Album Review: Houses of the Holy [Remastered] by Led Zeppelin
Exceptionally Good, Based on 5 Critics
American Songwriter - 100 Based on rating 5/5
Led ZeppelinIV/Houses of the Holy-Deluxe Edition(Atlantic/Swan Song/Rhino)Rating: 5 out of 5 stars Jimmy Page, never one to miss an opportunity, continues his Led Zeppelin reissue series with these two titles, just in time for Christmas season 2014. As with the first batch released earlier this year, these feature remastered audio of the original tracks on one disc and add, in the deluxe version, a second with remixes and alternate takes although notably no previously unreleased songs. The passage of time (IV was released in 1971, Houses … in 1973), provides the luxury to reassess these albums, examining them through the looking glass of history and within the broader scope of the group’s overall output.
What does a mountaineer do once he summits the highest peak? He dives off and learns to fly. Such was the situation, and solution, of Led Zeppelin’s members in 1972 as they planned their follow-up to Led Zeppelin IV. This prior album needs no introduction, being one of the great critical and commercial successes of the age (or ever, for that matter).
It's easy to forget just how quickly Led Zeppelin went from sharply juxtaposing blues thump with delicate folk on their debut to blending the two sounds seamlessly at once. After releasing three masterfully multidimensional LPs in 1969 and 1970, the group began its middle period relatively early, in 1971, with the release of its untitled fourth album. That record remains Led Zeppelin's masterpiece because it showcases everything the band did best – acoustic flourishes, heavy blues, insightful poetry, tawdry catcalls – in equal measure.
Individual Ratings:IV: Remastered Album (10.0), Deluxe (5.0)Houses of the Holy: (9.0), Deluxe (5.0) The scene: Rock legend Jimmy Page, fresh off announcing a series of revelatory Led Zeppelin reissue campaigns, sits flummoxed behind a vintage mixing console. “Is this really all there is?” he asks an anonymous studio gopher. “Yes, Mr. Page,” the young man responds, averting eye contact.
[Led Zeppelin launched a massive, Jimmy Page-supervised reissue campaign in 2014, where each of their studio albums was remastered and then expanded with a bonus disc of alternate versions (in the case of the super deluxe editions, they were also supplemented by vinyl pressings and a massive hardcover book). The supplemental disc for Houses Of The Holy is constructed as a mirror image of the finished album, consisting of nothing but alternate mixes and sometimes instrumentals. The cuts without vocals are the most compelling: on "No Quarter," it's possible to hear Zeppelin build their sense of mystery and by stripping "The Song Remains the Same" and "Over the Hills and Far Away" to nothing but six strings, admiration for how Jimmy Page assembled his guitar army only grows.