I’m one of those who saw the movie when it came out in 1976, more than once in fact. It was an immediate ‘Saturday midnight’ favorite where I grew up (Belgium). By then the band’s reputation was larger than life and there simply was not much of an opportunity ever to see them live. I bought the double-album when it came out, and I never understood why the album was so much maligned by both fans and critics. I thought it was pretty darn good. Now after 31 years, and amid a frenzy of renewed Led Zeppelin activity (catalog on iTunes, the “Mothership” best of, and of course the upcoming one-off show in London–among swirling rumors the band may tour proper in 2008), now comes a newly expanded version of this album.
On “The Song Remains the Same” (2 CDs; 15 tracks; 132 min.), the first CD starts off with the classic “Rock and Roll” and “Celebration Day”, then dives straight into 4 previously unreleased tracks, including a rousing “Misty Mountain Top”, but even better is the slowburner “Since I’ve Been Loving You”. CD1 (10 tracks, 60 min.) finishes with 4 songs from the “Houses of the Holy” album, which the band was touring behind at the time, including a previously unreleased “The Ocean”. It is impossible for me to listen to “No Quarter” and not think of the John Paul Jones ‘fantasy sequences’ in the movie. CD2 (5 tracks, 72 min.) brings one more new track (“Heartbreaker”) but the lead-off track, a 25 min. epic “Dazed and Confused” towers over everything else. It is for me the ultimate Led Zeppelin track. I usually skip “Stairway to Heaven” (overrated and played to death on classic radio), but still like the “Moby Dick” drum solo, as well as the closer “Whole Lotta Love”.
The remastering by Jimmy Page sounds fantastic, and the packaging (with nice liner notes from Cameron Crow, with lines like : “The brown cardboard sing in the window simply read ‘It’s here’”–referring to the release of Led Zep II in late 1969) is done quite nicely. All in all, I am really pleased with the remastered and expanded CD release of “The Song Remains the Same”, which is like discovering a new album in the Led Zeppelin catalog. (Incidentally, I did get to see the band in concert once, on their 1980 European tour, only months before John Bonham passed away.)