While Robert Plant has chosen to expand his musical horizons recording award-winning folk with Alison Krauss, retro rock with the Band of Joy and hard-edged blues rock with the Sensation Space Shifters, Jimmy Page continues to immerse himself in Led Zeppelinâ€™s historic past by remastering their catalogue.
Pageâ€™s production for Houses of the HolyÂ tops any of the previous eight zillion reissues. The most notable improvements are the rich textures emanating from John Paul Jonesâ€™ keyboards, and the added punch given to John Bonhamâ€™s drums.
Thereâ€™s no escaping the ruinous â€œThe Song Remains the Same.â€ The crystal-clear production only serves to accentuate Plantâ€™s banshee vocal and the wrong-headed, amphetamine-paced arrangement. â€œThe Crunge,â€ a James Brown rip-off, still proves white people should leave R&B alone.
Fortunately, the other six songs are among Zepâ€™s best.
â€œThe Rain Songâ€ is Zepâ€™s most romantic ballad, highlighted by Jonesâ€™ symphonic mellotron and Plantâ€™s heartbreaking vocal (which he considered one of his best performances). â€œOver the Hills and Far Awayâ€ is a Page showcase, awash with acoustic, pedal steel and electric guitars.
Bonhamâ€™s reggae rumbling turns â€œDâ€™yer Makâ€™erâ€ into carefree ear candy, and Pageâ€™s slippery slide work shapes â€œDancing Days.â€ While establishing the flow for the doo wop-influenced â€œThe Ocean,â€ Bonham treats his drums like a caveman crushing a carnivore.
A second disc offers up rough mixes of all the cuts except â€œDâ€™yer Makâ€™er.â€ Without Plantâ€™s computerized caterwauling, the instrumental for â€œNo Quarterâ€ focuses on Jonesâ€™ eerie keyboards, making it sound like the soundtrack to a Viking spectacle. The other cuts are so similar that the song(s) remain the same, but fans will appreciate their work-in-progress feel.
Despite a couple of cringe-worthy tracks, Houses of the Holy is indeed a sacred, must-have album.