Classic Rock Review

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Led Zeppelin The Song Remains The Same (1976)


This album was recorded in 1973 in Madison Square Garden for a three day concert for Led Zeppelin. The album has less songs than the movie but is a fantastic live album.

Celebration Day – This live version of Celebration Day is one of the best versions. One of Zeppelin’s great songs off the third album. Bonham’s drumming is superb. The solo from Jimmy is absolutley amazing. The LZ III version is slightly shorter than the live one. But Zeppelin knows how to rock out in 4 minutes. 4.9/5

Dazed and Confused – JPJ’s bass is stunning here as it opens to a wah wah guitar. This 27 minute song features great guitar work, singing. bass play, and drumming.(I know they always do). Not only does Robert mimic Jimmy’s licks, but also Bonham does too. This shows how diverse Bonham is. Not only can he rock with a set order, but can also improvise to Jimmy’s improvisation! Right before the solo (after the ridiculous bow solo) JPJ goes nuts on his bass. This song maybe the highlight of the album. 5/5

Moby Dick – The all knowing riff that hits your spine is even heavier live. Page showboats with in the DVD with fancy moves. But this song is about none other than BONZO!!! The 10 minute solo features gong playing, hand playing, and really fast stick playing. Throughout the whole thing Bonham is utilizing his foot and playing a cymbal with shakers on top. Then after he is done with his hands, Jimmy and John Paul rejoins him to finish it up. A fabulous solo song with no lyrics. 5/5

No Quarter – Another long song that Jimmy uses alot of fuzz effect on his guitar. The solo is also stunning. This is where John Paul Jones shines on his keyboard. (This guy plays everything you throw at him). Not only is he good at bass and the mandolin and the twelve string guitar but the keyboard and synth is amazing. The band works into his shinning moment with him and Bonzo lightly tapping on drums to accompany him. A good song with great lyrics. 4.5/5

Rain Song – Robert’s personal favorite that he wrote. Not much to say about this one other than it is a slow song that relaxs the crowd before they start to rock out again. Robert’s voice is what stands out in this song. He has different changes of pitch and tone. Bonham drumming is what is great at the end of the song along with the keyboard. 4/5

Rock and Roll – The DVD opener. Jimmy is playing guitar one and guitar two on the same guitar. He plays the opening riff first then quickly moves to the higher pitch riff. It sounds really cool. The most lively song on the album. 5/5

Stairway to Heaven – The Zeppelin song and they did not dissapoint in this version. Jimmy plays the first half of the song on the upper half of the doublenecked guitar which is the twelve string part. JPJ’s keyboard is really soothing. Robert’s voice is fantastic in this song. The solo comes at 6:30 and blows any other version out of THE water. He really really blows my mind with trills and hammer on and pull offs. It seems like this is the best part of the album and just kicks ARSE. All I can say is WOW. 10/5

Whole Lotta Love – They really get the crowd rolling wiht this song and I can understand why. Plant really shows what he is made of and shows it off. The Theramin solo is very trippy. That goes on for like 4 minutes and Jimmy just fools around with the machine. Then the incorporated songs start. Boogie Chillun’. It was first performed by John Lee Hooker. Zeppelin shows that their roots are still within them. A great song. 5/5

The Song Remains The Same – ANother song where Jimmy plays the twelve string and he just goes to town on this song. Robert has alot of fun and sings his heart out on the album and concert closer. Another Zeppelin classic off of HOTH. This live version is sooo much better than the album. GREAT drum work by Bonham. This is one of my favorites. 5/5

This album deserves more than a 5. Zeppelin went over the at this concert and had a great set list. Jimmy did a great job putting the album together. If you liked this I suggest to buy the DVD. The Song Remains The Same.

March 27, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin The Song Remains The Same | | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin The Song Remains The Same (1976)


A soundtrack to a somewhat kinky movie featuring Led Zeppelin onstage and Led Zeppelin in their sick medieval fantasy sequences, this wasn’t released until in 1976, already after the release of both Physical Graffiti and Presence, but this is where it belongs chronologically, because all of the material was filmed and recorded on the Houses Of The Holy tour.

I hated the movie totally and uncompromisingly, but now I realize it was primarily because of the fantasy sequences (my God, these guys managed to combine utmost banality with childish horror games. Ehh.

If, according to Cameron Crowe’s liner notes, through these sequences we can really ‘view the images in Page’s mind during “Dazed And Confused”‘, I suppose I’d better set up my own images.) The live material is actually quite strong, although rumour has it that none of the band members ever liked their level of performing at the actually filmed shows. Whatever. The material is good.

What might put you off is that this is a double album with but nine tracks, most of them approaching or exceeding the ten-minute limit, and one going far beyond twenty minutes! Apparently, Led Zep were worthy disciples of Cream and worthy concurrents of Yes and Genesis. More the former, though, as the lengthy tunes are mostly filled to the brim with sparkling Page solos.

If you didn’t like these solos in the first place, you’ll dance on the album; if you did enjoy the studio versions, but hate lengthy solofests in general, you’ll listen to it once and shove it onto the racks. But if you, like me, respect Page the guitar man better than Page the dark songwriter, you’ll be thrilled by a large part of what you’ll hear.

The track selection draws heavily on Houses, certainly, plus evergreens like ‘Stairway To Heaven’, ‘Rock And Roll’, ‘Dazed And Confused’, ‘Moby Dick’ and ‘Whole Lotta Love’. However, again in the Cream tradition, the songs don’t sound at all similar to their studio originals. ‘Rock And Roll’ is raw, dripping with energy and distorted power chords a la Pete Townshend, and it could even surpass the original were it not for Plant’s muddy vocals: not only isn’t he in top form, he’s also mixed very badly.

But this is all rendered unimportant as long as you realize the great virtuosity of Page who is able to carry on the brontosauric riffage and add some pretty fine staccato solos on top of that. ‘The Song Remains The Same’ and ‘Celebration Day’ are unimpressive, although Page’s guitarwork is again superb. But from then on, everything goes just fine: ‘The Rain Song’ manages to recreate the gentle ‘orchestral’ feel of the original, with J. P. Jones playing some masterful and moody Mellotron instead of the strings.

And then there’s ‘Dazed And Confused’… what can I say about this twenty seven minute long version of ‘Dazed And Confused’? Well, the lengthy bowed guitar part makes me jump up in my chair as if it were a dentist’s one, but apart from that, the tune’s good, with Page ripping out all kinds of solos and even throwing in a line from ‘If You’re Going To San Francisco’ for no special reason. Of course, no song deserves to be twenty-seven minutes long, but once you get used to it, you’ll also get drawn in, sure as hell.

The introduction section alone is well worth it: Jones’ bassline is given the full potential of blossoming (and sending rows of uncontrolled shivers and small furry animals down your spine), while Page masterfully increases the tension by playing a chaotic, apocalyptic pattern. And then, after all, one mustn’t forget the finger-flashing technique: ‘Dazed And Confused’ was the most self-indulgent Jimmy ever got, and this is one case of self-indulgency I can easily tolerate. (Trivia bit: did you know that ‘Dazed And Confused’ got thrown out of the setlist each time Page jammed his fingers? Which happened at least twice, if my memory serves me well).

And well, the second disc is pretty much flawless. ‘No Quarter’ is as good as the studio counterpart and maybe better; it’s given a somewhat harder treatment, but that doesn’t spoil it none, and this is also the only track on the album where Plant’s vocals are really superb (the refrain was strangely muddled on the studio version). ‘Stairway To Heaven’ is okay, with a much lengthier and more climactic solo; ‘Moby Dick’ is horrible just like any twelve-minute drum solo would be, but there’s nothing particularly offensive about it; and ‘Whole Lotta Love’ is breathtaking, with Page engaging in battle against the theramin and then suddenly turning the song into a frenetic boogie-woogie before returning back to the menacing riff for the closing part.

Truly, I don’t know why some fans lament here, claiming this live album to be a letdown. Go listen to Who’s Last for a letdown. Go listen to Live At Leeds for a ‘best-of’ live album. This one is just normal: flawed, but listenable. In fact, strange as it might seem, this is the Led Zep album I listen to most of all, just because it substitutes a greatest hits collection for me. The rare case of a Led Zep album with no bad songs at all (‘cept the title track, of course).

In fact, the only major complaints I can skedaddle out of myself is the sound quality (the mix is often poor – particularly on the first several songs) and Plant’s vocals, which are getting super-obnoxious. The man feels a necessity to adlib anything, and anywhere, and sometimes he gets so carried away he starts adlibbing even in those spots where he’s actually supposed to, you know, like, sing. Otherwise, there’s no reason to detest the album.

That said, The BBC Sessions are still a better bet for your first live Led Zep experience in almost every respect – except that there’s no ‘No Quarter’ on ’em.

March 9, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin The Song Remains The Same | | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin The Song Remains The Same (Remastered & Expanded) (2007)


There’s a memorable scene in Joel Schumacher’s 1994 film The Client where lawyer Reggie Love, played by Susan Sarandon, is challenged to name her favorite Led Zeppelin track by the cocky young kid she’s representing. After giving it some thought she replies “Moby Dick, live version. Bitchin’ drum solo!” The live version she’s referring to is found on the soundtrack album of Led Zep’s bloated and self-indulgent cinematic endeavor The Song Remains The Same.

Re-released in a newly expanded form, The Song Remains The Same CD now boasts a generous total of six bonus tracks not featured on the original release, as well as liner notes from former Rolling Stone editor Cameron Crowe. Originally released in 1976, the album provides a captivating, if somewhat lackluster, snapshot of Led Zeppelin at the apex of their ascendancy to global domination as the biggest, boldest and loudest rock band in the world.

While the film itself is an artless mishmash of candid backstage clips, concert footage and four dubious fantasy sections (one centering on each band member), the soundtrack album thankfully focuses exclusively on the live concert material.

Recorded by legendary sound engineer Eddie Kramer, the music is taken from three concerts the band performed at Madison Square Gardens on July 27-29, 1973. In this new expanded edition, the bonus tracks have been inserted throughout the running order to more accurately represent the set lists from those three nights in New York.

Kevin Shirley, who previously worked on the band’s How The West Was Won live album and 2005’s Led Zeppelin DVD, has worked wonders with the remastering of this album. Gone is the dull, tinny sound of the original album and in its place is a glorious brand-new mix, overseen by the band, that sonically sweetens the album immensely — breathing new life into what is, it must be conceded, a fairly pedestrian example of the band’s live repertoire.

This reissue, like the original album, opens strongly enough though with a hi-octane rendition of the classic song “Rock And Roll.” Jimmy Page’s revved up guitar howls viciously like a banshee and the explosive fury of John Bonham’s drumming comes on with a sound like a wrecking-ball colliding with condemned masonry. This opening salvo segues effortlessly into the second track “Celebration Day,” not giving the audience time to breathe. As a testimony to how potent the band had become at working the concert format to maximum effect by this stage in their career, it’s an unbeatable one-two combination.

The version of “Dazed And Confused” here clocks in at almost a full half an hour in length and is indicative of the worst musical excesses of the era. Led Zeppelin were never ones to shy away from stretching their songs out to extreme lengths in a live setting, and this track is certainly no exception. It starts off slowly, stirring like some awakening behemoth with John Paul Jones’ leaden bass intro leading the way for Jimmy Page’s chiming harmonics and Robert Plant’s opening vocal lines. Page takes the opportunity during this song to perform his party-trick of playing the guitar with a violin-bow and Plant playfully drops in a few lines from Scott McKenzie’s Summer Of Love anthem “San Francisco (Wear Some Flowers In Your Hair).” It’s during this violin-bow digression in “Dazed And Confused” that you get an opportunity to hear just how consummate a guitarist Jimmy Page really is. This is not just some ego-fuelled showboating but, instead, the sound of a virtuoso musician experimenting with the form and yet always remaining focused on the structure of the song.

Of the new bonus tracks, “Misty Mountain Hop” probably hits the hardest, skilfully weaving the mythology and mysticism of the song’s lyrics around Bonham, Page and Jones’ strident, indefatigable groove. Other highlights are an achingly melancholy rendition of “The Rain Song” and a crowd-pleasing version of the perennial “Stairway To Heaven,” introduced by Plant with the words “This is a song of hope.” The album closes with a disappointingly dull version of “Whole Lotta Love,” which features a cheeky rendition of John Lee Hooker’s “Let That Boy Boogie” midway through the song, as if to acknowledge the debt the band owes to the blues.

It has to be said that although this album is a solid enough example of what a Led Zeppelin show was all about, the underlying problem is that The Song Remains The Same doesn’t come close to demonstrating just how incendiary the band could be in concert. Anyone who saw the Led Zeppelin DVD or heard How The West Was Won could attest to that. Many of the performances here are accomplished but somehow lacking in real fire and passion — a fact the band was acutely aware of, prompting Page to comment upon the album’s original release “Obviously we were committed to putting this album out, although it wasn’t necessarily the best live stuff we have. I don’t look upon it as a live album…it’s essentially a soundtrack.”

Still, with the excellent remastered sound and generous helping of bonus tracks, there’s plenty on offer here for fans looking to upgrade their collection with this new edition. For those just wanting a taste of what Led Zeppelin were like live, this album is reasonable enough, but there are much better examples of the band’s live prowess available on the How The West Was Won CD.

March 5, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin The Song Remains The Same | | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin: The Song Remains The Same (1976)


For those of us either too young to have seen Led Zeppelin perform in person or without access to the many bootleg recordings floating around, our introduction to the live Zeppelin experience was the 1976 film The Song Remains the Same. While the visual impact of the band was formidable, the preening, hiphuggered Robert Plant in full Golden God mode, Jimmy Page sporting his Les Paul and SG Double Neck, the burly John Bonham delivering thunderous beats, and the understated, professional-looking John Paul Jones anchoring it all on bass and keyboards, the sound left a bit to be desired. Not that these guys were incapable of sending chills down our spines, as on the blues-drenched ballad “Since I’ve Been Loving You” and the (literally) incendiary finale “Whole Lotta Love”, but the overall impact of the music was more clunky than awe-inspiring, the soundtrack often out of sync with the sloppily edited film footage. Couple that with the fact that the actual movie was a gargantuan mess, part docudrama, part concert film, part pretentious wankery, and the whole experience ended up feeling rather hollow.

The Song Remains the Same album didn’t exactly help matters. Not only did the overall mix by Page and Eddie Kramer sound tepid and stale, but it was more of an assemblage than an actual live album. Recorded during a three night stint at New York’s Madison Square Garden in the summer of 1973, the “soundtrack album” (aptly playing down the “live album” tag) had Page audaciously attempting to improve on the performances by splicing together bits and pieces from different shows into the same songs. Admittedly, Page did a terrific job on the double LP, the alterations virtually undetectable by casual listeners, but no matter how cleverly it was pieced together, much of the album lacked the kind of punch we were hoping for.

The bloated nature of The Song Remains the Same made 1997’s ferocious BBC Sessions and 2003’s How the West Was Won and Led Zeppelin DVD such revelations for many. Recorded at two shows in 1972, the three-disc How the West Was Won was especially a scorcher, the band sounding like the world conquerors they were purported to be. The collaboration with Kevin Shirley, who provided stunning mixes for both the CD and the DVD, was obviously too good a pairing for Page not to try another project, so the two reconvened in 2007, this time to give the much beleaguered The Song Remains the Same a thorough spit and polish. While the remastered, expanded product still does not come close to How the West Was Won, it’s nevertheless a significant improvement over the original album.

What fans will notice immediately is the inclusion of six additional songs that were left out, as well as the differing lengths of the other songs compared to the original tracks. While no details about each of the album’s tracks are given (though the Garden Tapes website will likely figure that out for us before long), the album has been assembled to reflect the full set of the July 28, 1973 performance (save for encore “The Ocean”, which is tacked onto the end of the first disc). What hits us immediately, though, is Shirley’s superb mix, which has more of a live feel to it, the crowd mixed a little higher and Jones’s bass sounding much more prominent than before.

Unlike West, which explodes out of the gate with “Immigrant Song”, the 1973 performances clearly show a band that sounds exhausted, and in spite of the punchier mix, it doesn’t change the fact that it takes a while for these guys to get going. “Rock and Roll” is one of the greatest opening tracks in rock ‘n’ roll history, but you can’t tell it from the lugubrious, stilted performance here, Bonham not so much propelling the song as pulling it back with his lugubrious backbeat, Page not sounding as nimble as he usually does, and Plant singing an octave lower, likely the aftereffects of throat surgery earlier that year. “Black Dog” and “Over the Hills and Far Away” plod along, the latter paling in comparison to the How the West Was Won version, but it’s not long before things pick up, as on “Misty Mountain Hop”, which has the band finally finding its trademark swagger.

Ironically, it’s not the short rockers that make this album worthwhile, as the more moody epics dominate the majority of the set, showcasing the band’s versatility, not to mention audacity. They were rock royalty and they knew it, and the longer tracks project the kind of bloated grandeur that added to the larger than life mystique to some, and sounded like mere tossing off to others. The previously unreleased “Since I’ve Been Loving You” features brilliant interplay between Page and Plant and “The Rain Song” is gorgeous and grandiose, while the murky “No Quarter” takes the chilly mood of the Houses of the Holy original and amplifies it a hundredfold, Bonham’s flange-tinged cymbal crashes and Page’s wah-wah pedal adding to the atmosphere. Mercifully, Bonham’s solo during “Moby Dick” is kept to its edited 11 minute length (we don’t ever need to hear a half hour drum solo, no matter how great the drummer), but it’s dwarfed by the centerpiece “Dazed and Confused”, which famously carries on for nearly half an hour. The song tests our patience, but for all the gimmicks (mainly Page’s extended bowed guitar solo), it’s a surprisingly structured opus that plays up the rock theatrics especially well, a snapshot of 1970s dinosaur rock at its most excessive.

Bloated, tired, excessive, or downright god-like, however you want to describe Led Zeppelin during this period of their career, the power of The Song Remains the Same‘s version of “Stairway to Heaven” is undeniable, the concert staple highlighted by an inspired extended solo by Page. Shirley’s mix helps things tremendously, especially during the song’s climactic final third, those famous double-mirror images from the film of Page and his double-necked SG forever ingrained in our minds, the song careening towards its euphoric, exhausted conclusion. The album might not be the essential Zeppelin live document, but this expanded version is still a worthwhile glimpse at a key moment in the band’s storied career.

May 15, 2010 Posted by | Led Zeppelin The Song Remains The Same | | Leave a comment