Friday, October 31, 2008

Led Zeppelin 8: The Song Remains The Same

Though it’s called the soundtrack for the film, The Song Remains The Same isn’t. There’s an entire website dedicated to picking apart all the edits on the album and whether or not they match the ones in the movie; plus there are songs on the album that aren’t in the film and vice versa. As a representation of live Zeppelin—and the only band-sanctioned live release for over two decades—it’s just okay, and not great.
Side one is easily the most listenable, since it has four songs—the opening “Rock And Roll”, the odd choice of “Celebration Day” and the twin delight of the title track and “The Rain Song”. The 27-minute version of “Dazed And Confused” makes more sense in the context of the film, but without that it’s noise, and a whole side’s worth to boot. (Although, lo and behold, one of the tangents shows off one of the key riffs that would become “Achilles Last Stand”.) On side three, “No Quarter” is okay, but the live “Stairway” is pretentious. “Moby Dick” is dull even for a drum solo and “Whole Lotta Love” serves mostly as a springboard for a medley.
Having been filmed and recorded three years previously, it was already out of date upon its release, but at least the movie gave audiences a chance to actually see the band. Also, since the band had fallen into a period of inactivity, the album kept them on the charts. But as an official document designed to stop the bootleggers, it only spurred further production. Nonetheless, if you had everything else, you had to have this too.
The band ignored The Song Remains The Same for a full thirty years, not including any of it in the box sets or updated CD reissues until Jimmy Page finally prepared a remastered CD version (alongside an upgraded DVD of the film) in 2007. Resequenced to match the film—and original setlist, for the most part—the new version added excellent versions of “Black Dog”, “Over The Hills And Far Away”, “Misty Mountain Hop”, “Since I’ve Been Loving You”, “The Ocean” and “Heartbreaker” to a whole new soundtrack, combining to provide a much better flow all around. It’s not the same album as before, and it’s still not the definitive live document, and still full of edits, but at least the reissue earned repeat, loud listens. (As for the film, it defies any consensus of an essential document, guilty pleasure, embarrassing indulgence or stoner’s delight. In true alignment with the album title, some things will never change.)

Led Zeppelin The Song Remains The Same (1976)—
2007 CD reissue: “same” as 1976, plus 6 extra tracks

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