How Led Zeppelin Pulled Out All the Stops on ‘Over the Hills and Far Away’

by Jeremy Spirogis
Led Zeppelin in the studio, 1969

When you hear Jimmy Page speak about Led Zeppelin, you’ll hear him use the phrase “light and shade” to explain his imaginative and prescient for the powerhouse ’70s band. To Page, Zep was at all times a lot greater than the group’s exhausting rock and proto-metal output.

That’s why you heard acoustic and/or keyboard-heavy tracks on each Zep album besides the bruising Presence (1976). But Page and his bandmates didn’t simply attempt to combine in tender tracks between heavy ones. In many circumstances, Led Zeppelin did it within the area of a single music.

On the early albums, you hear that method to dynamics on tracks equivalent to “Ramble On” and “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You.” And, a number of years later, followers bought an ever purer expression of Page’s “light and shade” in “Stairway to Heaven.”

But Led Zeppelin had way more to come back after the discharge of its blockbuster Led Zeppelin IV (1971). On Houses of the Holy (1973), Page and the band returned with “Over the Hills and Far Away,” one other observe that showcased the band at its multifaceted greatest.

‘Over the Hills and Far Away’ ranks excessive within the Page-Plant songbook

Led Zeppelin in the studio, 1969
Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, and John Paul Jones snigger whereas recording the ‘Led Zeppelin II’ album, May 1969. | Charles Bonnay/The LIFE Images Collection through Getty Images

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When critics attacked Led Zeppelin III, many claimed Zep was making an attempt to be one thing it wasn’t with the massive dose of “light” materials. This puzzled Page as a result of he’d been showcasing his acoustic guitar work for the reason that band’s debut album.

On “Over the Hills and Far Away,” the Zep guitarist delivers a knockout opening passage on a six-string acoustic. When the part repeats, you hear Page be part of himself on the observe with some attractive 12-string acoustic work.

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From there, it’s time for Robert Plant to enter the image, and Plant could have by no means topped the mix of lyric and vocal efficiency he placed on report for this observe. You can image Page and Plant sitting within the nation (Headley Grange, in the event you like) working by means of this masterpiece.

But we nonetheless haven’t even heard from John Paul Jones and John Bonham. When the swap will get flipped, Zep’s rhythm part brings a groove that units the tone for the music’s heavy components.

Led Zeppelin packs in quite a lot of ‘light and shade,’ plus a wild coda

Led Zeppelin on stageLed Zeppelin on stage
‘Led Zeppelin’ performs onstage on the Forum on June 3, 1973 in Los Angeles. | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

While most Zep followers love the band’s acoustic facet, there’s nothing like Page, Bonham, and Jones tearing by means of a music’s rocking sections. “Over the Hills and Far Away” doesn’t disappoint on this entrance. It begins after Plant’s final repeated “So much.”

Page provides the growling electrical guitar whereas backing himself with an acoustic. Meanwhile, Jones delivers an particularly thick bass line behind Page as Bonham delivers his normal high-wire work. Then it’s time for Page’s solo.

The “Over the Hills and Far Away” solo may not rely amongst Page’s high 10, but it surely’s magnificent work nonetheless. And when it ends, he and Jones run by means of a nasty prog-style riff that anticipates the later masterpiece “Achilles Last Stand.”

Following one other verse, the band isn’t finished. Page the producer take center-stage at that time, and the trippy closing part pushes “Over the Hills and Far Away” into Zep’s higher echelon. It’s a observe the place the band actually used all of the weapons in its appreciable arsenal.

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