Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Led Zeppelin - Houses of the Holy

I think that the first four Zep albums are thee albums to own, and this record is a bit uneven, but it still has some undeniably cool tunes, such as the opener, "The Song Remains the Same" - neat, 12 string guitar riff, with extra gits layered on to build a unique, Zep sound. I guess that this album is where they moved away from the metal-blues a bit and found their own footing. This certainly is reminiscent of previous LZ, with odd rhythms, lots of dynamics and multi-part tunes, but more melodic with lots of Plant's higher-register vocal tricks and less blues-driven.

"The Rain Song" is a 12-string ballad with Jones' providing Mellotron "strings" on this much more "composed" composition that is none-the-less not very exciting. Faring better is "Over the Hills and Far Away", which starts with Page's acoustic chord/riff and moves into a traditional, heavy Zep power-chord number. As I'm listening, though, I'm realizing that this whole record is a lot slicker than the early ones - I guess that is part of the band's evolution, but I always love the rawer edger more, personally.

This album definitely had the guys experimenting with different styles, as in the James Brown-influenced funk of "The Crunge" - fun, but not exactly stellar - and, I think they realize it is a bit silly, as they make a joke at the end. But I really dig "Dancing Days", with its semi-weird, half-step progressions and odd production techniques and sounds along with lyrics that are silly enough that you hope that it was a parody. The hit from this release was positively meant to be a joke, with the name "D'yer Mak'er" a real stretch of a pun on a punch line ("did you make her") and the faux reggae pop stylings. Really does nothing at all for me, other than maybe annoy me a bit!

There is a complete about-face in "No Quarter", a dramatically moody piece led by Jones' effect-laden electric piano and Plant's lyrics of bygone battles. While not a rocker, they work with their dynamics to create ebbs and flows in the somewhat watery, cinematic sound. Finishing with "The Ocean", this is another off-tempo riff-rocker, but it does rock and it includes a cool, acapella interlude before closing with a bit of a rave-up, sounding almost like a 50's rocker. Fun stuff.

Again, start with the first four albums, but this is still good, just not nearly as heavy and this will not blast your head against the wall. Guess you don't always need that!