Listening in Depth to Houses of the Holy

More of the Music of Led Zeppelin

You really get an understanding of just how much of a production genius Jimmy Page was when you listen to a copy of Houses with the kind of resolution and transparency found on our best copies.

To take just one example, listen to how clearly the multi-tracked guitars can be heard in the different layers and areas of the soundstage. On some songs you will have no trouble picking out three, four and even more guitars playing, each with its own unique character. The clarity of the better copies allows you to recognize — perhaps for the first time — the special contribution each makes to the finished song.

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

The Song Remains the Same
The Rain Song

Check out the guitars — the sound should be warm, sweet and delicate. There are some dead quiet passages in this song that are almost always going to have some surface noise. Most copies start out a bit noisy but almost always get quieter as the music goes along.

Over the Hills and Far Away

This is a great test track for side one. It starts with lovely acoustic guitars before the Monster Zep Rock Chords come crashing in. If both parts of the song sound correct and balanced, you more than likely have a winner. And the bigger the dynamic contrast between the parts the better.

Turn your volume up good and high in order to get the full effect, then stand back and let the boys have at it.

The Crunge

Side Two

Dancing Days
D’Yer Mak’er
No Quarter

Much like The Rain Song, this track is full of dead quiet passages that will virtually always have some audible surface noise. It’s a chronic problem. A copy that plays quieter than Mint Minus Minus for either track is truly exceptional.

The Ocean

One of my all time favorite Zep tracks. Listen to that BIG breath Plant takes right after the quiet bridge in the middle of the song. Wow — he knows he’s still got plenty of loud singin’ left to do!

Acoustic Guitars

Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitar reproduction is superb on the better copies of this recording. Simply phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard on every strum, along with the richness, body and harmonic coherency that have all but disappeared from modern recordings (and remasterings).

As we’ve noted before, the two Zep albums in which the acoustic guitars are out of this world are this one and III. They are every bit as rich, tubey, sweet, delicate and harmonically correct as the guitars on Tea For the Tillerman, The Best of Bread, or any of the other magical recordings we rave about on the site. (Our Top 100 is full of others if you want to check them out.)

Of course, without the right pressing, hopefully, this one, you would never know that. Later copies (those not cut by Robert Ludwig are not worth the vinyl they were pressed on), Classic copies, typical domestic and import copies — none of them are going to sound like this. You have our guarantee.

Led Zeppelin is responsible for some of the best High-Production-Value rock music of the ’70s. The amount of effort that went into the recording of this album (really, any of the studio albums) is comparable to that expended by the engineers and producers of bands like Supertramp, The Who, Jethro Tull, Ambrosia, Pink Floyd and far too many others to list. It seems that no effort or cost was spared in making the home listening experience as compelling as the recording technology of the day permitted.

Big Production Tubey Magical Sophisticated Popular Music just doesn’t get much better than the first five Zep albums.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

Demo Discs for Tubey Magic

Important Lessons We Learned from Record Experiments 

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – A Guide to the Fundamentals

Records that Sound Best on Big Speakers at Loud Levels