Houses of the Holy is the fifth album by English rock band Led Zeppelin released by Atlantic Records on 28 March 1973. The album title is a dedication by the band to their fans who appeared at venues they dubbed "Houses of the Holy." It was the first Led Zeppelin album to not be, at least unofficially, titled after the band. The album represents a turning point for the band, as they began to use more layering and production techniques in recording their songs.
Although Houses of the Holy initially received mixed reviews, it has since become regarded by critics as one of Led Zeppelin's best albums. The album produced the favorites "Over the Hills and Far Away", "Dancing Days", "The Song Remains the Same, "D'yer Mak'er", "No Quarter" and "The Ocean", and it has sold over 11 million copies in the United States.
Several of the songs were also demoed at the personal studios of guitarist Jimmy Page and bass player and keyboardist John Paul Jones. These studios had both been recently installed in the two musicians' respective homes. This enabled them to complete the arrangements which had been laid down earlier. In particular, Page was able to present complete arrangements of "The Rain Song" and "Over the Hills and Far Away", while Jones had developed "No Quarter".
Another bout of recording took place at Olympic Studios in May 1972, and then during the band's 1972 North American tour they conducted further recording sessions at Electric Lady Studios in New York.
Some songs which were recorded from these various sessions did not eventually make it onto Houses of the Holy, namely "Black Country Woman", "Walter's Walk", "The Rover" and also the title-track, "Houses of the Holy". All of these songs were released on later Led Zeppelin albums.
In the assessment of Led Zeppelin expert Dave Lewis:
In retrospect, 'Houses of the Holy' holds its ground with the middle period releases quite admirably. The barnstorming effect of the early era was now levelling off and though devoid of the electricity of 'Led Zeppelin I' and 'II', or the sheer diversity of the third album, and lacking the classic status of the fourth, 'Houses' took stock of their situation. In doing so, it laid several foundations on which they would expand their future collective musical aspirations.
The cover art for Houses of the Holy was inspired by the ending of Arthur C. Clarke's novel Childhood's End. (The ending involves several hundred million naked children, only slightly and physically resembling the human race in basic forms). It is a collage of several photographs which were taken at the Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland, by Aubrey Powell of Hipgnosis. This location was chosen ahead of an alternative one in Peru.
The two children who modelled for the cover were siblings Stefan and Samanatha Gates. The photoshoot was a frustrating affair over the course of ten days. Shooting was done first thing in the morning and at sunset in order to capture the light at dawn and dusk, but the desired effect was never achieved due to constant rain and clouds. The photos of the two children were taken in black and white and were multi-printed to create the effect of 11 nubiles that can be seen on the album cover. The results of the shoot were less than satisfactory, but some accidental tinting effects in post-production created an unexpectedly magical album cover. The inner sleeve photograph was taken at Dunluce Castle near to the Causeway.
Like Led Zeppelin's fourth album, neither the band's name nor the album title was printed on the sleeve. However, manager Peter Grant did allow Atlantic records to add a wrap-around band to UK copies of the sleeve that had to be broken or slid off to access the record. This hid the children's bottoms from general display, but still the album was either banned or unavailable in Spain and some parts of the Southern United States for several years.
The first CD release of the album in the 1980s did have the title logos printed on the cover itself.
Jimmy Page has stated that the album cover was actually the second version submitted by Hipgnosis. The first, by artist Storm Thorgerson, featured an electric green tennis court with a tennis racquet on it. Furious that Thorgerson was implying their music sounded like a "racket", the band fired him and hired Powell in his place. Thorgerson did, however, go on to produce the album artwork for Led Zeppelin's subsequent albums Presence and In Through the Out Door.
Upon its release, the album received some mixed reviews, with much criticism from the music press being directed at the off-beat nature of tracks such as "The Crunge" and "D'yer Mak'er". However, the album was very commercially successful, entering the UK chart at number one, while in America its 39-week run on the Billboard Top 40 was their longest since their third album.
CD Mastering engineers
|1973||Billboard Pop Albums (Billboard 200)||1|
|1973||Australian Kent Music Report Albums Chart||1|
|1973||"D'yer Mak'er"||Billboard Pop Singles (Billboard Hot 100)||20|
|1973||"Over The Hills And Far Away"||Billboard Pop Singles (Billboard Hot 100)||51|
|RIAA (U.S.)||11x Platinum||11,000,000|
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