Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Song Remains The Same (DVD 2007)

I got my copy of the remastered The Song Remains The Same.

I'm suited, as they say where I come from. I got the Extra Special Completely Fabulous DVD Packeroonie or something, which means I got two disks, a free T-shirt (which I haven't opened yet – might be wonderful), a bunch of reproduction lobby cards and some other paper tat in an E-Z-Looz-'Em ™ slippery cardboard package without a lid, some other pieces of cardboard, a mail in thing for a poster which I've lost already. And NO LINER NOTES. You only get liner notes with the Semi-Deluxe Partly Fabulous DVD Pack-a-go-go. So I have no idea what the band or the editor thought about the release. Presumably at some point I'll find the liner notes on line and know what I'm looking at.

The movie itself is entirely unaltered from the previous release. I've discussed it before in detail here, and I don't see any reason to change my mind about it. You get the movie as before, but with a vastly improved concert sound in Dolby 5.1. (There are significant cuts and minor changes in the music as well, but they are too boring to go into unless you're a complete anorak, and if you are you wouldn't be reading this blog for the answers anyway.) The extras are in the menus, so let the menus play rather than diving for the go button screaming (my normal reaction to DVD menus).

Since I wrote the original review, I've seen a quite a bit of search engine traffic to the site asking what Robert Plant's fantasy sequence was all about. Luckily for you guys, Robert addresses this in an interview on the second disk. He says, "You planned out how you would like to… in my own case, how I really saw what I was doing, on another level altogether, you know, the journey, the fact that there were pitfalls, trials, tribulations and elations and the end should never ever be in sight." I believe this is what they call a Plantism (or a Plantation). That's how he speaks. I hope it helps.

The second disk is the gem, of course. I've seen the film. But the second disk is where the new material comes in. There's newsreel footage of the robbery, the aforementioned interview with Plant and manager Peter Grant, a news report on the record breaking Tampa gig that I was going to skip until someone told me it had rare footage of the band onstage in it (and it does), the original theatrical trailer, a radio promo spot by the earnest and slightly boring Cameron Crowe which I skipped, and then – the moment you've been waiting for – the extra songs.

The new live songs are Over The Hills and Far Away, Misty Mountain Hop, The Ocean and Celebration Day. And these are worth every penny I paid for the deluxe disk. Celebration Day alone may have been worth it, for Page's hummingbird moon-and-stars stage costume, his little knee-wobble shimmy and some beauteous film of Plant and Page together. The footage in TSRTS is cobbled together from various Madison Square Garden nights and some stuff re-shot on a Shepperton soundstage later for close ups. The new songs, particularly OTHAFA, suffer a bit more in this regard than the original songs on the movie, so much so that in places even I can tell that shots are not matching. But watching good quality live Led Zeppelin is watching live Led Zeppelin – it's always worth it.

There was some directorial copyright which means that every frame of the theatrical release was untouchable. This has led to a couple of editing decisions that I wouldn't have made, but ok. The upshot of it is that the movie has not been touched; the soundtrack of the movie has been extensively edited by Kevin Shirley to make it sound 'better' – more modern, anyway. This is good. The CD of the soundtrack (sold separately) *is* the songs from the soundtrack. This means that wherever the music was cut to fit the scenes on the screen, that cut appears on the CD. The previous soundtrack CD did not have these cuts. I'm not an expert on the soundtrack, never having heard it previously, but I have heard enough people talking about it to gather that it is not an improvement to have the music cut as though the film was playing on the screen when the film is not, in fact, playing on the screen. Therefore, if I were you, I'd buy the older version of the soundtrack if you're going to buy a CD at all. Not as modern and punchy, but certainly better in terms of musical continuity.

Official Website. (Includes video of Rock & Roll)

Modern Guitar's Review.

Interview with Kevin Shirley in Modern Guitar.

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