52 of 57 people found the following review helpful
Back in June of this year, Jimmy Page oversaw the release of the first three Led Zeppelin albums with newly re-mastered sound and bonus material. All three of those deluxe editions were incredible and offered not only fresh versions of the original LP's, but an eclectic batch of companion CD's with alternate studio takes, instrumental tracks, previously unheard recordings, and for Zeppelin I, cleaned-up live audio. Today, October 27, 2014, sees the release of the next two deluxe editions, Led Zepplein IV and Houses of the Holy.
Houses of the Holy is quite the album in its own right. Zeppelin really began to spread their wings on this one. It's loaded with experimentation, and shows real ambition on the part of the band to grow, progress, and evolve. They begin playing around with orchestral arrangements on "The Rain Song." They show a new funky side on "The Crunge." They go full-on reggae on "D'yer Mak'er." They delve into psychedelia on "No Quarter." This album really created some distance from the first four and showed that Zeppelin was capable of much more than loud, blues-driven rock 'n' roll and acoustic folk. This is the one that made songs like "Kashmir" and "Trampled Under Foot" possible. While some bands flounder when they attempt to branch out, Zeppelin flourished and began the next phase of their career.
The bonus disc for this is one of my favorites so far. I can't get enough instrumental recordings, and this has three. Nothing against Robert Plant, but I love hearing these songs without vocals. With only the music to focus on, I can hear so much more of the instrumentation, and we're talking about three of the most legendary players in music history with Page, Jones, and Bonham. It puts these classic tunes in a whole new light, and that alone is amazing. But this isn't merely the music from the original songs, it also has slight variations as these are not finished mixes. "The Song Remains the Same," "Over the Hills and Far Away," and "No Quarter" all have a completely fresh perspective as instrumentals. Those last two especially just show what musical masterpieces both songs are when you hear them without the vocals.
These first five deluxe editions have been wonderful, and there's not much further to go to complete the Zeppelin catalog. There was about 4½ months between the release of the first batch of three and these two, so hopefully there won't be too long of a wait for round three. Next up...Physical Graffiti! (and hopefully Presence, too)
14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2014
In second place, only behind The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, in terms of sales units, is the 2nd biggest selling band in the USA, and well ahead of their next competitors, the Eagles and Pink Floyd, by tens of millions of units sold. In 1968 and 1969, the term “heavy metal” was still only a phrase in a song by one of the few “hard rock” bands in existence. Flower power had given over to psychedelic and blues influenced rock, the “heavy” bands being Steppenwolf, Iron Butterfly, The Doors, Big Brother & The Holding Company, the proto-punk group The Troggs, and the early burgeoning Grand Funk Railroad, Ten Years After, and other groups moving into the harder side of rock. The Who had not yet melded a hard rock sound with the beginnings of progressive rock, and the space frontier of Pink Floyd would never gain consideration as hard or heavy rock. Therefore, for all intents and purposes, Led Zeppelin stepped into a void. Not initially greeted with warmth by rock critics, they were passed around dorm rooms like a dry brush fire, and with simple word of mouth, the flames were fanned into a raging forest fire in no time at all. Without Led Zeppelin, there may never have been a heavy metal genre, and prog rock may have been severely limited in experimentation, where LZ were not only successful and influential, they were one of the most innovative bands in the history of music.
After defining a complete future genre with LED ZEPPELIN and LED ZEPPELIN II, they took a few song experimentations (i.e. Babe I’m Gonna Leave You, Ramble On…) and fully flowered them into the magical and tremendous LED ZEPPELIN III (an album which to this day has spawned countless arguments, mostly centered around how “different” it is). And yet, despite some of the hostility, some lost fans and new ones, the “untitled” 4th album became one of the best (artistically and commercially) and most successful albums in the history of music. The same hostility which met III became gargantuan acclaim for IV, even though both albums have much, very much, in common! The same Tokien-esque and Norse mythological influences, and Bron-Yr-Aur folk music which transformed heavy metal Zeppelin I&II into III, is responsible for the successful pinnacle of notes and lyrics which became the 4th. As the 8th bestselling album ever in the world, it is hard to reconcile (for me) why III was so “hated” and IV so adored. I take up this controversy in my review for “IV” also released today.
Earlier this year, LED ZEPPELIN, LED ZEPPELIN II, and LED ZEPPELIN III were newly re-remastered and re-re-released as entirely new deluxe packages. Two disc packages (or the full monty with mega-package deals) which a complete second disc of uber-goodies, salivation time. In 1970, my two favorite acts, The Beatles, and Simon & Garfunkel broke up and broke my heart. I ran from them as fast as possible into the waiting arms of LED ZEPPELIN III. Of course I already had I and II in my collection, for when I was in mood to get all up in that power guitar blues and shake the pictures off the walls. But III was amorous. It held a fantastic dimension existing between hard rock and medieval folk, like Mythago Wood, a place to step out of modernity into legend while still retaining the ability to grasp this side of the real world. Then, a year later, the earth shook with the release of (untitled “ZOSO” Runes “IV” whatever you wish to call it). Here we had our first semblance that the Led Zeppelin were embarking on a great journey, a sojourn into a new “progressive” realm, where hard rock meets every musical fusion imaginable. A year after THAT, March 1973, a few months after some masterpiece progressive rock releases, including Close To The Edge by Yes, and a mere 27 days after the release of the monumental Dark Side Of The Moon by Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin entered the “art rock” world with HOUSES OF THE HOLY. And Holy Smokes, was it ever progressive!!!
Jimmy Page told Cameron Crowe “It usually takes people a year to catch up to our albums”, referencing the unusually rich and atmospheric textures of HOUSES OF THE HOLY; meaning, Led Zeppelin were really an avant garde group of artists where their albums set trends which listeners, critics and music fans alike, had to take some real time to appreciate it. This was true from the starting gate, which actually makes sense of the initial reactions to LED ZEPPELIN and to LED ZEPPELIN III. HOUSES uses complex musical compositions, even in the “easy” songs which on first listen might be basic rock and roll, reggae, or acoustic balladry, but these are anything but “easy” tracks.
Ever expanding the musical identity of the group, Jimmy Page became what Keith Richards called “the most overworked guitarist in the business”, and HOUSES OF THE HOLY complexly added more and more guitar layers to the now fully “progressive” sound of Led Zeppelin’s music. The Song Remains The Same, opening up the album with massive multi-tracked guitar, was originally intended to be and instrumental called The Overture, but Robert Plant had instant idea’s for lyrics and tempo changes which created one of the musical masterpieces of the Prog-Rock era.
Originally intended to segue directly into The Rain Song, the two tracks instantly assert to the listener that this is an entirely new Led Zeppelin. Plants lyrics drive what he considers to be his best vocals ever, over JP Jones’ mellotron (another added progressive rock centerpiece), and Page’s distinctive Danelectro model used in this song. The result is one of LZ’s most beautiful compositions ever, a ballad reportedly inspired by George Harrison remarking that they never wrote any ballads! Subsequently, the opening chords are borrowed from The Beatles “Something” written of course by George. John Paul Jones’ mellotron, an orchestra in a box, saturates this piece with the rainy feeling it should evoke, and his larger role and contributions to HOUSES OF THE HOLY and the albums following (with more and more atmospheric keys) begins the new era in Led Zeppelin.
Over The Hills And Far Away has a mystical appeal which can be traced back to several sources. I have honestly never read any of the biographies of the hammer of the gods, so I cannot speak for Page or Plant, but the title is attributable firstly to a traditional English folk song of the 17th century about two lovers. It was then later in the same century incorporated into The Beggars Opera as a duet between Macheath (Mack The Knife) and his lover Polly, whereby the song has a singular feel to it which is invoked by Plant in this modern song. The title also refers to a collection of stories by Lord Dunsany, an author who greatly inspired JRR Tolkien who in turn is one of Plant’s greatest inspirations. This song is simply another example of the true weight and heft of the giant Led Zeppelin. Jones and Bonham are so tight they could be one person with four hands; again Page amazes with guitars you actually THINK are throughout the entire song but they are not!
Then there is The Crunge. A song some people like and others are “bothered” by it. Ripe with actual humor, The Crunge is a terrific send up of Plant and Page’s real love of James Brown’s funk. The lyrics are tongue in cheek and delivered in perfect harmony with Page’s Stratocaster and whammy bar, in an endless funk groove in search of “the bridge” to a song which has no bridge!
Dancing Days has a unique rock sound as well, which makes perfect sense (given the influences in today’s music) once you find out that Page and Plant wrote this based on an Indian tune they heard in Bombay (Mumbai). It has the classic Indian music signature which is readily available in Bollywood musicals now. The lyrics are psychedelic Beatles-esque and by the time you reach the next song coming, you ought to entirely realize that Led Zeppelin has not only joined and set a new trend in Progressive Rock of the 70’s, they anticipated and foreshadowed the development of “world music” in this 1973 album!
D’yer Mak’er, what the devil is that? Well, if you spoke English with a British accent, it might help. The title is simply a tongue in cheek phonetic pronunciation of “Jamaica” by a not so-proper, not so “Queen’s English” speaker. The guitar, beat, and dub is entirely 1970’s reggae, and the lyrical delivery is 1950’s doo-wop (“whatever happened to Rosie & The Originals” written after the lyrics on the album sleeve). Just like The Crunge, another song which you might love or hate, depending on your disposition, but you have to admit, so far HOUSES OF THE HOLY is a whopping new trend for Led Zep, and by and large is a very successful experiment.
From some subtle humor and back to serious, No Quarter is one of the fan favorites of HOUSES OF THE HOLY. It is dark, moody, and both reminiscent of the Norse fantasy older influence from Plant, and the soon to come popular sound of John Paul Jones on Physical Graffiti. No Quarter has the same mystique which entreats fans of the Graffiti run of Kashmir, In The Light, Bron-Yr-Aur, Down By The Seaside, Ten Years Gone. There is some vari-speed play done here to capture an ominous feeling that transcends most experimental music even to this day. No Quarter gives exactly that, no mercy to the listener. This is an intense, dark and yet beautiful piece of music, and poetry. Like a movie with a twist at the end, I do not wish to provide too many spoilers to new listeners, just enjoy and endure the mighty winds of Thor.
Finally, HOUSES OF THE HOLY ends with a sea shanty, sort of, a Led Zeppelin rocking sea shanty with Page’s power chords drawn from the LED ZEPPELIN II era. There is no mistaking that guitar sound, nor Bonham’s driving beat, this is the singular Zeppelin sound, a sound that does not disappear on any album ever, and even revives more so on Graffiti et al.
Sound. 2014 re-mastered and re-issued sound is better than ever! How do you explain that in words? Words, numbers, mathematical facts and formulas, engineering tech-shite? How about this: if you purchased this album in March, 1973, took it home and delicately placed your perfectly balanced half-gram diamond elliptical stylus into the lead in groove and laid back on the floor in between Harmon Kardon tower speakers and physically left the earth for 41 minutes; if you can remember that or some semblance thereof, take that moment in time and literally relive it with these 2014 CD re-issues, where they have been so masterfully remastered that they sound like warm surround sound sonic landscape on your skin and in your brain.
Now for extra texture, the boys brought you a bonus disc full of glory and glamour. You get alternate mixes which are anything but cast asides and editing room floor material scraps. If you love LZ, you might even have heard some of this before via bootleg poachers and skanky tape hiss filled thievery. Here you get the clear and the beautiful, gorgeous tape transfers and just plain fine chase the dragon gold.
If you are a Led Zeppelin fan, you’ve already been waiting for this album like Pavlov’s Dog, you preordered it and have been sitting on your hands for about 4 months. If you are a younger fan, whose parents introduced you to the crown princes of classic rock, you are no doubt also awaiting with bated breath. I can’t imagine too many human beings saying “Led Zeppelin? Who?”
I am already promising that I will never again purchase another reissue of Led Zeppelin albums. I think I can keep it this time. I have been happy with the Complete Studio Recordings box set for a long time now, so these deluxe models WILL be my last. In one week, new McCartney re-issue/re-masters are out, they were preordered months ago too. This has been banner years for Beatles and Zeppelin and Floyd remasters, the populace is getting poorer and poorer by the second.
Don’t forget, LED ZEPPELIN “IV”, also came out today…ka-ching!