Classic Rock Review

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Led Zeppelin Good Times Bad Times DVD (2012)


Review Let’s get it out of the way- this is an absolutely fantastic set and shouldn’t be missed. The video quality is excellent, as is the sound, and it’s an absolute bargain given the 5+ hour running time. Buy it now.
So why only four stars? Well, the production team couldn’t just stop at a masterful restoration of the deteriorated masters- they had to ‘improve’ it.

Bootleg videos of the vast majority of this material has been floating around for years, and having seen much of it, I can vouch for the astounding restoration work this set represents. On the other hand, they saw fit to reedit nearly all the sequences to a 90’s MTV aesthetic.

Where the original may show a 10 second shot of Page’s hands playing a solo, this version will feature 4 or 5 fast intercuts to footage of Plant clapping (culled from earlier in the set), digitally fuzzified and pseudo-shakycam versions of the original shot of Page’s handwork, an audience shot culled from another show, another shot of Plant digitally slowed down in an attempt to make his clapping sync with the audio, etc., etc., ad infinitum.

In some instances it’s apparent that this was done to cover minor glitches (probably unrestorable) in the video, but the vast majority of the embellishment is in sequences with excellent quality. The fuzzy faux-shakycam treatment is particularly galling, since it’s such a cliche in recent MTV fare and obscures some truly lovely passages.

I’m not expecting an historical document, so I have no problem with the usual monkeying with the set order or the merciful editing of Plant’s traditional lengthy (and quite stoned) patter between songs, but every time one of these ‘improved’ segments kicks in I’m left longing for the beautiful set that would have remained had the producers stopped after the restoration process. Sometimes less is more.

Review Before purchasing this DVD set, you must ask yourself this simple question: “Am I a true Led Zeppelin fan or do I just like a few songs I hear on the radio?”
If you are just a casual fan who likes the cuts they hear on the radio and may own an album or two, this DVD is definitely not for you. This DVD is for the hardest of hardcore Led Zeppelin fans. For those of us who weren’t fortunate enough to be around during Zeppelin’s heyday, then this DVD is a dream come true.

For years I had heard all the stories about how amazing Led Zeppelin’s live shows were. Of course I’ve seen “The Song Remains the Same” countless times and have a few bootlegs that are just good enough to tease. After completing just half of the first DVD, I felt that I had finally found the Zeppelin Holy Grail.

The performances on this DVD don’t completely live up to the hype, but they sure do come close. While the performances themselves are amazing, it’s the little things that really turned me on. Watching how the band communicates through their improv sessions, the fact that John Bonham sung backup on Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp, seeing John Paul Jones playing the mandolin parts that I always thought were Jimmy’s, and countless other little bits that make it all worth the watch.

I’m not going to state that all the performances are perfect, because they certainly are not. The reason Led Zeppelin’s live shows were so legendary was because of how much improvisation they emphasize in the performances. It’s extremely rare to see that in a Rock and Roll band outside of the Dead. I believe the band maintained the ethic that sure it may not be perfect, and sometimes downright messy, but when they get into a groove, it’s truly lightning in a bottle. These improvised jams tend to be something that only musicians with jazz or blues backgrounds tend to understand. That’s exactly why Led Zeppelin was in a class all their own.

I personally tend to disagree with those that make Led Zeppelin out to be the fathers of heavy metal. True, they were a major influence then and now, but it’s got too much of a base in blues and jazz to be compared to Metal. I think we’re better off leaving that title to the likes of Black Sabbath. After seeing and hearing some of the material on this DVD it just re-emphasized this thought. The concert at Royal Albert Hall is just one blues jam after another with hints of their songs thrown in to give it a sense of cohesion.

For all of those musicians out there who idolized Jimmy Page as I did, you will not be disappointed in the slightest. To see how he communicates with the rest of the band as he goes through his wild improvisations is simply amazing. While it is true that Jimmy tends to be a very sloppy guitarist, it doesn’t change the fact that when he’s on, he’s REALLY on. To me the term “sloppy” is kind of silly. No he’s not precise like your Joe Satriani’s or Eddie Van Halen’s, he is however extremely musical. To be as improvisation oriented as he is takes a lot of talent, knowledge, and well…balls. Something that many of today’s guitarists simply don’t have.

While I love going to rock concerts to listen to my favorite bands, I always feel a bit ripped off because what is being performed is almost identical to what you were just listening to on the radio coming to the show. This can never be said about Led Zeppelin’s live performances. Every night is its own experience.

That is captured, for the most part, throughout this DVD. As I have repeatedly stated, these performances are more jams than just song after song. If you watch this DVD over and over again, sure you will find tons of musical mistakes. However, if you take it for what it is, a single moment in time, then you can’t deny its power. Led Zeppelin was one of the gutsiest, energetic, and awe inspiring live bands in the history of music.

If you are a musician and don’t find this to be a major educational and emotional experience, then in my humble opinion, it’s time to re-evaluate what music is to you. To me music was always a way to convey an emotional state through your performance. If you limit yourself to a pre-existing structure, then you’ve just taken away the essence of what the music was meant to be.

Essence. That is what this DVD is. The essence of the music, culture, and time that was all Led Zeppelin’s.

May 23, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Good Times Bad Times DVD | , | Leave a comment