Yes everyone knows about this dreadful overblown mess don't they?
Nine songs on a double album, ridiculously extended versions of Moby Dick and Dazed & Confused, embarassingly self indulgent and pretentious fantasy sequences in the film, all released just as Punk was about to blast away bands like Led Zep into History....
Maybe the last bit is closest to the truth - 1976 was an unfortunate release date for all bands like Led Zep and it was unlikely, to say the least, that it was going to match up with the predecessor 'Physical Graffiti'.
So the Music Papers lambasted it and nascent Zeppelin collections were dumped at charity shops in favour of the Pistols & the Clash. In addition a glut of denim hit the UK as millions of pairs of flaired Jeans also ended up at the same charity shops.
The Song Remains the Same was backed into the Forbidden Zone of Albums Best Avoided and quietly forgotten except as a definition of hubris....
So thirty years on how is it really? Well I shall restrict myself to the soundtrack and not pass comment on the fantasy sequences etc. in the film except to say they were, ahem, of their time...
Unbelievably, listening for the first time in almost 15 years, it sounds bloody good! Rock & Roll sounds very little like the multi-tracked (overproduced?) album version but boy does it go! And where it goes is straight into Celebration Day - well any track of my favourite Led Zeppelin album (III) is OK by me and it also rocks in the approved manner.
Next two tracks are OK & no more as neither The Song Remains the Same or Rain Song are particular favourites of mine. I suppose it means we have live versions of them but why didn't they put Black Dog, Since I've Been Loving You or The Ocean on the album instead? Luckily all those with the How the West was Won DVD can see these 'out-takes' - the last two mentioned are absolutely blinding versions!
The biggest surprise on the album is the coming 26 minutes and 53 seconds of Dazed & Confused - far better than any other version I have heard and nothing like the overlong and overblown memory I have of it. This & No Quarter alone are worth the price of the album.
Talking of which.... CD2 starts with 12 and half minutes of No Quarter which is so superior to the Houses of the Holy version that it could be a different song. Page pulls out a blistering yet restrained solo - magical!
Following up we get Stairway to Heaven which I can safely say is now approaching the bottom of the pile of Led Zep tracks I want to listen to - heresy I know but thats what happens when you overplay anything.
Next up is, sadly, fast foward time also known as Moby Dick. If Punk/New Wave did anthing for us it was irrigation, roads, viniculture, law and order - oops sorry no it was getting rid of the Obligatory Drum Solo from live albums. Sorry it is track only a drummer could love.
Finally we have a lengthened or truncated version of Whole Lotta Love depending on if you have got the original, BBC Sessions or How the West was Won versions. Sort of falls between two stools and perhaps typifies the whole project.
My suggestion would be a revised and rehabilitated album with all the outtakes off How the West was Won, minus The Song Remains the Same, Rain Song, Stairway (told you I was a Heretic!) & especially Moby Dick.