Led Zeppelin: The Song Remains the Same – [Record 197]

Led Zeppelin: The Song Remains the Same.

The Song Remains the Same is the live soundtrack album of the concert film of the same name by the English rock band Led Zeppelin. The album was originally released in October 1976, before being remastered and reissued in 2007.

Record One. Side One.
1. Rock and Roll.
2. Celebration Day.
3. The Song Remains the Same.
4. The Rain Song.

Record One. Side Two.
1. Dazed and Confused.

Record Two. Side Three.
1. No Quarter.
2. Stairway to Heaven.

Record Two. Side Four.
1. Moby Dick.
2. Whole Lotta Love.

The Wiki.

Overview: The recording of the album and the film took place during three nights of concerts at New York’s Madison Square Garden, during the band’s 1973 North American tour. All songs were recorded by Eddie Kramer using the Wally Heider Mobile Studio truck, and later mixed at Electric Lady Studios in New York and Trident Studios in London.

The album was released on 22 October 1976, by Swan Song Records. The sleeve design depicted a dilapidated movie house located on Old Street film studios in London, which was used by the group for rehearsals prior to their 1973 tour.

Until both the album and the film were remastered and re-released in 2007, there were significant differences between the two in terms of the songs included on each. These differences were as follows:

  • The film included “Black Dog”, but not “Celebration Day”.
  • The soundtrack album included “Celebration Day”, but not “Black Dog”.
  • The film also included “Since I’ve Been Loving You”, the introduction to “Heartbreaker”, the instrumental “Bron-Yr-Aur” (which appeared on Physical Graffiti) and a hurdy-gurdy piece called “Autumn Lake”, none of which were featured on the album.

In addition, of the songs that both the album and the film had in common, some of the recordings featured on the album were of different performances from those in the film. Other tracks which were recorded at Madison Square Garden, but omitted from both the film and the soundtrack album, included “Over The Hills and Far Away”, “The Ocean” and “Misty Mountain Hop”. A comprehensive analysis of the sources of the original album and the edits is available at The Garden Tapes.

2007 reissue: The Song Remains The Same soundtrack album was reissued on CD on 20 November 2007, with the surviving band members having overseen the remixing and remastering of the original release. This coincided with the re-issue of the film, released on HD-DVD, Blu-ray and DVD. The new version of the soundtrack included six songs that were not on the original album release: “Black Dog”, “Over the Hills and Far Away”, “Misty Mountain Hop”, “Since I’ve Been Loving You”, “The Ocean” and “Heartbreaker”, plus new liner notes by Cameron Crowe.

With the 2007 re-release of both the album and film, the songs were synchronised so that the full set-list from the concerts was available on both, with each song mixed the same way.Led Zeppelin guitarist and producer Jimmy Page explained:

We have revisited The Song Remains The Same and can now offer the complete set as played at Madison Square Garden. This differs substantially from the original soundtrack released in 1976, and highlights the technical prowess of Kevin Shirley, who worked with us on How The West Was Won.

Due to legal complications, the band decided not to change the video portion of the original movie for the re-release. Instead, Shirley created an entirely new mix of the three 1973 Madison Square Garden concerts so that the audio portion of the film would better match the on-screen visuals. The audio on the new CD release was nearly identical to the soundtrack of the new DVD release. One difference was that the songs included on the CDs that were not featured in the original movie were included as bonus tracks on the DVD.

The audio mixes also differed from those found on the 2003 Led Zeppelin DVD. The most obvious example is that “Black Dog” was two minutes longer on the 2003 DVD than on the 2007 releases, two of the four verses being cut from the song.

On 29 July 2008, a four-LP edition of the 2007 re-issue, on 180 gram audiophile vinyl, was released. It was presented in a deluxe archival two-piece box with foil-stamping. It includes a 12-page oversized full-color booklet with dozens of previously unpublished stills from the film, as well as four individual jackets with new and unique artwork. A special white vinyl edition was also printed in very limited numbers. Just 200 were produced, with only 100 being made available to the public from Led Zeppelin’s official website.

Critical reception: Upon its initial release in 1976, the album received some poor reviews, with a number of critics considering it to be over-produced and lumbering. Indeed, the band’s members themselves have since expressed a lack of fondness for the recording. Page has admitted that the end product was hardly the best representation of Led Zeppelin as a live band:

“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.”

In an interview he gave to rock journalist Cameron Crowe, Page elaborated:

As far as Led Zeppelin’s studio recordings went, every single one of them has a certain ambiance, certain atmospherics that made them special. When it came to the live shows, we were always trying to move things forward and we certainly weren’t happy leaving them as they were. The songs were always in a state of change. On [The] Song Remains the Same you can hear the urgency and not much else. The live shows were an extension of the albums.”

In contrast, the 2007 reissued version received generally much more positive reviews. In a review published in Mojo magazine in December 2007 James McNair gave the album four out of five stars, as did David Cavanagh in Uncut magazine, who wrote:

…The sound is vastly improved, as is the playing of the musicians (due to digital re-editing of the three MSG concerts, presumably). Not so much remastered as reconstructed, the 15 tracks (six previously unreleased) showboat, strut and snarl.”

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