If asked for evidence of all that’s sublime in rock music, I’d shove Physical Graffiti in your face. It’s absolutely bursting at the brim with rock, sprawling and arrogant, uninhibited and joyous. If asked what album so perfectly represents why Led Zeppelin were rock and roll; Zep IV, surely. Houses of the Holy, however, shows the entire band at the absolute peak of creativity, after all, a sizeable chunk of Physical Graffiti was comprised of the band’s best previous outtakes (which explains why Coda is rather meh), Houses being their most observably ‘produced’ LP, and arguably the best exhibition of the vital and often overlooked skills of John Paul Jones, No Quarter being his ‘magnum opus’, as he delivers some truly delicious keyboard noodlings.
The Song Remains the Same kicks off the procedures like a very large firework, often used as a concert opener, though it’s a miracle Page could squeeze the tune out so well on just one guitar, as the track features a massive amount of overdubs, creating a richly layered ”guitar army”, as Page once described. The song displays immediately the predominantly happy nature of this album, not self-consiously in order to create a so-called mood piece, but as a completely natural display of the fact that Led Zeppelin were thoroughly enjoying a life of creating music and smashing up hotel rooms. The Ocean, the closing track, acts, along with The Song Remains the Same, as bookends of joy, songs that both describe their relishing of the lifestyle. The Rain Song, with its intricate and beautifully delivered guitar and piano parts, is Page and Plant’s very finest effort at creating a chord-based (as opposed to riff-driven) ballad, a seemingly impossible progression of ‘maj7’s’, ‘add9’s’ and various other doodads.
The Zep get a little stanky with The Crunge’s deep drum groove and pop-funk guitar chunking (I dare not say Nile Rogers-ish), a tribute to James Brown and his guitarist. The Crunge is the perfect example of the type of song that would only be appropriate on Houses of the Holy, because of the feeling of joy and experimentation that permeates. It won’t set the world alight, but it fits the mood. The band admits that, as opposed to funk, it’s just Led Zeppelin doing funk. The same applies to D’yer Mak’er, the faux-reggae song that, if played, will get you evil looks as soon as that charming but slightly obnoxious drum intro resonates. After this comes No Quarter, an atmospheric slow-burner, arguably John Paul Jones’ ‘great work’, and something entirely unique in the entrie Zep catalogue, the compressed guitar sound that Page uses to churn out the crunchy riff was rarely heard before or after, accompanying Jonesy’s alien tones, giving it a strangly ambient and deeply electronic sound.
Best Track: The Ocean
Goof: D’yer Mak’er.
9 Quarter absences out of 10