“The Song Remains the Same” is a surging, optimistic opener. Originally intended as an intro to the following track, it evolved into one of the band’s most enduring numbers, even being used as the title track of the band’s concert film of the subsequent tour. Jimmy Page pulls off some of his most intricate guitar work, and Robert Plant’s vocals are slightly sped up, giving them an interesting feel. Inspired by a suggestion made by none other than George Harrison, “The Rain Song” is Led Zeppelin’s first ballad that isn’t folk-based and is probably the most sublime piece in their entire catalogue. Jimmy Page’s layered guitar work is as delicate as the song’s title suggests, and John Paul Jones’s beautiful orchestral arrangement on mellotron greatly affects the song’s overall atmosphere and charm. Released as the first single from the album, "Over the Hills and Far Away" sounds the most like Zeppelin of old, beginning with a folk section before morphing into a hard-driving rock tune. It remains one of the band's most popular songs. “The Crunge” is a James Brown spoof that works much better than one might imagine, even though it is the closest thing to filler on this album. “Dancing Days” is a bit more “normal”-sounding, but it too adds to the mix with its extensive use of organ. Perhaps the album’s biggest departure, “D’yer Mak’er” is in fact a reggae song. As silly as it may be, it is as catchy as most anything else present here. “No Quarter” is an epic that really shows off Jones’s and John Bonham’s interplay in the rhythm section. Plant’s vocals are changed during the verses to sound as if they’re underwater, and the lyrics here return to his fantasy themes of albums past. “The Ocean” begins with a humorous count-off from Bonham and although it initially sounds like a more typical Zeppelin track, it abruptly ends with a doo-wop jam section, closing out the album jovially.
Led Zeppelin truly hit their creative peak on ‘Houses of the Holy’. In light of all of the unorthodox approaches, it may not be their most definitive album, but considering how well that these approaches work, it shows as a whole just how high of an artistic zenith that could be attained by (and only by) the likes of Zeppelin. An indispensable album for all rock fans.