The Song Does Not Remain the Same
By LANDON JAMES
Led Zeppelin added a delicious maraschino cherry to the top of their 2007 double-decker sundae.
The chocolate scoop, and the core of the sundae, was their Dec. 10, 2007 live reunion performance in London’s O2 Arena during the Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert.
Previous to the concert the band released “Mothership,” a two-CD greatest hits compilation, and gained global success through record sales…not like they needed it.
This was obviously the strawberry scoop.
However, the cherry on top is a special edition re-release of Led Zeppelin’s 1976 movie “The Song Remains the Same,” documenting the band’s famous 1973 Madison Square Garden performances.
However, there are many things that are not the same as the original release, and no, the DVD doesn’t come with a joint.
Under the guise of the band’s remaining virtuosos, the film’s soundtrack has been re-mastered and Dolby 5.1 digitally remixed, and it sounds fantastic. Thanks to the new remastering, you get an even bigger taste of what it feels like to have your inner ear explode into a thousand pieces; something Zeppelin has always been famous for doing to its audiences.
However, this is a film, not a concert, and first-time viewers may be shocked at the added thematic sequences customary of films produced in the 1970s.
The film’s goal in the beginning, in addition to providing superior concert footage, was to portray Led Zeppelin’s members—Robert Plant on vocals, Jimmy Page on lead guitar, John Paul Jones on bass and piano/organ, and John Bonham on drums—in their natural habitats. The result is an eclectic, enchanting and entrancing film.
The film starts out with band manager Peter Grant dressed as a 1930s gangster. With Tommy guns in tote, Grant and his gang attack a fellow group of mobsters, which include a werewolf, a panty-hosed faceless toadie and mobsters bleeding all the colors of the rainbow.
However, this theatrical scene is one of the more docile of the film.
The concert begins with the thunderous “Rock and Roll,” which is my personal favorite performance on this disk. Immediately the sound and visuals are remarkably better than the original release of the film.
They quickly move right into “Black Dog,” playing so ferociously that it will make you and your momma want to sweat.
Zeppelin brings the momentum to slow haul as they deliver a heart and soul-wrenching performance of “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” the apex of Zeppelin’s efforts in white man’s blues. This performance is the crème de’ le crème and rips at your gut like a rusty knife, forcing you to put your soul on the table as you absorb this emotional rollercoaster.
Page’s guitar playing is creepier than ever and you feel like someone is watching you the entire time; however, who’s to say the late great Bonham isn’t watching from the big gig in the sky?
Furthermore, Page lays his guitar so low on his crotch that it is entirely possible that his genitals played most of the solos on this film.
“No Quarter” is delivered as a Viking call-to-arms with Bonham, the mighty hammerhead, driving the song as if possessed by a late 19th century slave driver.
The set progresses with a dynamic “The Song Remains the Same” and a beautiful and urbane rendition of “All My Love.”
“Dazed and Confused” drags on for a remarkable 28 minutes; however, interspersed theatrical cut scenes take away from potentially beautiful concert footage.
Plant introduces “Stairway to Heaven” as “a song of hope” and Zeppelin delivers its message on the wings of doves as it slowly builds to a mighty thunderstorm.
Bonham’s claim-to-fame, “Moby Dick,” is up next, featuring his famous drum solo (at parts he uses his bare hands), followed by “Heartbreaker” and concluding with “Whole Lotta Love.”
The concert footage is superb and is a compilation of performances from both nights of the Madison Square Gardens shows.
Dispersed throughout the film, the band members take on their iconic theatrical roles.
Bonham is pictured drag racing; Plant, dressed as a Viking leader, storms a castle; Jones reads fairy tales to his children and Page scales a cliff under a fool moon for seemingly demonic means.
That’s all on the first disc. The second offers spectacular extras previously unavailable in the first release.
This includes previously unreleased performances of “Celebration Day” and “Over the Hills and Far Away,” BBC interviews and much more.
This, in my opinion, is not the best compilation of Zeppelin footage out there.
The theatrical bits can be a bit cheesy and can come at times when I would rather be watching the stage, but they’re endearing nonetheless.
Before buying this film I would recommend buying “How the West Was Won” to quench your Zeppelin hunger.
In the end, I give “The Song Remains the Same Special Edition” 3.5 faceless mobsters out of five.