock band was riffing on James Brown.
As a Led Zeppelin Album: 5/5
Compared to the Rest: 5/5
This is the Zep album I have bonded with the most. In the early moments of Sarah’s and my relationship, I was taking full advantage of her complete Zeppelin collection on CD and I found myself grabbing “The Orange One” to listen to the most.
It wasn’t love at first note though. I wasn’t a fan of Plants vocals on the opener, The Song Remains The Same. He sounds like a cat being whipped around by its tail to me. I’ve since warmed up to it.
The rest was/is fantastic.
If you have been following this series, you know that I enjoy Zep’s bluesy side the most. Houses will only lean into the devil’s notes on occasion, but that can’t take away from them coming into their own as songwriters. You look at the writing credits and (even today) there isn’t anything they have to credit others for.
All four of these guys are stellar musicians and they have meshed together well before, but I think they elevated to the next level with tunes that are truly their own. Each song feels like it’s derived from several genres instead of one. You have blues, folk, rock, and now funk. And there is not a dog on here.
Plant follows up my least favourite performances from him with one of what his best on The Rain Song. John Paul Jones on the Mellotron mixes well with the plastic sound of Page’s Danelectro guitar too.
Over the Hills and Far Away might be my favourite Zeppelin tune ever. It was one of the first I learned on acoustic guitar. I might need a bit of a refresher if I tried to play it today though.
The Crunge is all kinds of James Brown and I think it is the moment where they finally found the balance between copying and a homage. Plus, all of the “Take me to the bridge” stuff made for a great shirt worn by an extra in Almost Famous.
As for side 2, what genre does Dancing Days, D’yer Mak’er, No Quarter, and The Ocean belong to? It has become impossible for me to think of them as anything other than Zeppelin. If anyone tries to do songs like these, you’re aping Zeppelin.
And I suppose from an artistic perspective, it is the best spot for any band to be in.