Sunday, November 3, 2019

Childhood's End

Houses of the Holy (AM9)
Artist: Led Zeppelin
Produced by:  Jimmy Page
Released: March 28, 1973
Length: 40:58
Tracks: 1) The Song Remains the Same (5:32); 2) The Rain Song (7:39); 3) Over the Hills and Far Away (4:50); 4) The Crunge (3:17); 5) Dancing Days (3:53) 6) D’yer Mak’er (4:23); 7) No Quarter (7:00); 8) The Ocean (4:31);
Players: Jimmy Page – lead guitar, acoustic guitar, 12 string, pedal steel, theramin; Robert Plant – vocals; John Paul Jones – bass, keyboards, synthesizer bass, backing vocals; John Bonham – drums, backing vocals

Again, like Wish You Were Here and Joni Mitchell's Court and Spark, a follow-up to Led Zeppelin IV (ZOSO, Runes) was daunting, but although Houses of the Holy didn't attain the lofty commercial success of its predecessor, a mature genius is scattered throughout to make it an arguably more fascinating and equally diverse listening experience. Led Zeppelin strove, generally successfully, to develop and advance their sound by consistently incorporating new ideas, from reggae (the often maligned, in particular by John Paul Jones, "D'yer Mak'er") to the James Brown inspired funk (the bottom-heavy and tricky time signature of "The Crunge"). Jimmy Page's tough stomping lick, which opens "The Ocean," remains one of his finest, and the John Paul Jones showcase "No Quarter" with its dreamy, spooky piano and loud/soft dynamics was a concert showcase and one of the band’s most sublime moments. Adding strings to bring new textures to the acoustic "The Rain Song," at nearly eight minutes the disc's longest and most complex track, served to create what may be the most beautiful song in rock music (bar "God Only Knows"). From the Childhood’s End album cover (my all-time favorite) to the sonic landscapes inured through impeccable musicianship, Houses of the Holy is Led Zeppelin's penultimate achievement. It shines often more brightly than ZOSO, but fails at times in its new direction and experimentation.  ZOSO, on the other hand, is the pinnacle of who Led Zeppelin would become and carved the way for the confidence that Houses exemplified.

From the opening thrill of "The Song Remains The Same," Houses Of The Holy strikes one as the most intelligent and considered of all Led Zeppelin albums in that it doesn't always go straight for the most obvious approach, songs are allowed to unfold and breath before they take shape.