Led Zeppelin, Houses of the Holy

Although Edwin Meese would probably arrest you for the cover (it's a wonder the RUC didn't at the time), for my questionably informed money this is some of the band's best work. The range is more sophisticated and the production is better, and instead of just blues and rock there's ballads ("The Rain Song" — take that, George Harrison), wacky riffing ("The Crunge"), and even reggae ("D'yer Mak'er"). But yes, some blues and rock too: "Dancing Days" and Robert Plant's ode to his daughter in "The Ocean," plus a mashup of everything in "Over The Hills And Far Away" and the raucous, rollicking lead "The Song Remains the Same" (with a touch of prog to punch it up). One song fails to fire on most cylinders (the lugubrious "No Quarter"), the lyrics rarely match their tracks' melodic complexities and newer fans will wonder where the title track went (it's actually on Physical Graffiti even though it was recorded around the same time), but outside of their compilations I still think this album delivers more consistently than nearly all their other studio work. The 2014 reissue adds a second disc of rough mixes, though I submit that kind of thing was exactly why Coda flopped. (Content: no concerns.)