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on 23 November 2007
‘The Song Remains The Same’ is a 1976 Led Zeppelin movie featuring weary, end-of-tour New York City shows that had taken place fully 3 years earlier. The film-makers didn’t capture enough footage to compile a complete performance, and Zep guru and guitar maestro Jimmy Page should have aborted the whole project. But he inexplicably opted to throw good money after bad, and commissioned reconstructed Madison Square Garden stage scenes and self-involved fantasy sequences to be grafted into the movie. After 3 years of on-off agonising the outcome was a vanity project that cost a fortune, had too many continuity and synchronicity gaffes to be funny, and also played a role in Jimmy burning out. A lifeless mix compounded a soundtrack album that found Led Zeppelin sounding for all the world as if they just wanted to be with their families at home in England. The impact on their career arc was devastating. In the spring of 1976, Zep had followed up their terrific 1975 double-album ‘Physical Graffiti’ with the joyless, troubled ‘Presence’ LP. By the summer, Jimmy and drummer John Bonham were struggling with addictions and singer Robert Plant was still recuperating after a car crash. So they desperately needed to buy time to sort out their problems before touring the US in 1977. Zeppelin did have an ace in the hole: in their archives lay a rich seam of barnstorming concert recordings, and they were due anyway to issue their first ‘live’ record. But that October, they released those lacklustre, dated New York shows in the form of ‘The Song Remains The Same’, a film with a double-album counterpart. Undoubtedly there were reasons for that decision – accountants, superstar egos, impaired judgment born of stress and personal problems. Nonetheless, the issuing of jaded, anachronistic 1973 performances rather than, for example, their marvellous 1975 Earl's Court shows, still looks like something akin to lunacy. Some of the songs were exposed to extensive, clumsy editing in the movie but fuller versions were found on the LP. Also, Jimmy had recorded three shows in the Garden 27-29/7/1973 and some chopping, changing and tinkering led to further differences between the two mediums. Kevin Shirley, the engineer behind the 2007 reissues, has greatly improved the sound dynamics. But Jimmy – almost unbelievably given the shortened versions in the film - insisted that this upgraded soundtrack album be sourced from the remastered DVD audio. (Dispensation was given, though, to restore 4 bars of ‘The Rain Song’ and to add a complete version of ‘Heartbreaker’ to the CD). So, while the overall sound is far more polished than the 1976 version, some of the selections on the CD are now shorter than they were on the old LP. Though Kevin has made a number of editorial improvements to the audio (e.g., a guitar howler in ‘Moby Dick’ has been replaced and some of Robert’s ad-libs have been softened or ramped out), he’s had to take a machete to some of the selections, most notably ‘Celebration Day’, ‘No Quarter’ and 'Whole Lotta Love'. Jimmy should have modelled this soundtrack reissue on the template of the 1976 double-album plus uncut bonus tracks. Making detrimental changes to the music and editing it down for the want of a minimal extra commitment to the project is disrespectful to the fans and is inexcusable for a band that has such enormous resources available to invest in its legacy. As for the performances, Led Zeppelin could hardly sound more exhausted or distracted. There are occasional moments of inspiration, but fatigue and an air of remoteness define this album. It’s particularly traumatic to hear two of their most glorious tunes, the heavy Blues classics ‘Dazed And Confused’ and ‘Whole Lotta Love’, played with such an absence of feeling. Jimmy’s showboating in an overblown caricature of ‘Dazed’ is particularly tough to take. He solos at such excessive speed and for so long - the song is extended by 20 minutes – that his touch becomes clumsy and he reduces vast tracts of the song to a meaningless dirge. ‘Whole Lotta Love’ is even worse. The editing is tantamount to butchery, and Robert, who has a torrid time on this LP, seems unaware that he’s supposed to be fronting-up a hard rock song. The theramin section is given, of all things, a cheesy funk backing, before Jimmy provides a soulless, vapid Freddie King cameo. Perhaps unsurprisingly, three tracks from 1973’s ‘Houses Of The Holy' LP are the pick of the selections on a ‘live’ album recorded the same year. ‘No Quarter’ is particularly impressive, and it’s a huge disappointment that Kevin had to splice out the expertly-executed, slow-boil transition from piano to guitar in the interlude. The eponymous tune ‘The Song Remains The Same’ and ‘The Rain Song’ weren’t done justice on ‘HoTH’, but Robert nails the latter and both are much-improved. However, ‘Stairway To Heaven’ is unfocused and tired. In the 1972 'How The West Was Won' version, Robert sang the opening strains from the same fragile place he inhabited in the 'LZ4' original - and it's magical. Here he tries to get a foothold in the song but doesn't get close to connecting with it. Jimmy loses the impetus of the solo at one point before rescuing it and bringing it to a great finale. Perhaps tellingly, the band does seem to find meaning in ‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’, the forlorn minor-key Blues added as a bonus track. But the other extras are disappointing: there’s a big chunk missing from ‘Black Dog’, Robert sounds utterly drained singing ‘Over The Hills And Far Away’ and Led Zeppelin had outgrown ‘Heartbreaker’. This reissue demonstrates that no amount of digital tweaking can aggrandise below-par performances. Moreover, the jettisoning of musical passages Zeppelin fans had grown up with (e.g., the terrific guitar solo at the end of ‘Celebration Day’, the building of momentum in ‘No Quarter’) is terribly shoddy. Jimmy should have ditched this project in 1973, learnt from the experience and moved on. Coinciding with the advent of punk rock in 1976, ‘The Song Remains The Same’ was a self-inflicted injury that caused irreparable reputational damage to Led Zeppelin. It made them look obsolete barely a year after record shops in Europe and the US had been engulfed by fans queuing to buy ‘Physical Graffiti’ and it had been necessary to book ‘Zeppelin Express’ trains to transport the faithful from around the UK to those Earl’s Court shows in London.
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on 10 July 2008
Good to see this has finally been remastered and the extra songs are welcome. One thing I cannot understand though is No Quarter has been edited from the original version, the previous release was 12:30 in length, this version is around 2 minutes shorter with obvious cuts in the mid-song jam section. Why on earth would you re-master an original and then cut sections of a song out?
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on 10 March 2008
I agree with Tom from the some homework! This latest incarnation is just 'better' 'cos of the increased number of tracks. The quality on the whole is, in my opinion, much worse than the 'original' CD set, therefore it only gets 3 stars. The guitar solo in probably Jimmy Page's greatest riff, ie in 'No Quarter' is cut to shreds. Two minutes of that track are missing in this latest collection just so they can squeeze on the admittedly excellent 'Ocean', which is in the wrong place anyway as it was their encore and curtain closing number after 'Whole Lotta love' in their live set. The greatest guitar solo in guitar history, in Dazed and Confused, after the violin bow set, is of a horrible quality as it's just taken directly from the movie which was rubbish, has too much bass and therefore not enough sound quality, and hearing both this one and the 'original' you will realise why the original edit is better. You might think you're getting more, but you're not, honestly. Do like I've done...take the extra tracks (with those from How the West was Won as well), and make your own 'mix' of the best tracks from all 3 sources. Its the best of all worlds.
If you're just about to buy this as your first live Led Zepp album, just because its got 2007 stamped on it, you'll be making a mistake!!
I'd say get the 'original' CD set and then compare the same tracks with this one, you'll soon hear which one is the better!!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 30 December 2010
Still im not getting embroiled in any arguements over Jimmy Page's trickery/deceit ,call it what you will,im just enjoying this for what it is ,a better version ,on balance,than the original release.

Back in the day,the vinyl release was spoiled by a tedious side long 'Dazed n Confused,performed underwhelmingly by a band that sounded bored(Plant in particular) and the inexcusable decision to leave off 'Since I've Been Loving You'(which was one of the best bits in the original movie!!!).

Sadly the original CD release did nothing to improve the situation and it was no surprise when it was left out when all the discs were remastered.

So why should you buy this,well despite the studio trickery,edits and suchlike, the sound has improved enormously and the addition of 6 bonus tracks enhances rather than detracts from the overall package.

Disc 1 is 5 stars all the way with stunning moments such as 'Rock n Roll/Since I've Been.../The Ocean etc

Disc 2 has all the bloated,overlong moments such as Dazed and Confused/Moby Dick and Whole Lotta Love,they have all been performed better,its a pity bonus track Heartbreaker is stuck here,cos you wont listen to disc 2 as much as disc 1.

Overall 4 stars,improved sound quality,you can play disc 1 to death and ignore disc 2 if you wish,decent liner notes,and its great to have all the old photos back.It was never the greatest live album in the world in the first place,not sure why so many people expected the remaster to change that.
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on 7 January 2008
Keep well your old TRRS cd, cause this is practically another concert.
Incredibly, Jimmy Page edited or changed several songs that are way better than the ones
he put instead.
The best and non edited versions of the older cd are Celebration Day, The Song Remains The Same. Moby Dick, Whole Lotta Love and No Quarter -the incredible guitar solo is absolute killer. The new version is nowhere near it.
Listen carefully and you will notice . The new cd is great, but not like the first one.
Of course the remastered sound is better, so just enjoy both cd`s like different concerts, different day on the Madison Square Garden. Good Extra tracks count too.
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on 26 July 2014
I am going to start by saying that the versions of No Quarter and Stairway To Heaven on this live compilation are the best I have heard, with their respective extended solos being absolutely mind blowing. The rest of the songs are amazing too, with some interesting twists, licks, solos and flavours to these live versions of the well known Zeppelin songs.
I have both the 'old' and the remastered versions and the aside from the gripe from some fans about the questionable editing and patching together of songs from the three Madison Square Garden shows, there is no question that these performances capture the band during a time when they were at their peak.
Agreed that these songs don't represent the above MSG shows faithfully, but its still Led Zeppelin all the way and I feel it enhances rather than takes away anything from these songs.
The remastered version sounds absolutely brilliant and is a big improvement over the previous and the 6 new additions to this cracking album are a very welcome addition and was a long time coming.
The most noticeable difference between the two versions of this album, apart from the new additions is the slightly shorter jam session and solo on No Quarter, the slightly different solo on Celebration Day (from a different night I believe), the slightly longer version of Dazed and Confused and shorter version of Whole Lotta Love on the remastered album. The rest of the minor differences are so miniscule that you will not notice them. I don't know if its just me, but I find the solo of Stairway To Heaven on the old version of this album much clearer and better than the one on the remaster.
I suggest getting both the versions, the remastered one for the six new songs and the vastly improved sound and the previous version for the longer versions and different solos on No Quarter, Celebration Day and Whole Lotta Love.
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on 30 November 2007
There's was school of rock criticism, most prevalent at the NME in the '70s, that said almost all double albums should have been singles (and almost all live albums, unless they were by Sam Cooke or James Brown, should never have been released). Whole lifetimes were devoted to speculating what the world would have been like if The White Album had been a single platter. It all seems a bit academic now in the era of the cd and the download, but the Zep were hated in some quarters for releasing 2 doubles in the latter half of the '70s: their poor fans were being fleeced by these plutocratic rock stars it was felt.

I bought this with my paper round money after seeing it in Smiths, probably in the week of release (£6.49 I think). I liked the cover. I don't think I realised it was a live album 'til I got it home. It was my second Zep LP after Prescence, so clearly not yer standard rock school introduction to the band: but there must have been millions like me who came to their later stuff first? I remember being very disappointed by the studio version of stairway to heaven: it was so short!

What on earth did I make of it back then? The first 2 tracks were quite exciting, side 3 quite mellow, (the side I would come back to in later years: that's stairway & no quarter for neophytes). I would put Dazed and Confused on in the dark and try (and fail) to get into it. Moby Dick was used by my bedroom band as the drums for our home recordings (as was the crowd applause). Whole Lotta Love was just embarrassing.

So I've sort of grown up with this flawed album. And now with the expanded version you can get a much better experience of what a Zeppelin concert must have been like, but I can also see where Jimmy Page was coming from on the original release: he put on a couple of exciting tracks and then the ones that were completely different to the studio versions (dazed, no quarter, moby dick, whole lotta love). And he couldn't win then or now with critics.

I don't buy arguments that they were tired at the end of the tour: it seems just as energised as the critically well received The Way the West was Won. And I agree; I'm not a Zep expert, but it seems to be from a different show: different announcements, different song lengths, and a different sound. Most albums these days get decanted into the ipod and tracks listened to at random; it may be the upcoming concert (for which like most of the western world I haven't got tickets) but I keep putting this on (my wife isn't so impressed). And for some reason, unloading the dishwasher last night, Dazed and Confused sounded great!
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VINE VOICEon 26 November 2007
I bought this album the day it was originally released and the consensus among friends was that it was a disappointment. In a decade when so many less-regarded rock bands released exciting, classic live albums, it was a surprise that Zep failed to match them. The old faults are still there and tend to be on the better-known songs on the second disc. It's something of an endurance test too. The original album featured nine tracks across 100 minutes. The additional tracks add half an hour.

What makes this album so appealing for me is the brilliance of the first disc, which constitutes an hour of great value rock music, some of it high-energy, some of it beautiful. The segued opening tracks, 'Rock and Roll' and 'Celebration Day' comprise some of the most exciting live music you'll hear and were the biggest highlights of the LP release. The playing is incendiary, a quality that was restricted on the studio version of the former track. Most of the other less-heralded tracks also come into their own in the live arena, though 'Black Dog' and 'Misty Mountain Hop' arguably lack that extra kick.

Meanwhile, 'The Rain Song' is even tastier than its studio counterpart. Robert Plant's sensitive delivery complements Jimmy Page's gentle, dripping, epiphanic notes. The menacing blues of 'Since I've Been Loving You' is a winner as is the buoyant 'Over the Hills and Far Away.' 'The Ocean,' which always sounded to me like the sort of thing Zep could knock off in five minutes, is a joy in this context.

J.P. Jones's eerie 'No Quarter' is moved on to the first disc in exchange for the gargantuan version of 'Dazed and Confused' which took up the whole of the second side of the LP. 26 minutes seemed too long then and it does now, regardless of sundry effects and Page's guitar bowing. The momentum of the first disc is lost. 'Stairway to Heaven,' not surprisingly, doesn't match up to the standard of the original. 'Moby Dick,' which featured a drum solo of acceptable length on Zep II, becomes the dreaded extended version here. The new track, 'Heartbreaker,' is a welcome addition, but 'Whole Lotta Love' splutters to the end. Trying to replace/replicate the weird middle section was always going to be tough.

Despite its shortcomings, I reckon 'The Song Remains The Same' is full value for its price, given that you get a killer disc lasting an hour. You can always skip the second one.
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on 26 December 2007
With an improved sound and the addition of 'Heartbreaker' and a cracking 'Since ive been loving you' this should have been contesting for the number 1 live album slot with 'Who live at Leeds'

But instead Jimmy Page decided, in what could only be described as a fit of pure insanity, to edit some of the tracks.

The butchering of 'No Quarter' is particularly hard to take as the (now missing) instrumental section on the original album was it's finest moment.

Which just leaves it at number 1 in the most ironic album title chart. What a shame.
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on 19 November 2007
The film was certainly not the best rock 'n' roll film ever. But the soundtrack album (bought in vinyl on release day by me)was the first chance to get a legal live Led Zeppelin album; and so things remained for many years.

The original release suffered from pretty poor sound, even for the early '70s.

I am so pleased that Page has got round to remastering this bugger, and to putting some unreleased stuff on it as well. "Heartbreaker" has been my favourite live Led Zeppelin number since I saw them for the first time at Bath in 1970.* I still cannot get enough live renditions of that one. In the film it did not appear properly, being broken up by footage of worries about the robbery event, that actually made no-one concerned poor. The full song is here at last.

This set probably does not capture the band on their very best night in terms of hitting the right note every time. But it captures the strength and improvisational ability of what was at the time the real best rock 'n' roll band in the world. The Stones and The Who were terrific, but joint second behind Led Zeppelin.

Anyone who does not buy this has a major gap in their collection.

*And I was at Knebworth 2 when they still didn't play "Heartbreaker," having played it the week before.
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