At this point it's safe to say that no Led Zeppelin albums can be classified as underrated, but I've often felt that Houses of the Holy maybe doesn't get the respect it deserves. Sandwiched between the ubiquitous Zep IV and the magnum opus Physical Graffiti, this record is in a weird spot chronologically, but it shouldn't be overlooked. This is Zeppelin at their peak, and features the band finally resorting to some studio trickery to get their point across.
"The Song Remains the Same" is a favorite of mine, and the way that its speedy chaos segues right into the balladry of "The Rain Song" is just fantastic. Ah, "The Rain Song." If you're a young man and you've got feelings, this is a great tune to headphone out to in your room alone. I still think it's a great song. The lyrics are corny as heck, but like I said: Teenager. Room. Alone. Perfect.
"Over the Hills and Far Away" has strangely become a classic rock radio staple, and even if you don't recognize the title, you'd recognize the song. It's a good one. Really a solid first three songs here. "The Crunge" should have been a non-album b-side, but it doesn't seem like anyone was telling Jimmy Page shit at this point, so here it is. Thankfully, it's short.
I've always thought "Dancing Days" was a great song, too. Sweet guitar riff, some of Plant's better lyrics, and lots of little noodling. In fact, all of these songs sound a lot busier than any of the previous Zep offerings. Page was clearly tinkering.
"D'yer Mak'er" is the second-worst Led Zeppelin song ever (we'll get to the worst on the next record), and should not be listened to by anyone. It is the one thing that stops this record from being decisively stellar. It is reggae bullshit of the highest degree, and someone should have stopped Jimmy Page from putting it on the record. John Paul Jones, I'm looking in your direction.
The final two songs on the album make up for it. "No Quarter" is huge, and really one of the songs the band should always be remembered for (not that there's any lack of those). They step out in a whole new direction, and though the song is seven minutes long, it doesn't drag. A great one. "The Ocean" finishes things up, and though it's not my favorite song here, I still think the "Na-na-na" bits are awesome, and prevent the song from becoming too formulaic.
This record got a lot of play from me when I was 15. A lot. And I didn't used to hate "D'yer Mak'er" as much as I do now. It's been a long, gradual process of utter disgust, peaking with this blog entry. That'll learn 'em!