Led Zeppelin's Houses Of The Holy Turns 40
The "everything but the kitchen sink" approach to recording albums can be a dangerous one for rock bands. On one hand, it leaves many possibilities open. On the other, it can result in albums that sound haphazard and unfocused. In 1972 and 1973, Led Zeppelin was one of the most powerful forces popular music had ever known. At the peak of their artistic and commercial powers, they were looking to expand their horizons. After exploring the spectrum of the blues, from the dirt floor acoustic sounds of the Delta to the rave-up electric sound of the Chicago (notably artists from the Chess label, namely Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf and Buddy Guy), they began looking elsewhere for inspiration while keeping one foot firmly entrenched in blues.
Opening with the rocker "The Song Remains The Same," Robert Plant sang, "Anything I wanted to know, any place I needed to go," would become something of a mantra for the singer, who to this day still explores new genres from bluegrass to Egyptian music. The song's title, which would also end up as the name of their 1976 concert film and live album, set the tone for the album. Although they would try different styles on the album, it was still identifiably Zeppelin.
Rolling Stone revisited the album in 2003, giving it a belated five-star review. In the review, writer Gavin Edwards noted that "The Rain Song" was inspired by George Harrison, who lamented to John Bonham that Zeppelin didn't have any ballads (apparently he missed "Thank You," "That's The Way" "Tangerine" and "Going To California"). Instead of locking Harrison in a room with Zeppelin's II, III and their untitled fourth album, they locked down and created one of their most tender moments: "The Rain Song." The song really showed the band's growth, and Jimmy Page took a quantum leap forward as a producer. Instead of using layers of guitars to create something fearsome (a la "Whole Lotta Love"), this time he created something of beauty and sadness, and one that still feels fresh today. A lot of the credit for that also goes to Robert Plant, who restrained some of his machismo on the song. The "golden god" wasn't always the easiest singer to relate to and he didn't attempt to be, but when he sings "Upon us all, a little rain must fall," he was. It has one of his finest performances ever. more.
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