Houses Of The Holy (Deluxe Edition) – Led Zeppelin
Well, you would think just by looking at the album cover that the bands 5th album also was untitled and could of just as well been Led Zeppelin V. To be honest I do not quite know what it is about this album cover, but for some reason, I personally think it’s the best album cover on any Led Zeppelin album. Though I would also say that its title of Houses Of The Holy bears absolutely bugger all in relation to the artwork were looking at. Strangely enough, the artwork here resembles something more along the lines of Roger Dean’s artwork even if it’s not and my final word about the artwork at this stage of my review is that the artwork is perhaps 10 times better than the music that’s on the album😊😊😊.
They do say you should never judge a book by its cover so to speak, and for me personally even though this particular album of the band did still manage to win over many fans with its sales, this is perhaps where the band made their first real change regarding the material they wrote for it, in comparison to anything that they generally wrote before it.
The Packaging & Artwork…
As with all these packages they come in rather neat Digipaks that replicate a mini version of the original vinyl album. Some Digipaks are better constructed with thicker material, but in general, you will end up paying that bit more for albums that come in that better quality, simply because it costs more for them to buy that kind of packaging in the first place.
These Deluxe Editions also come with a 16-page booklet that mainly consists of photographs and only the last 2 of the pages contain any information at all. Which is basically the track listing and production and writing credits. However, the booklet that comes with the Houses Of The Holy is different and 4 of its pages contain information because here they have included all the lyrics too. It would have been nice if they included some background on the time they made the album, rather than fill it with photographs.
The artwork was said to be inspired by Arthur C. Clarke’s novel Childhood’s End and was done by one of the designers at Hipgnosis namely Aubrey Powell. Though Powell was not the first choice to do the album cover, and it was originally handed to perhaps a more well-known designer who worked for Hipgnosis and had done the design for some of Pink Floyd’s albums namely Storm Thorgerson.
Thorgerson’s original artwork featured an electric green tennis court with a tennis racket. It did not go down very well with the band in the way of him thinking they were making nothing more than a racket and they fired him and gave the job to Powell. Powell took several photographs of Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland and made a collage out of them.
The two siblings on the album cover are Stefan & Samantha Gates. Stefan was only 5 years old when the photo shoot took place. The photos were shot in black & white and were multi-printed to create the effect of 11 of them in total. Because they could not capture the right light with the photo shoots which took place in the very early hours of the morning at dawn. It was down to some accidental tinting done in the post-production, that produced the amazing cover in the end. Although the original vinyl album never contained any title or even the band name on it. Most CD’s released in the 80’s did have the logos printed on the cover.
Led Zeppelin II (2 CD Deluxe Edition) Review…
The new remastered Deluxe Edition of the Houses Of The Holy was released at the time as Led Zeppelin VI on the 27th of October 2014. All the new remasters were presented in the way of digital downloads and also in the form of a single CD or LP, a double CD or double LP and a box set which contains both the double CD & LP along with other extras.
I myself opted for the double CD which I purchased from Amazon for £9.99. Though they are the same price at most retailers. For example, when I went to order Led Zeppelin III from Amazon I noticed that they had run out of stock, and the alternative was to buy it from another seller (which was still associated with Amazon Prime so you could get it delivered by the next day) but they were charging £13.67 for it.
So I looked on HMV’s online store and it was £9.99. The only problem was that I was going to be charged postage & packaging on top with HMV unless you spend more than £10, then you can get it delivered for free. So I sent for both Led Zeppelin III & VI at the same time to save on postage. Unlike Amazon, the CD’s did take 5 days to arrive but I was not going to be giving some other private seller more money than what the item generally sells for. I like a good bargain and I am prepared to shop elsewhere for one.
The first disc contains the newly remastered versions of the 8 tracks that were on the original album. As with all these new remasters they sound great even on CD. Like I have said before in my reviews of these Led Zeppelin albums is that I always admired Jimmy Page’s production work and how he manages to get a great sound. However, I do feel that this particular album would have benefited more from being remixed rather than a remaster. This has nothing to do with sound quality but is very much down to some of the things I personally felt were mixed really badly in the first place.
The bonus or companion disc is much like the bonus material we got on Led Zeppelin VI in the way that you only get alternative mixes of the album’s original tracks and no new unreleased material. Though you only get 7 of the album tracks here instead of the 8. There are some differences with some of the tracks. For example “The Song Remains The Same” is the reference mix and contains the original guitar overdub by Page and no vocals, as this was originally meant to be an instrumental track. I have to admit it does sound better without Plant’s vocals on it because for one thing they were so badly mixed on the original studio version.
However, I also honestly do not think this would have worked as an instrumental track in the first place. For it to do so Page would have had to have played a hell lot better than what he did on it, and make the guitar sing. The 2nd bonus track “The Rain Song” is certainly interesting, but perhaps only in the way that this version is supposed to be a mix without the piano in it. Well, I can assure you the piano is still there, only they just panned it to the far left 😊😊😊.
Most of the other bonus material is made up of rough mixes and instrumental backing tracks, one of which contains overdubbed keyboards from Jones in place of Plant’s vocals. Personally, I do not think there is anything too exciting I can say about the bonus disc, because it does not offer you anything to really say much about with the differences we have on the bonus tracks we get here. For example, you do get a working mix of “The Ocean” and because it’s a working mix it’s never gonna sound as good as the final mix, and it does not. So in reality this is what I would personally see as more of a rough mix and the tracks they state are rough mixes, I feel sound a lot better than being in the way of rough at all.
The trouble is with most bonus material it can be a hit-and-miss sort of thing, and personally, for me, the bonus disc we have with this album is a long way off from being a hit or a winner I am afraid. The bonus disc comes with a total playing time of 36 minutes, 10 seconds.
Musicians & Credits…
Recorded between December 1971 – August 1972 with the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio at Stargroves.& Headley Grange in Hampshire and at Island Studios London. Produced by Jimmy Page. Mixing Engineers Eddie Kramer. Keith Harwood & Andy Johns on “No Quarter”. Mastering Engineer Bob Ludwig. Sleeve Design by Hipgnosis. Cover Photography by Aubrey Powell. 2014 Reissue remastering by Jimmy Page.
Jimmy Page: Acoustic & Electric Guitars/Theramin (on No Quarter).
Robert Plant: Lead Vocals.
John Paul Jones: Bass Guitar/Keyboards/Synthesiser Bass/Backing Vocals.
John Bonham: Drums/Backing Vocals.
The Original Album Tracks Review…
The original album was released on the 28th of March 1973 and was the bands final album to be released on Atlantic Records. The album contained 8 tracks and had a total playing time of 40 minutes, 57 seconds. The material for the album was written right at the end of the year in December 1971 up to August 1972. Though the album took much longer to be released. It was originally scheduled to be released in January 1973 but got held back due to the making of the album cover. Most of the material had already been played a lot at their live shows in the previous year, and the album was heavily promoted which made it instantly top the album charts upon its release.
The album did very well with sales upon its release and today it’s sold more than 11 million copies in America alone and is certified 11 times Platinum. It was another commercial success for the band, only this time around I would have thought myself, that the material that the band had written for this particular album, was heading towards more commercial popular status than any of their previous albums. It’s an album that represented a new turning point in a new musical direction for the band, in the way that it’s said to have used more layering and production techniques. It’s also an album that’s said to contain some of the bands most famous songs. To be honest whoever said those words seriously needs to get his head examined 😊😊😊.
Personally for myself this album represented a drastic change in many ways. No doubt they used new layering and production techniques, and I have to say in some cases they murdered some of the little good material that we have here on the album by doing so.
To even think that the Houses Of The Holy sold nearly twice as many copies as Led Zeppelin III in my eyes is beyond belief. Because in my own opinion this is not even half of a decent album in comparison to it, and any other album of theirs that came before this one, simply wiped the floor with it I am afraid. So let’s go through the individual tracks one by one, and see where I think they went wrong.
Track 1. The Song Remains The Same.
The opening track on the album “The Song Remains the Same” sees the band trying to do what they do best in the way of making a good rock song. Notice I did say the word “Trying” because quite frankly this is not by any means like some of the classics we have seen on their previous albums. But what even ruins it even more than anything, is their so-called new layering and production techniques. To be perfectly honest the live version of this song is very good and in fact 100 times better than the disastrous job they have done on this studio album. Now it does not take even an idiot to realise that Robert Plant has a really great rock voice. So just WTF did they process his voice so badly on this song.
Honestly, he sounds bloody dreadful, and it’s as if he was sucking on a tube of helium whilst singing it. If this is what they call new mixing techniques, quite frankly they can shove them up their arse as far as I am concerned. It’s got to be the worst-produced song I have heard on a Led Zeppelin album. Just hearing Plant sing the song’s title makes me want to smash the record up. Pinky and Perky sound better FFS! and yes Plant’s voice has been speeded up.
“The Song Remains the Same” was originally intended to be an instrumental track however Plant quite liked it and wanted to contribute words and vocals to it. To be honest on this studio album it would have been a damn site better if they left it as an instrumental track having heard what they did with the guy’s voice. There is no doubt that this song on the live album of the same title does sound really great, and this song would have been a contender for the top spot on this album. But no way could I give it to this studio version I am afraid it’s totally dreadful and unplayable.
To be honest, I am well surprised that Robert Plant never complained in the first place and let it be released like this. Honestly if somebody did that to my voice I would be chasing them around the studio with a double barrel shotgun 😊😊😊.
Track 2. The Rain Song.
Originally said to be inspired by a conversation between John Bonham and George Harrison. During the conversation Harrison told Bonham that “the trouble is with you guys, is that you never do any ballads“. All I can say is that Harrison obviously had never listened to Led Zeppelin because they did several ballads on their previous album’s and in all honestly they were a lot better than this one as well.
But in saying that I cannot knock this song because it is a great ballad of a song that Page & Plant had come up with after hearing what Harrison had told Bonham. I do however feel that it is a bit too long over its 7 minutes and 39 seconds though, and it’s perhaps the orchestral break that runs too long before Plant comes back in with his voice. They could have halved that section and it would have worked better in my own personal opinion.
Speaking of that orchestral section. John Paul Jones plays a mellotron which works pretty well. However I think they personally tried to get it to sound too near to an orchestra in the production, and it does not quite work well enough in comparison to a real stringed orchestra. I think more of the mellotron’s own strings would have worked better, than trying to polish them up so to speak.
No doubt it’s a great song though and thankfully they never speeded Plant’s voice up like they did on the opening track, and you get to hear the real quality of the guy’s voice. It’s very much a contender for the top spot on the album and I like it a lot. But I do feel a few changes here and there would have made it better. But that’s my own personal opinion about it, which may be a bit harsh on that score.
Track 3. Over the Hills and Far Away.
For me, this is perhaps the only track on the album that speaks to me in the same way that the material was written for the band’s previous albums, and is a classic. That is most likely because this was in fact written a lot earlier back in 1970 whilst Page & Plant was staying at the Bron-Yr-Aur cottage in Wales. I also personally think that this is the only classic Led Zeppelin song on the whole of this album, and it’s my personal fave and merits my top spot on the album award.
Track 4. The Crunge.
Well it’s time to get the funk out with this one, and here we see a completely different side of Led Zeppelin and I am sorry to say it’s just not my thing one bit. If I wanted an album by James Brown I would have brought one but unfortunately, I cannot stand him, even though he does have a very soulful voice I can respect in some ways. Thankfully it’s only one song they do like this and not a whole album of it. The less said about it the better I am sorry to say 😊😊😊.
Track 5. Dancing Days.
A pop song with a hook perhaps a bit of a hook-like some of the material the Rolling Stones were doing only I could perhaps understand it more coming from those guys, and not Led Zeppelin. It’s not too bad I suppose, but I honestly could not say anything else about the song, apart from that this was perhaps in some ways a bit like looking into the future at some of Robert Plant’s solo material that was to come out in the 80’s. So it was perhaps ahead of its time even when they made this in some ways.
Track 6. D’yer Mak’er.
Just when you get to think it cannot get much worse, we even get to hear the band do a reggae song FFS. More futuristic Plant solo material is all I can say about this one too. The word “Dire” not “D’yer” springs to mind and if I was going to be completely honest I could have altered the word “Dire” and made something a bit more on the runny side with it as well 😊😊😊.
Track 7. No Quarter.
Another song that fairs better for hearing live rather than the studio version here. Once again Plant’s voice has been processed but not as badly as the opening track on the album but nevertheless, it does not project to its best I am afraid. The song is also very keyboard based almost like 80’s pop-like material. It’s not a bad song but does not really register with what the band were doing earlier in their career, which was a damn site better I am afraid.
Track 8. The Ocean.
The band do get to pick up better for the last track on the album “The Ocean” which is much more like the bands usual style and not of the likes of some of the stupid pop songs we get on this album which in all honesty does not even suit the band at all. Though this is not a classic by any means but a worthy enough song.
For a band that on the release of their previous album who were trying to avoid detection by sticking no title on it. Even though they never printed a title on the Houses Of The Holy either, they certainly promoted it very well to let people know it was out there. The album even had 2 single releases from it in America to make even more sure it sold. Strangely enough what I considered the best track on the album “Over the Hills and Far Away” was the first single to be released with “Dancing Days” as the B-Side. It got nowhere. But the second single release “D’yer Mak’er” with its B-Side “The Crunge” broke into the top 20.
It would not surprise me one bit if it was down to the success of the sales of Led Zeppelin VI that the band tried to write something more commercial on this album to try and better it. But this particular album is also noted as the first genuine album that the band wrote all the material. All I can say if it was, is that they must have really sucked at writing their own songs because this album is a million miles away from what came before it.
My personal highlights from the album are “Over the Hills and Far Away“. “The Rain Song” and “The Ocean“. To be perfectly honest if it was not for these 3 songs, there is no way on this earth would I have brought this album again. OK “No Quarter” is not a bad song but it speaks more to me at their live shows and so does “The Song Remains The Same” than it will ever speak to me on these studio versions.
Well, I am not gonna beat about the bush here but personally, I think any fan of Led Zeppelin who was into the band before they made this album and having brought it said it was a great album. I would seriously think their brains had been fried and they were deranged. Because quite frankly this is not even half of a decent album as far as I am concerned. Even a lot of the production is bad, and that is most unusual for Jimmy Page. To be perfectly honest if I produced this album I would honestly be too embarrassed to own up to the fact that I did 😊😊😊.
There is no doubt that it’s always very hard for any band or artist to be consistent and please everybody all the time and personally, for me, this is the first time at this stage of their career that I felt this band had lost the plot. Some people may very well be thinking why on earth I even bothered to buy this album again after reading my review here. The simple truth is that these Deluxe Editions are cheap and a bargain at £9.99. I also thought the bonus disc might have something else to offer. But unfortunately, that is not exciting either and not gonna really give you anything that extra on this release.
No doubt the Houses Of The Holy is an album that will appeal to the masses in some way or another. It does contain some great tracks, but perhaps too little for my own personal taste, and I do feel the production is hampered on a couple of my favourites here. I already knew that years ago when I brought the album. To be perfectly honest even though there are a lot of tracks I dislike here, I always play the album in its entirety when I play the biggest majority of my albums. The time slot on these particular albums is easy to do so as well and is not gonna really annoy me that much at all.
But no way would I say that this was a good album at all. I could play the album a million times over, and my review of it would still be exactly the same I am afraid. The song may remain the same as they say but hopefully, it does not for my sake on the bands next album Physical Graffiti which I will be reviewing next month.
Many Have I Loved, And Many Times Been Bitten…
The album track listing is as follows:
01. The Song Remains the Same. 5:29.
02. The Rain Song. 7:39.
03. Over the Hills and Far Away. 4:50.
04. The Crunge. 3:17.
05. Dancing Days. 3:43.
06. D’yer Mak’er. 4:22.
07. No Quarter. 7:02.
08. The Ocean. 4:33.
01. The Song Remains the Same (Guitar Overdub Reference Mix). 5:30.
02. The Rain Song (Mix Minus Piano). 7:45.
03. Over the Hills and Far Away (Guitar Mix Backing Track). 4:22.
04. The Crunge (Rough Mix – Keys Up). 3:16.
05. Dancing Days (Rough Mix with Vocal). 3:46.
06. No Quarter (Rough Mix with JPJ Keyboard Overdubs – No Vocal). 7:03.
07. The Ocean (Working Mix). 4:28.