Houses of the Holy

Okay, so we’re past the famous first fab four albums now, aren’t we? Anyway, listening and listening to ‘Houses Of The Holy’ has made me wonder just what Led Zeppelin actually DID in the interim between ‘Led Zep IV’ and this? Did they drink and party a lot? I gather they’d reached the pinnacle, or at least, felt as if they had. Nothing left to prove to themselves or anybody else, either. At least, nobody else they thought mattered. So, off we go into the land of funk, into the land of the Caribbean, or some other such place. One song features vocal harmonies, another sounds very much like a string drenched ballad. Very few two songs sound the same, in fact. There is little of the trademark Led Zep sound here at all, and not only that, but Robert Plant indulges himself a little. Does a few pieces of vocal acting, not least all the way ‘The Crunge’. Ah, whilst I’ve mentioned it, let’s talk about that ‘The Crunge’. ‘The Crunge’? Okay, I don’t know what that means. And, please. Don’t mail me telling me what it means, either. I’m not sure I particular care what it means I just get off on the fact that this is obviously a piece of Led Zeppelin humor, a slight James Brown tribute or piss-take, whichever way you prefer to look at it. Some of the lyrical and vocal sections are truly daft and they do raise a smile. Well, Led Zeppelin trying to be funny doesn’t quite come off, but the music is just so damn hot and so damn funky – so very tight…. who cares? ‘The Crunge’ is a fine thing, quite unlike anything Led Zeppelin had done before, and that’s the key idea to quite a bit of the songs contained on this album. It’s Led Zeppelin trying to show everybody they could do anything, anything they wanted.

Of the more recognizable Led Zeppelin styled songs, we’ve got ‘The Song Remains The Same’, ‘Over The Hills And Far Away’, ‘No Quarter’ and the closing ‘The Ocean’. Starting with the last-named, first – ‘The Ocean’ relies on a strong rhythm section groove over and above any guitar prowess or roaring vocals, although both of those are present too, of course. It’s a riff thing, a song with a riff that carries everything else, a groove that carries everything else. It’s a fine thing. ‘No Quarter’ is seven minutes long. I’ve listened to it maybe twelve times just today. I was feeling rather low, couldn’t even be bothered to change the CD, had it on repeat play. Which does indeed also tell you i’ve listened to ‘Houses Of The Holy’ around twelve times today. I feel as if I live in those houses, you know? I feel as if I was one of the naked children featured crawling over stones on the album artwork. I was there, man….. How many times can I listen to this album in five hours anyway? Would it be twelve, or so? And please, I don’t want your answers on a postcard, not even to any address you care to think of, either. Still, where was I? Oh, yes? ‘No Quarter’! Well, it’s pretty much perfect, goes off into this lovely jazzy instrumental break that also sounds pure Rock N Roll. ‘No Quarter’ doesn’t scream and shout and run and come up to you with its tongue out, waggling provocatively – like some of the early Zep classics. No, it’s just a classic. ‘The Song Remains The Same’ and ‘Over The Hills’ both have lots of short, funky riffs and both are taken at a fast tempo. Robert Plant’s vocal on the latter is one of his very finest, for my money.

Of the remaining material, John Paul Jones contributes. Not just his usual bass, but also Mellotron, Synthesiser, Organ, Piano, etc, etc. In fact, the second song ‘The Rain Song’ which I described as sounding like a string drenched ballad? Well, that’s just him on the Mellotron, playing lines for a string section. He knows his stuff. It’s a lovely song, a genuinely affecting ballad, again, quite unlike anything Led Zep had done before. ‘Dancing Days’ is another funky, short guitar riff thing, I guess. It doesn’t particular stand out here, but it’s no worse than anything else if taken in isolation, if that makes any sense at all. ‘D’yer Maker’ is the one that contains the Caribbean reggae riffs. Robert Plant gets into the spirit of things, it shares a spirit of ‘daftness’ with ‘The Crunge’, but again, the together and damn near perfect playing, holds this and impresses you. Well, it should do. Why? Because I say so. The most diverse album Led Zeppelin ever made, most likely – whilst still retaining great performing and writing abilities, at any rate. It’s close to being a classic album, but the humor factor of the likes of ‘D’yer Maker’ in particular may begin to like after repeated listening. And, I’m really not just saying that because I listened to the album for nearly five hours straight today, honest I’m not. And, if that makes any sense to you, good luck.

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