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WARNER

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Peter Clifton, Joe Massot
Cast:
Led Zeppelin (John Bonham, John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant)

Tagline:
In Concert And Beyond.

Synopsis:
The best of Led Zeppelin's legendary 1973 appearances at Madison Square Garden. Interspersed throughout the concert footage are behind-the-scenes moments with the band. The Song Remains The Same is Led Zeppelin at Madison Square Garden in NYC concert footage colorfully enhanced by sequences which are supposed to reflect each band member's individual fantasies and hallucinations. Includes blistering live renditions of "Black Dog," "Dazed and Confused," "Stairway to Heaven," "Whole Lotta Love," "The Song Remains the Same," and "Rain Song" among others.

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.78:1/16X9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
English PCM Stereo
Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish

Runtime: 138 min.
Price: $20.99
Release Date: 11/20/07

Bonus:
• Two TV News Reports
• Four Bonus Performances
• BBC TV Interview
• 1976 Radio Profile Spotlight by Cameron Crowe
• Theatrical Trailer


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EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Led Zeppelin: The Song Remains The Same (1976)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 16, 2007)

For years 1976’s The Song Remains the Same was the only live footage of Led Zeppelin readily available to the consumer. That changed in 2003 when we got the splendid Led Zeppelin compilation set. The 2003 release seems preferred by the vast majority of Led Zep fans, but Song still has its partisans. With the band’s big reunion concert on the horizon, Song will receive even more attention via this new two-disc special edition release.

Filmed at Madison Square Garden toward the end of the band’s 1973 tour, Song includes 11 live tunes. Since that trek came in support of 1973’s Houses of the Holy, it’s no surprise that we find some tracks from that album. Houses gives us “The Song Remains the Same”, “The Rain Song”, and “No Quarter”. 1971’s Led Zeppelin IV presents “Stairway to Heaven”, “Rock and Roll”, and “Black Dog”, while 1970’s Led Zeppelin III throws out “Since I’ve Been Loving You”. Back on 1969’s Led Zeppelin II, we find “Moby Dick”, “Heartbreaker” and “Whole Lotta Love”. Only one entry comes from 1968’s Led Zeppelin: “Dazed and Confused”

Will you find top-level Led Zep from the performances of Song? No, though I think that their work gets more of a bad rep than it deserves. Many think the band puts on a somewhat tired and sloppy show here, and I can see some validity to those criticisms. This isn’t a performance that appears likely to dazzle anyone and indoctrinate them into the Led Zep cult.

But that doesn’t make it a bad show by any stretch. Indeed, Led Zep sounds pretty good much of the night, and my biggest complaints stem from the concert’s excesses. “Moby Dick” remains the band’s worst song since it barely qualifies as one; it’s really just an excuse for an exceedingly long drum solo from John Bonham. And while “Dazed and Confused” is generally a solid number, Jimmy Page’s goofy guitar noodlings – complete with violin bow! – make the song a 28-minute endurance test.

As far as the individual performances go, I think they soar much more than they sink. “Stairway to Heaven” represents probably the weakest rendition of the night, as Page just seems off throughout the tune, especially when we expect him to throw out a sizzling solo. Still, that’s an exception, as most of the songs work quite well. I wouldn’t call these versions definitive or absolutely killer, but they’re good and make the show enjoyable.

Will you get a good representation of what it was like to attend a vintage Led Zeppelin show via Song? No. It succeeds more than it flops, but the filmmakers tacked on too many gimmicks and couldn’t leave well enough alone.

Much of the film does present the concert in a reasonably concise manner. Stage footage dominates and gives us a passable view of Led Zep in concert circa 1973. However, I’d like more than “passable” and feel that the flick goes off onto silly tangents too frequently.

The most egregious examples come from the little dramatic fantasy pieces we occasionally see. Indeed, Song starts with one of these, as we watch manager Peter Grant play a mobster who guns down his opposition. (Hmm… I’m not sure that’s acting; Grant was a notoriously rough dude.)

Song goes through 13 minutes of this nonsense before the concert starts. In addition to Grant’s violent fantasy, the film shows the band as they reassemble for the tour. Later escapades focus on different aspects of the musicians. Unlike the prologue, these pop up during the songs, so they take us away from the stage.

And that’s a big mistake. Sure, we still hear the music, but it’s more than slightly tedious to have to watch these idiotic fantasies. I’d much rather continue to observe the action on stage so this could represent the original concert. (Note that while most songs come across without auditory interruption, “Heartbreaker” suffers from cuts.)

A few other elements leave the stage to show backstage action as well as events elsewhere in the arena. For instance, we see a rant from Grant about the sale of unauthorized posters in the arena. (Apparently that footage and some other non-stage material comes from a Pittsburgh show, not the MSG concerts that make up the live pieces.) Those moments don’t distract to the degree that the fantasies do, but I could still live without them – or at least I’d prefer to find them in between songs, not during numbers.

When Song stays on stage, it manages to present the concert in a reasonable manner. Sure, it suffers from some silly cinematic effects. We get some semi-psychedelic bits along the way, though I’m pleased to find a concert flick without hyperactive editing; the “MTV revolution” hadn’t yet occurred, so the cuts come at a normal pace.

I just wish the filmmakers had the good sense to leave out all the sidebars and concentrate on the concert. The Song Remains the Same could have been a great document of Led Zeppelin live, but as it stands, the movie is too disjointed to function as a successful concert flick. At least the music’s usually good, so if you can ignore the visual inconsistencies, it provides a solid listening experience.


The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio A-/ Bonus B-

Led Zeppelin: The Song Remains the Same appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. I didn’t expect much from the visuals of Song, which meant the solid transfer came as a pleasant surprise.

Without question, the concert shots looked the best. These showed startlingly good reproduction for the most part. Sharpness faltered slightly on occasion – usually in wide shots - but the live elements usually appeared crisp and concise. I noticed no shimmering, jaggies or edge enhancement, and source flaws seemed mostly absent for the concert bits. They also demonstrated nice color reproduction, as the stage lighting was full and rich. Blacks were deep and dense, and low-light shots seemed smooth and clear. Some crowd images could be a bit too dark, but that was to be expected. I felt quite impressed with the live shots.

Unfortunately, the film lost some points when it left the stage. Most of the staged interludes looked fine, though they could be a little soft at times and they showed a few specks and marks. The backstage footage was the weakest aspect of the film. Those shots tended to be murky and grainy, and they lacked great delineation.

These somewhat problematic aspects of Song didn’t dominate, so they shouldn’t be taken as major concerns. Since most of the movie concentrated on the live shots, the majority of it looked great. The non-stage scenes caused enough concerns to knock down my grade to a “B+”, but I thought the transfer was quite good as a whole. I expect that Song has probably never looked this strong.

Or sounded so wonderful either. Song came with both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. I discerned virtually no differences between the two, as I thought they sounded very similar.

That meant that they sounded similarly good. As one might expect from a concert presentation, the soundfield mostly focused on the forward spectrum. The music showed very nice stereo delineation. Vocals remained centered, while Page’s guitar usually came from the front right and Bonham’s drums veered toward the front left. When Jones played organ, those elements also came from the left.

The track used a few musical gimmicks – like some vocal ping-ponging in the rear for a brief moment or the “all around the room” theatrics of Page’s guitar during “Dazed and Confused” – but usually stayed with a straightforward mix. Other than those occasional gimmicks, the surrounds mostly focused on crowd noise and musical reinforcement. Not much in the way of unique material cropped up back there, and that was fine with me.

Audio quality seemed quite strong. Vocals were consistently natural and concise, and all the instruments boasted positive reproduction. Guitars showed good bite and sizzle, while drums offered the expected punch and power. Bass response was pretty deep and warm, and highs sounded clear and crisp. The sound deteriorated a little during some of the backstage sequences, but those were minor enough to not cause problems. I felt very pleased with this high quality pair of soundtracks.

All of the set’s extras appear on DVD Two. The Tampa News Report lasts three minutes, 25 seconds and gives us a look at the band’s allegedly record-breaking 1973 visit to Florida. It’s amusing due to the somewhat smarmy and condescending attitudes of the reporters, and we get a decent look at the band as well. This turns into a neat little addition.

A few bonus performances appear. Outtakes from the shows filmed for Song, we find “Over the Hills and Far Away”, “Celebration Day”, “Misty Mountain Hop” and “The Ocean”. The tunes receive good treatment on the DVD; they came with 16X9 enhancement and also boasted the same three audio options found for the main flick. These added tracks are a great treat.

For an eight-minute and 21-second interview, we move to Boating Down the Thames. Here BBC reporter Michael Appleton chats with Robert Plant and manager Peter Grant about Song, mostly in connection with the flick’s fantasy sequences as well as some aspects of its exhibition. Grant and Plant offer some decent insights about the production, and they even attempt to justify the existence of the idiotic fantasy scenes, even though they recognize their pretensions. This turns into a good little chat.

Back before he became a big-time movie director, Cameron Crowe was a journalist. In that guise he leads a 14-minute and 59-second Radio Profile Spotlight. Connected to Song, the audio piece mixes Crowe’s notes about the band and Led Zep music. I hoped this would be an informative look at Led Zep, but beyond some basics about their start and evolution, it mostly acts to promote Song. The facts Crowe presents are commonly known, so this piece doesn’t intrigue as anything more than a historical curiosity.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we get a five-minute and three-second clip called The Robbery. This is another news clip that examines the theft of box office receipts after the band’s MSG shows. We see some of this in Song, but it’s good to get an extended glimpse of the material.

Maybe someday someone will recut The Song Remains the Same to omit all the extraneous footage and show only live material. Unless that happens, Song will remain a frustrating document of vintage Led Zeppelin. While it provides a lot of good music, the visual excesses make it a chore to watch at times. The DVD gives us very good to excellent picture and audio quality as well as a small collection of extras highlighted by four deleted songs. The Led Zeppelin DVD remains the best look at the band’s live work, but there’s enough quality on display during Song to make it merit your attention.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.5625 Stars Number of Votes: 16
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