A study of the Led Zeppelin film and album The Song Remains The Same
by Eddie Edwards
The Garden Tapes » The Song Remains The Same » 2018 remaster
I ended my summary of the 2007 reissues of The Song Remains The Same thus: "I don't suppose we'll ever see yet another Song Remains The Same, with the music from the original album, plus the extra songs, all remastered and assembled with the loving care they deserve. But I'll keep hoping." So, when it was announced that there would indeed be yet another release of The Song Remains The Same in September 2018, were these hopes, quiescent for more than a decade, stirred into a frenzy of optimistic anticipation? I have to say that they were not. The possibility that this release would consign the horrors of 2007 to the dustbin of history and provide us at last with a version worthy of its illustrious title seemed sadly remote. A re-packaging exercise along the lines of the How The West Was Won reissue some six months earlier was, I felt, far more likely. And it's probably just as well that expectations were low, as the musical content of the 2018 releases in the various formats is identical to the 2007 offerings. So let's have a bit of a recap and consider exactly what that means.
When the soundtrack of the film was remastered for the 2007 release, the visuals could not be altered in any way. This meant that, although the sound quality could be improved and the rough editing could be tidied up a bit, no major alterations to the musical content could be made. As a result, the shortcomings of the 2007 soundtrack were much the same as they had been in the original 1976 film, and in fact, in order to fit the remastered soundtrack as neatly as possible to the existing visuals, a number of new problems were introduced in the form of small cuts resulting in musical timing errors. This was all somewhat disappointing but ultimately not a big deal. The film had always been enjoyable regardless of the soundtrack problems and that would not change.
In 1976, it was recognised that the film soundtrack was far too much of a mess to be released in audio-only form. The album was therefore treated as a separate project and was beautifully constructed, featuring the best music from the three nights with seamless editing, unencumbered by any complications related to the making of a film. In 2007, a similar approach was absolutely necessary, but regrettably was not taken. The remastered film soundtrack was, for the most part, used also for the CD version, resulting in a seriously flawed release, vastly inferior to the original album.
It has been said that the reason for the decision not to spend the necessary time and effort to produce a decent audio-only release was that they did not have time because they wanted to get everything out to coincide with the O2 reunion show in December 2007. Hardly a satisfactory justification for a band that had been the biggest and best in the world putting out such a shoddy product, but at least it was a mitigation of sorts. Eleven years later, without even that rather feeble excuse available, they nevertheless compounded their sins rather than taking the opportunity to put things right.
The weaker Celebration Day guitar solo; the missing section of Black Dog; the lost beat in the first verse of Since I've Been Loving You; a magnificent section of No Quarter not only absent but removed in such a way as to destroy the beat; two timing glitches in Dazed and Confused; another horrible timing error in the drum segue between Heartbreaker and Whole Lotta Love; a wonderful section of Whole Lotta Love edited out in ugly fashion; and, finally, yet another timing error near the end of the Boogie instrumental - all these delights can now be savoured once again not only on a brand new CD release that sounds virtually identical to the last one, but also, if such are your preference and budget, in Blu-Ray audio or on vinyl.
There are of course millions of copies of the original version of The Song Remains The Same out there on vinyl and CD, and getting hold of one of them is not too difficult a challenge for any fan who knows how essential it is to do so. But most newer fans will, perfectly understandably, simply buy the latest edition, assuming that it is definitive, and may never hear this music the way it was heard when it was first released, the way it should be heard by everybody for evermore. That has been the grievous situation since the 2007 version came out and it remains a tragedy now. I don't suppose we'll ever see yet another Song Remains The Same, with the music from the original album, plus the extra songs, all remastered and assembled with the loving care they deserve. But I'll keep hoping.
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