Lee Speaks About Music… #63

The Song Remains The Same (Blu Ray) – Led Zeppelin

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Introduction…

Well whilst I was updating my Led Zeppelin collection with the new Deluxe Editions of the bands studio albums, I thought it would be a good idea to update my old VHS Video of The Song Remains The Same with the Blu Ray edition.

To be honest I doubt very much if I could find my old VHS Video they all got packed away in boxes years ago and shoved in one of the many cupboards somewhere. I do remember it being released on DVD a good while ago as well, and remember a mate of mine updating his VHS Video to that as well. I was going to get it at the time, but it obviously slipped my mind.

I came across the Blu Ray on Amazon whilst I was shopping on their buying the new Deluxe Editions I have been reviewing, and its low price of £7 was too much of a tempting turkey to let it slip by. So I just popped it in the basket and brought it on the spot.

I am glad I did buy it because I have not seen the film in yonks, and even though I am not a great believer in older films being transferred to Blu Ray that was not filmed in HD in the first place, in most cases you may as well just buy the DVD. Because no way is any old film really in HD even if the transfer may look very good in some cases.

But hey for £7 I was not gonna make a fuss and thought sure, let’s just see how good it has turned out. So let’s take a look to see just how well it turned out, and see if this can be seen as a genuine bargain at its low price point.

The Song Remains The Same (Blu Ray) In Review…

Well, most people will know that until the year 2003 The Song Remains The Same contained the only live footage released of Led Zeppelin. It was originally released back in 1976 on a double vinyl album and the film was put on the cinemas and later was released on Video around 1984 here in the UK.

It was not until the 31st of December 1999 that it got its release on DVD. I am pretty sure this would have been around the time my mate actually brought it, and it has been at least a couple of decades or more since I watched the film myself.

The Led Zeppelin Live double DVD that got released in 2003 I did very much buy on its release, and still till this day I am totally blown away with how so darn good they restored all that old film footage. Some of it goes back way before the film footage at Madison Square Gardens captured in 1973 that was featured in this film The Song Remains The Same and yet it looks as if they even filmed it today. Even the 5.1 mix is purely awesome.

On the 20th of November 2007, The Song Remains The Same got re-released again. Only this time it even contained extended footage of the actual concert and extra bonus features that had never been seen before. It was released in 3 media formats and put on DVD, HD-DVD and Blu Ray. To be honest, this release totally slipped by me and had I noticed it, I dare say it would have cost me more than double the price I got it, for now, some 10 years later.

Even when I ordered it, I thought in my mind that surely they have not done the pristine quality job they did with all the film footage of those concerts that were put on that live double DVD back in 2003. Even though this got re-released some 4 years later. Well the one thing I can tell you having watched it a couple of times now, is that it certainly did not disappoint, and there were in fact some vast improvements in parts of it overall. So let’s, first of all, take a look at the Blu Ray and its contents.

The Blu Ray.

SS 1

The one thing the Blu Ray does not come with is a Main Menu and the film starts straight away when you insert the disc into your player. However, it does come with one sub-menu (as seen in the picture above) and this can be accessed by hitting the main menu button on your remote control.

The sub-menu basically shows you the bonus features that come with the Blu Ray and does not even give you an Audio Setup to select your preferred audio choice. So once again you are going to have to use your remote control and hit the Audio Button to change the audio.

You get the choices of 3 Audio formats and by default, it gives you the best of the 3 which is Dolby True HD 5.1. Which is the original master. You also get the choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 and LPCM Stereo all come in 48K/24.

All the audio for this release has been remastered and mastered again and sounds quite spectacular in comparison to earlier releases. The original film was shot on a 35 mm movie cameras and came with a Quadraphonic audio mix on 24 tracks which was shown in the cinemas.

The Bonus Features.

The bonus material not only contains some extra songs that were performed at the live concert back in July 1973 at Madison Square Gardens. But it also contains some interviews and newsreels about the robbery that took place at the Drake Hotel where 200 thousand dollars of the bands money they got for the show, was stolen from the hotel’s safety deposit box. No doubt a lot of this extra footage can be seen on Youtube these days, but I had never seen it before, so it was quite a bonus and well interesting to watch.

I do however think it was a shame they could not of put the extra concert footage in the film itself, rather than place the 4 extra songs from the show in the bonus section as they did here. The extra 4 songs you do get are “Over the Hills and Far Away“. “Celebration Day“. “Misty Mountain Hop” and “The Ocean“.

In total, they add up to about 20 minutes extra, but the way they have placed them in the bonus menu is not very good either, because there is no option to play them all at once, and they have placed other bonus footage in between the songs. The songs do offer you the audio choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 and Stereo. The other bonus footage is mainly mono. So let’s now take a look at the picture quality.

The Picture Quality.

SS 2

Well, I am certainly not going to lie to you through my back teeth and tell you that the transfer of the old film footage onto Blu Ray for this movie is pristine, brilliant, out of this world or very good. Some transfers do come out better than others and it really boils down to a stack of things in reality.

There is no doubt that some old films can be carefully restored with the techniques they have these days, and there are experienced people who work on such things and can do some pretty amazing things. To be honest, I am no expert on this matter, but basically, I know how good a film put on Blu Ray (that is filmed in real HD using real HD cameras) looks in comparison to any transfer of an old film.

You simply cannot beat the real thing, and no transfer is genuine HD quality unless it was filmed with HD cameras in the first place. But they can get close. But unfortunately, the colours we have on the original footage shot in the 70’s of The Song Remains The Same is very weak and washed out in certain places.

But rest assured it’s not all that bad, and the main part of the film which is the actual concert footage has by far come out the best here. The actual acting parts of the footage will show the grain and weak colours, and in all honesty, these parts are not gonna really benefit that much from being put onto Blu Ray over the DVD in reality.

SS 3

The transfer will make a slight difference in certain parts of the acting sections depending on the times of the day and the light they had at the time of shooting the film. But in general, these sections are not by any means that much of an improvement over the DVD I am afraid. For example, you’re going to see the grain and washed out colours.

However, by no means let that put you off. Because the live stage footage is where you will really benefit regarding the picture quality, and without doubt, this may beat the DVD though both will leave your old VHS Video in the dust on that score.

As for the Blu Ray providing you with a better picture than the DVD. I really do not think so, especially as most DVD Players today can upscale the picture quality very well too, and even playing DVD’s in Blu Ray players will do that job for you as well. If not even better so than your DVD player. The one thing I was also pleased to see being as this is an old film, is that it displays in widescreen at 16.9 and not the old 4:3 ratio and looks well good for it.

The real difference you will benefit from having the Blu Ray is very much in the sound quality department. This is simply because the Blu Ray caters for uncompressed sound formats, and they are a lot higher quality than what you will find on a DVD. I can tell you now that the actual sound quality they have remixed for this release will leave any older releases also in the dust. They have done a superb job of it. So now let’s take a look at the 5.1 mix and other sound formats that come on the Blu Ray.

The 5.1 Mix.

I certainly do not think the surround freaks will be disappointed with this release. The very fact that we have acting scenes as well as a live concert certainly makes more use of the 5.1 surround system and utilises its 6 channels very effectively well. Watching a movie that comes with a 5.1 mix on it has always been one of my favourite things about the surround system. This is basically because there is a hell of a lot more sounds to project across the 6 channels than what your gonna find put on an album or a music concert.

Even though 5.1 mixes work very well to bring out the dynamics and clarity of the music, films are much more realistic with the use of a 5.1 surround mix. The action scenes in the movie The Song Remains The Same I suppose are a bit like watching a film about the mafia-like The Godfather or Bonnie & Clyde sort of thing. All this particular sort of action contains sounds such as bullets flying across the room, broken glass, doors being kicked in and various other sorts.

All the sounds project so much realistically through a 5.1 system, and in some cases whilst you’re watching the film you are not only just gonna be hearing things like somebody is upstairs in your bedroom above trashing the place,  and your windows are being smashed in your house, and somebody is kicking in your front door. but your gonna think it’s actually happening.

That is how realistic a 5.1 mix can project over 6 channels. It’s something stereo could never do in a million years I am afraid. Not only will you hear all these things in a film, but the sound will also pinpoint all the locations in your house it’s coming from, and it can even project itself as far as being outside in your garden, even at the end of your garden path so to speak, which could be 30 to 40 foot away from you. Even if your rear speakers are only several inches away from your ears.

But with any 5.1 system, all this can only really be achieved on a surround system in your own home and set up for the benefit of 1 person only. You cannot get the same out of a 5.1 surround system that they have in Cinema Houses for example. It’s got nothing to do with how much your system costs either. It’s all about the speaker placement, the correct head height and measurement levels that are measured to one centre seat you are sitting in, in your home.

The biggest majority of Cinema Houses are very poorly set up regarding the placement of the speakers. In most cases, the speakers are way too far apart from each other and will create a gap, just like one will get when they place their speakers too wide apart on a stereo system. They may have expensive surround systems but in all honesty for what use they are doing with them is a complete waste of space in my opinion, and I have yet to hear 5.1 work well in any cinema house for that matter.

There is just no way any 5.1 system is gonna work properly unless you are bang in the middle of it. No 5.1 surround system can cater for all those people in a Cinema House I am afraid. The 5.1 system is a very selfish thing in reality if you want to get the best benefits out of it. And by saying being bang in the middle of it, does not mean that you have to be seated in the middle of your room or in the middle of all your speakers so to speak.

But you do have to be central and in the middle even if your seat is set up at the back of your room, You do need to be in the middle of your rear speakers and the front speakers also need to be placed correctly so that you are also in the middle of those, even though they are further away from you, or even wider apart from each other.

Your centre speaker should be placed bang in the middle of your front speakers, and from your seat at the back of the room, this is the very thing that is looking you directly in the face apart from your TV from a central point of view. Has for the subwoofer. This can be placed more or less anywhere apart from a corner of a room, and not too close to a wall. It’s good to find a nice spot or even a sweet spot where it works the best for you.

Kevin Shirley was the guy behind the new audio stereo and 5.1 mixes and has done a pretty much a bang on job with them too. Both the film footage and concert footage certainly benefit from it and are quite a big improvement and very impressive. Much more impressive than the picture quality in reality.

Though I would not say the dynamics are that great in comparison to the Led Zeppelin 2003 DVD. The Celebration Day Blu Ray or even the triple CD of How The West Was Won. But overall it still beats the crap out of the vinyl album 😊😊😊,

Summary…

I think no matter how bizarre or mad all those rock and pop artists that have gone into making silly films such as The Beatles, The Who and many others have done in the past. The good thing about Led Zeppelin’s film The Song Remains The Same is that it also features the footage of an actual live concert which I think makes it more appealing and worthy of owning.

It’s far from like watching something totally stupid, like the film Tommy and the many other ridiculous films that were made, even if you have the odd bit of silly acting you get here. It’s really the concert footage that is the magic we get here in this film that really sells it.

No doubt if you want a concert of Led Zeppelin with its original members then the Led Zeppelin 2003 Double DVD will certainly give you that. But you cannot simply dismiss this amazing concert that was also caught at Madison Square Gardens back in 1973.

I certainly think the Blu Ray makes it even more appealing and will very much refresh and give that extra bit of polish to it all with both the picture and especially the sound quality. Though I dare say the soundtrack of the album will appeal to the biggest majority in the way that it’s easier to give the album more attention to listening to, rather than watch a film over and over.

However for surround sound freaks like myself. I very much do prefer the film in relation to the soundtrack live album, simply because I love 5.1 for how it can project things much more sonically and dynamically as a rule. I also like to see the band play as well with my own eyes. Though this is perhaps as not that dynamic as I stated earlier, it’s still got a greater sound quality about it.

To be honest I am the same with the film The Wall by Pink Floyd. The fact that I have the film on DVD with a 5.1 mix that is stunningly superb in sound quality and the way it projects through 6 channels instead of 2. I actually prefer playing that to the double album. Even though it’s got Bob Geldoff singing most of the songs, and I much prefer Pink Floyd themselves singing them in reality.

Conclusion…

The Song Remains The Same by Led Zeppelin is a film that features a truly great concert and captures the band at the height of their career. There is no doubt this 2007 re-release is by far better than any previous releases of the film. Not only do you get extra bonus footage, but quality-wise it’s far superior to those earlier releases, especially in the sound department.

Regardless of buying it on Blu Ray or DVD I would say they are both a winner and well worthy of upgrading too. Though I do feel the Blue Ray will give you that bit better quality regarding the sound. Though I doubt very much that there is actually any difference in the picture quality. If there is, it would most likely be in small sections of the concert footage only.

But regarding the picture quality, there is no doubt that the Led Zeppelin 2003 Double DVD release beats this hands down, and that is only on DVD, and that is more or less the same pristine quality you got with their much later concert Celebration Day which was filmed in HD at the O2 Arena in London and is even near enough as pristine as the quality of that Blu Ray.

There is no doubt that they have gone to town on all the 5.1 mixes that come with Led Zeppelin 2003. The Song Remains The Same and Celebration Day. They have done a purely awesome job on all 3 of them. I would even say that sound-wise all 3 of these concerts have superior sound quality over their studio albums. The only studio album that comes close would have to be Led Zeppelin II. The sound quality of that album is far superior to the rest.

At its price point of £7 for the Blu Ray, you simply cannot go wrong, and I am so glad I did buy it again, and it’s given me the chance to enjoy this great film all over again. I love the way the film ends too because they play the whole studio version of “Stairway To Heaven” during the titles.

Even though the titles run out and you are left with a blank screen, they make sure they play it all. It’s been remastered with a 5.1 mix too and sounds way better than the newly remastered version I have of it on the Deluxe Edition of Led Zeppelin IV. Even that’s a terrific bonus in my book.

It’s Been A Long Time Since The Rock And Roll…

The Concert Set List is as follows:

01. Bron-Yr-Aur.
02. Rock And Roll.
03. Black Dog.
04. Since I’ve Been Loving You.
05. No Quarter.
06. The Song Remains The Same.
07. The Rain Song.
08. Dazed And Confused.
09. Stairway To Heaven.
10. Moby Dick.
11. Heartbreaker.
12. Whole Lotta Love.

The Bonus Material is as follows:

Bonus Songs (SD, 20 minutes) – Four are included (all never-or-rarely seen before in video form): “Over the Hills and Far Away,” “Celebration Day,” “Misty Mountain Hop” and “The Ocean.” All of the songs offer Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo audio.

Featurette: “The Robbery” (SD, 4 minutes) – This oddity is a vintage fake documentary on the $200M supposedly ripped off from the safe deposit box in the Drake Hotel that features in the film.

TV Excerpt : “Boating Down the Thames: Robert Plant and Peter Grant” (SD, 8 minutes). This except features Plant and Grant being interviewed as they float down the Thames on the Swanage Queen, talking about the film.

TV Report (SD, 3 minutes) – A brief clip from a 1973 TV report on Led Zeppelin’s show at the Tampa Stadium.

Theatrical Trailer (SD) – The film’s original theatrical trailer is presented in a decent-quality video, but if nothing else, it serves to illuminate how well-mastered the feature film on this Blu-Ray actually is.

Lee’s overall Complete Blu Ray Value Rating…

The Picture Quality Rating Score. 7/10

The 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 9/10.

The Bonus Material Rating Score. 8/10

The Overall Film Rating Score. 9/10.

2 thoughts on “Lee Speaks About Music… #63

  1. I bought the movie on VHS and sold it later and I also bought a double-CD later with the soundtrack. Personally I really hate the movie-clips, which just disturb the concert-experience. And I think the concert is brillant showing the band at its peak. Therefore the bonus-feature I would wish for TSRM would be a button to switch off these silly fantasy-scenes. I loved the soundtrack especially for the songs from “Houses of the holy”, because live they did justice to them, while the studio-recording had turned out as a disaster. Maybe they knew it, because in my opinion “The Rain song”, “No quarter” and also “The song remains the same” are presented with much verve here, while “Moby Dick”, “Whole lotta love” and “Dazed and confused” are way too long for my taste and can not compete with the studio-recordings.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do not mind the longer length of them songs and I do love drum solos as well and Bonham smashed the hell out of his drum kit in that performance on “Moby Dick”. But for me Zepp were always a great live act and not even the acting bits bother me that much either and there is not a lot of them anyway, it’s mainly a concert. But I think they should of also of released the concert footage only for those who did not like those acting parts and they could of put it out as simply Live At Madison Square Gardens. Your right about the live versions of those HOTH songs sounding way better and the other songs you mentioned here and cheers for you observation about it all Dirk my friend…

      Like

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