'Houses of the Holy'
When they went into the studio to begin making what would be their first album with a real title, Led Zeppelin had the specter of IV hanging over them. They'd made the biggest rock album of all time, and everyone was expecting them to come up with something even bigger than "Stairway to Heaven." "My main goal was to just keep rolling," Page later recalled. "It is very dangerous to try and duplicate yourself."
Fortunately, they also had nothing left to prove, and what they came up with is a very different sort of record than they’d made before. It was genuinely controversial at the time it was released: Rolling Stone's original review called it "puerile and rudimentary," and dismissed the band as "Limp Blimp." But it has aged exceptionally well. In place of the blues, sex and apocalypse of their first four albums, Houses of the Holy gives us a Led Zeppelin that's spilling over with love for their audience and themselves and even their kids. (The girl who won Plant's heart in "The Ocean" is three years old; over the course of Zep's performing career, he updated the song to match his daughter Carmen's age.)
Their supreme confidence in their own musical authority lets them get away with new kinds of excess. Houses is the peak of Plant's pastoral-mystical tendencies and hippie dreaminess – "I've got my flower/I've got my power" is a line from "Dancing Days," but it could have turned up nearly anywhere else here. Page's arrangements are grander than ever before, too: "The Song Remains the Same" was originally written as a fanfare to open "The Rain Song" and subsequently grew into a song of its own. And the rhythm section takes every opportunity to show off its unparalleled precision: Playing the berserk riff of "The Crunge" is the musical equivalent of foot-juggling. "There’s a hell of a lot in that LP," Page said. "It's not very easy one-time listening, and that's good. You've got to sit down and listen, think about a few things."
– Douglas Wolk