Led Zeppelin

The Rain Song

Song Review by

Jimmy Page betrays the influence he took from English folk artists like Bert Jansch on this slice of autumnal melancholy. "The Rain Song" is a moody, meandering song that seeps into one's consciousness. Featuring lush Mellotron string parts over a sprawling progressive rock arrangement that hints at Tin Pan Alley pop, the song also touches on classical music, jazz, blues, and folk, as well as hard rock. Though his vocal is soulful and heartfelt, once again Robert Plant's ambition exceeds his ability to write convincing lyrics; he gussies up sincere sentiment with overly flowery verbiage and cliché and often forced metaphors: "This is the springtime of my loving -- the second season I am to know/You are the sunlight in my growing -- so little warmth I've felt before/It isn't hard to feel me glowing -- I watched the fire that grew so low/It is the summer of my smiles -- flee from me keepers of the gloom." To his credit, Plant brings it together with a bit more direct focus as the song draws together: "I've felt the coldness of my winter/I never thought it would ever go/I cursed the gloom that set upon us/But I know that I love you so/These are the seasons of emotion/And like the winds they rise and fall." But the song soon swerves back into pretense: "This is the wonder of devotion -- I see the torch we all must hold/This is the mystery of the quotient -- Upon us all a little rain must fall." Too often, Plant aspires to -- and falls short of -- some idea of poetry instead of good pop/rock & roll lyrics. Blame it on Bob Dylan. But the music is stellar -- equally ambitious and yet achieving the goals set out by guitarist/producer Jimmy Page. His many years in the recording studio as the most in-demand session guitarist in England must have brushed off on him, and "The Rain Song," like the rest of Houses of the Holy (1973), displays Page's continued growth as a producer. With the aid of legendary engineer Eddie Kramer, Page takes full advantage of the exponentially improving recording technology at their disposal. In this case, the group chose to record at Mick Jagger's country home, Stargroves, in Newbury, England, using the Rolling Stones' famous mobile recording studio. The non-controlled environment of the large home contributes to the song's splendid sense of atmosphere, particularly in John Bonham's huge, but natural drum sounds. The drums do not even enter at all until about three and a half minutes into the song, not playing a pattern until about the five-minute mark. Page layers his guitars -- they range from rich acoustics to chiming, reverberating electrics to crunchy and distorted during the song's coda. The only aspect where the arrangement falls short is in the area of strings, a great arrangement written and played on the Mellotron keyboard by bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones (who also adds sparkling country trills on the piano). The epic sweep of the song and string charts and the prominence of the part in the mix call for a real string ensemble. The much-loved Mellotron certainly has its place, but its cheesy "small" string sounds are not a suitable substitute for the real thing; it is an instrument with its own charm. Perhaps the remote recording locale logistically prohibited assembling the necessary players.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Houses of the Holy 1973 Atlantic
Led Zeppelin [Box Set] 1990 Atlantic 7:39
Led Zeppelin Remasters 1992 Atlantic / Swan Song 7:38
Complete Studio Recordings 1993 Atlantic / Swan Song 7:39
Definitive Collection Mini LP 2008 Rhino 8:20
The Complete Led Zeppelin Collection Rhino / Rhino Atlantic 7:39