Ah, 1973: It was the year I was born, Pink Floyd put out the seminal Dark Side Of The Moon, and Led Zeppelin’s arguably best release, “Houses of the Holy,” also came out. The urgent opening riffs on “The Song Remains the Same” signal great things to come. Jimmy Page does some marvelous twin guitar work, Robert Plant has an almost Chimpmunkish yelp, and we’re off and running. “The Rain Song” quickly tones things down, a soothing, dreamy tune sprung from the South Carribean, with strings in the background for further relaxing effect. “The Rain Song” might be Zeppelin’s best acoustic song ever.
Like Pink Floyd, Zeppelin refused to releasing songs as singles. And yet, structured pop shines through on the folkishly delightful “Over the Hills and Far Away,” the fun rock jingle of “Dancing Days,” and the reggae- flavored “D’yer Maker.” “No Quarter” contains a dimmer vibe, filled with buzzy guitars, a brooding piano, and Plant’s isolated voice coming through in distorted tones, like a man coping with deep depression. Midway through, John Paul Jones plays a beautifully serene piano, only to give way to John Bonham’s smooth rhythmic drum kick. The band’s cohesiveness is at an all-time high here, as everyone involved gets to subtly show off. There’s nothing coy about the next sublime rocker, “The Ocean,” which anybody with half a heartbeat could stomp along to.
“Houses of the Holy” may have been Zeppelin at its height; the band could have called it quits after this record and still be assured easy classic-rock status. It’s simply another great Zeppelin album that adds to a string of greats. The guys kept their style simple, yet branched out a bit and explored new avenues. Some would even say that all Zeppelin albums after this one were pleasant icing on the cake. Of course, the same thing has been said about Pink Floyd after 1973, as well.