Friday, 16 September 2016

"Houses Of The Holy: Deluxe Edition" by LED ZEPPELIN (2014 Atlantic/Swan Song 2CD 'Deluxe Edition' Jimmy Page Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...



"…Many Dreams Come True…" 

Robert Plant once ruminated that Led Zeppelin waited 5 months before releasing their 5th album “Houses Of The Holy” because they wanted to get the album artwork right. And when he saw the 1990s CD reissue in its 5” puniness minus that “HOTH” title bandana that came with 1973 originals – he wondered was it worth the wait? Well the album is back in a brand new 2014 reissue and with its title wraparound restored – properly remastered this time and sporting some rather cool 'extras' too. Here are the crunges, quarter oceans and songs that remain (roughly) the same…

Released October 2014 - this review if for "Houses Of The Holy” by LED ZEPPELIN - the 2CD DELUXE EDITION on Atlantic 8122795827 (Barcode 081227958275) which breaks down as follows:

Disc 1 (ORIGINAL ALBUM – 40:59 minutes):
1. The Song Remains The Same
2. The Rain Song
3. Over The Hills And Far Away
4. The Crunge
5. Dancing Days [Side 2]
6. D’yer Mak’er
7. No Quarter
8. The Ocean
Tracks 1 to 8 are their 5th album "Houses Of The Holy" – released 23 March 1973 in the USA on Atlantic SD 7255 and in the UK on Atlantic K 50014

Disc 2 (COMPANION AUDIO Unreleased Studio Outtakes – 36:13 minutes):
1. The Song Remains The same (Guitar Overdub Reference Mix)
2. The Rain Song (Mix Minus Piano)
3. Over The Hills And Far Away (Guitar Mix Backing Track – No Vocal)
4. The Crunge (Rough Mix – Keys Up)
5. Dancing Days (Rough Mix With Vocal)
6. No Quarter (Rough Mix With JPJ Keyboard Overdubs – No Vocal)
7. The Ocean (Working Mix)

For a supposed DELUXE EDITION the 16-page booklet is adequate at best - colour live shots, the inner sleeve reproduced in the centre pages and a few basic reissue credits on the last few pages. For such an iconic band and prestigious catalogue - you think Atlantic could have pushed the boat out a bit more. It's noticeable also that the track list stick-on sheet that was pasted on to the rear sleeves of I, II and III is now on the outside of the shrinkwrap for you to place wherever you want. It's also irritating because you can barely read the writing on it. But to the really good news...

Like “Led Zeppelin IV” (that also came out Monday 27 October 2014) the much-lauded JIMMY PAGE remaster is properly excellent and a definite improvement on what we had before. Right from the first few seconds of “The Song Remains The Same” the guitars rattle your speakers with renewed power and British machismo. But then I get to what I’ve been after for years (and surely many fan’s favourite track on the record) – “The Rain Song” in gorgeous remastered form. It is hissy for sure in certain places but the acoustic guitars and JPJ’s Mellotron are more to the fore (and in a good way). The Plant vocals and Page Guitars sing now on “Over The Hills And Far Away” while I still laugh at the final “Where’s the confounded bridge?” gag at the end of the rhythmically awkward “The Crunge” (a song that stills sounds to me like its chancing its arm). The Side 2 openers “Dancing Days” and the silly “D’yer Mak’er” both pack a huge wallop (especially Bonham’s drums) while “No Quarter” is hissy for sure during that warbling Mellotron intro and onwards but you forgive it because it’s a Zeppelin I love (as I suspect many do). It ends on “The Ocean” with its witty intro – another rocker that sounds like it’s on the way to somewhere but never really getting there. Then you’re hit with a real surprise – a storming Disc 2…

After the slightly irritating extras on “IV”(the so-called 'works in progress') – these outtakes are actually quite brilliant. While you’d be hard pressed to hear the differences in either “Dancing Days” of “The Crunge” - some of your favourite songs are stripped of their vocals and allow the listener to concentrate on the great chucky rhythms and clever guitar parts. The two that leap out are “Over The Hills And Far Away” and an astonishing almost Prog version of “No Quarter” with John Paul Jones giving it some fabulous keyboard flourishes and arrangements. The “Minus Piano” Mix of “The Rain Song” sounds lovely too with its gorgeous acoustic guitar playing and JPJ’s Mellotron underpinning the song like a well thought out string arrangement. I'm kind of shocked at how good Disc 2 is actually.

Somehow as the years have passed “Houses Of The Holy” has been seen as the runt of the Led Zeppelin LP litter  – and I’m genuinely glad to say that this reissue makes a strong case for major assessment. Why I almost forgive them that pervy sleeve and the photo of them on the inner gatefold of this 2CD set standing by their LED ZEPPELIN jet with their chests bared for the ladies. Thems was the dancing days indeed boys. Roll on the mighty “Physical Graffiti” next year…yummy.

PS: be careful removing the title bandana – it’s snug and will rip easily…

PPS: see also reviews for the 2CD Deluxe Edition versions of "I", "II", "III", "Physical Graffiti" (3-Discs) and the 3-Disc version of  "Mothership: The Very Best Of" 

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