Side One: Mint Minus Minus
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus*
- This vintage Atlantic pressing boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from first note to last
- A Better Records Top 100 album (along with 4 other Zep titles), 5 Stars in AMG and a True Zeppelin Must Own Classic
- The Tubey Magical acoustic guitars on this album should act as a wake up call to every audiophile - remastering this album is just not going to be in the cards
- 5 stars: "Jimmy Page's riffs rely on ringing, folky hooks as much as they do on thundering blues-rock, giving the album a lighter, more open atmosphere..."
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NOTE: There is a vinyl swoosh that plays ten times at the beginning of the third track on side two, No Quarter.
This copy has the kind of BIG, BOLD ROCK SOUND that takes this music to places you've only dreamed it could go. The HUGE drums on this copy are going to blow your mind -- and probably your neighbors' minds as well.
And what would a Zep record be without bass? Not much, yet this is precisely the area where so many copies fail. Not so here. The bottom end is big and meaty with superb definition, allowing the record to ROCK, just the way you know Zep wanted it to.
The vocals too are tonally correct. None of the phony upper-midrange boost that the Classic suffers from is evident on this copy. The louder Robert Plant screams the better he sounds and the more I like it. The Classic makes me wince.
What the Best Sides of Houses of the Holy Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1973
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange -- with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there's more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
With this copy, the fatigue factor was practically non-existent. The fatigue factor with Classic Records and CDs is one of the things that most annoys us about them. At low levels, you can play them all day. Turn them up and you are worn out after barely twenty minutes of listening. That should tell you everything you need to know about their remastering skills.
Ringing 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.
What We're Listening For on Houses of the Holy
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren't "back there" somewhere, lost in the mix. They're front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
- The Big Sound comes next -- wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information -- fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass -- which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency -- the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing -- an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Jimmy Page, Production Genius
When you listen to a copy of Houses with the kind of resolution and transparency found on the best copies, you really gain a deeper understanding of just what a production genius Jimmy Page must have been.
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 five guitars playing, each with its own unique timbre and character. This clarity allows you to recognize -- perhaps for the first time -- the special contribution each of those guitars makes to the finished song.
Ultimately the ability to hear into the music at this level is what gives you, the listener, the ability to UNDERSTAND and APPRECIATE it. One reason these commentaries tend to be overly enthusiastic is that once you've heard a pressing that sounds as good as the best copies can, you find yourself much more emotionally involved in the music.
When the sound gets better it's the music that REALLY gets better. That's Audio 101, the raison d'etre for all the expensive equipment we all own.
When the sound gets to the highest levels when the sound gets that good, the music practically becomes a drug. Want to take a trip? Drop the needle at the start of The Rain Song or No Quarter on a top copy. You won't be coming back to earth for about six minutes. See you then.
Mint Minus Minus is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don't have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that's certainly your prerogative, but we can't imagine losing what's good about this music -- the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight -- just to hear it with less background noise.
The Tracklist tab above will take you to a select song breakdown for each side, with plenty of What to Listen For advice. Other records with track breakdowns can be found here.
A Must Own Rock Record
This Demo Disc Quality recording should be part of any serious Rock Collection. Others that belong in that category can be found here.
- The Song Remains the Same
- The Rain Song
- Over the Hills and Far Away
- The Crunge
- Dancing Days
- D'Yer Mak'er
- No Quarter
- The Ocean
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 a some surface noise. Most copies start out a bit noisy but almost always get quieter as the music gets going.
This is a great test track for side one because 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 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.
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.
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!
AMG 5 Star Rave Review
Jimmy Page's riffs rely on ringing, folky hooks as much as they do on thundering blues-rock, giving the album a lighter, more open atmosphere...
"The Rain Song" is one of Zep's finest moments, featuring a soaring string arrangement and a gentle, aching melody. "The Ocean" is just as good, starting with a heavy, funky guitar groove before slamming into an a cappella section and ending with a swinging, doo wop-flavored rave-up...
Throughout the record, the band's playing is excellent, making the eclecticism of Page and Robert Plant's songwriting sound coherent and natural.