Houses of the Holy
Released: April 1973
Chart Peak: #1
Weeks Charted: 99
Certified Gold: 4/10/73
The heavy beat boys of British rock have produced a standard package of intense rock material utilizing their staunchest abilities to praise the beat and bury the melody. One recalls the period of psychedelic music on several of the tracks and a wry sense of parody on the tune "D'yer Mak'er" with its recall of 1950's music and splitting syllables. Best cuts: "The Crunge," "D'yer Mak'er."
- Billboard, 1973.
I could do without "No Quarter," a death march for a select troop of messenger-warriors, perhaps the band's road crew, that you can tell is serious because of the snow (when they're working up to big statements it only rains) and scary sound effects. But side two begins with two amazing, well, dance tracks -- the transmogrified shuffle that is actually called "Dancing Days," while "D'Yer Mak'er" is a reggae, or "reggae" -- that go nicely with the James Brown tribute/parody/ripoff at the close of side one. Which is solid led, lurching in spring rhythm through four tracks than might have been on II, III, or IV, or might not have been as the case may be. A-
- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.
- Stephen Thomas Erlewine, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
There are some fans who will tell you Houses of the Holy is even better than the fourth album; it's actually a bit less consistent, though it's hard to argue with seminal tracks such as "Dancing Days," "Over the Hills and Far Away" and the reggae number "D'Yer Maker." * * * *
- Gary Graff, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.
When George Harrison met John Bonham, the Beatle told the Led Zeppelin drummer, "The problem with your band is you don't do any ballads." Singer Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page could have taken umbrage -- they had already written the gorgeous "Going to California" two years earlier, for God's sake. Instead, they rose to the challenge. "The Rain Song" is seven minutes of exquisite heartache, complete with Mellotron strings from John Paul Jones. And in tribute to Harrison, the opening two notes are recognizably borrowed from his ballad "Something."
Led Zeppelin took the title of House of the Holy from their term for oversize arenas and stadia where they played live. After five years together, they were ambitious and confident enough to believe they could meet any musical challenge; this album even includes a swinging take on reggae, "D'yer Mak'er." "Over the Hills and Far Away" builds in intensity just as relentlessly as "Stairway to Heaven." And "The Ocean," the love song for Plant's baby daughter that closes the album, is a mighty stomp that could rattle the teeth of fans in the last row of Madison Square Garden. The epic scale suited Zeppelin: They had the largest crowds, the loudest rock songs, the most groupies. Eventually excess would turn into bombast, but on Houses, it still provided inspiration. * * * * *
- Gavin Edwards, Rolling Stone, 8/21/03.
Led Zeppelin had stuck close to their core sound on earlier albums -- supercharged blues, celestial folk -- but on Houses of the Holy the band added a groove. "D'yer Mak'er" is their version of reggae, and "The Crunge" is inspired by James Brown. "We thought of putting steps on the cover to help you do the dance," said Jimmy Page. With the ballad "Over the Hills and Far Away," an FM staple, and "D'yer Mak'er" reaching the Top Twenty, Houses became Led Zeppelin's third album to hit Number One. That summer, Zeppelin's American tour broke box-office records established by the Beatles.
Houses of the Holy was chosen as the 149th greatest album of all time by the editors of Rolling Stone magazine in Dec. 2003.
- Rolling Stone, 12/11/03.
Ever the ones to surprise fans and critics alike, Zeppelin revealed a new side to their musical creativity with Houses Of The Holy. Not only does the album show the band's sense of humour, with off-beat tracks such as the James Brown tribute "The Crunge," it also mixes up the styles along the way. There's "cod" reggae with "D'Yer Maker," the ballad-like subtlety of "The Rain Song," alongside a hard 'n' fast rocking track such as "The Ocean." Only on songs such as "Over The Hills And Far Away" and "Dancing Days" does the band sound anything like the Zeppelin people had come to know.
Attempts to straddle influences, past and present, did not prevent the album's commercial success. The record found favour, as usual, in the US, where it reached the top of the Hot 100, while it also went to Number One in the UK. "Over The Hills And Far Away" and "D'Yer Mak'er" both made the Top Twenty, and Led Zeppelin's US tour in the summer of 1973 broke the box office records set by the Beatles. On the first wo days of the tour alone, over 100,000 fans saw the band in concert.
The title Houses Of The Holy is a dedication by the band to their fans who appeared at their venues dubbed 'houses of the holy'; the track "The Ocean" is also dedicated to the "sea" of fans which attended Led Zeppelin concerts.
As of 2004, Houses Of The Holy was the #10 best-selling album of the 70s.
- Hamish Champ, The 100 Best-Selling Albums of the 70s, 2004.
On their fifth album, Zeppelin got into a groove. "D'yer Mak'er" is their version of reggae, and "The Crunge" is a tribute to James Brown. The band also indulged its cosmic side with "The Rain Song," featuring one of Robert Plant's most amazing vocals.
Houses of the Holy was chosen as the 278th greatest album of all time in a Rolling Stone magazine poll of artists, producers, critics and music industry figures in Oct. 2020.
- Rolling Stone, 10/20.
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