Like most people of my age who were too young to see Led Zeppelin in a live setting, their seminal concert film The Song Remains The Same was a first glimpse of the band onstage. I had some live tapes, the 1969 and 1971 BBC material taped from the radio, but The Song Remains The Same was something different. First off it captures the band during what many consider the pinnacle of their onstage playing, second for a young rock fan in the early 80’s, it added to the still mysterious nature of the group. Back then we had no VHS player so my only access to the film was sporadically on late night cable television, but the soundtrack was a different story, it was down at your local record store and I devoured it. The soundtrack was for many years my most beloved source of live Zep, yet I had no idea of the amount of work that went into the project, sure the soundtrack was much more polished than the film but to what extent I had no clue. Fast forward 20 plus years and reading Eddie Edwards excellent The Garden Tapes website I was really shocked, and intrigued, by the work that had been done. By this time I had the second night soundboard as well as a fragment of the final night soundboard in my clutches, Eddie’s web site was an revelation and I certainly watched and listened to the project in a new light.
The source material for The Song Remains The Same comes from the final three nights of the tour, at the famed Madison Square Garden. All three nights were filmed and recorded by the band for use on the project and all three nights were recorded un-officially by members of the audience. While there have been many Zeppelin box sets from various labels over the years that would focus on other triumphs, curiously no one has gathered together the various recordings that circulate in the collectors market from those three incredible nights in late July 1973, until now. When this set was announced I was excited and intrigued, after shopping around I found the best deal I could and then all that was left was the waiting, the hardest part. The box itself is similar in design to the Godfather box sets, the box has an official look to it by using graphics from the official The Song Remains The Same soundtrack. The box houses five gatefold sleeves for the individual nights as well as a fold out liner notes that gives the same information that is found on the back of the sleeves. The gatefold sleeves feature a live shot on the front but it is the inside that made it for me, all feature a picture of the band at Shepperton studios in August 1974 filming the “missed” shots needed to complete the film. There is a complete overview of each of the three concerts, there are audience and soundboard sources for each of the dates and all are represented in this collection. Empress Valley uses both recordings from the respective dates to complete and compliment each other, the mastering is excellent, the switch to the alternating source is seamless making for a nice listening experience. Overall the packaging is very nice, although I do find that the liner notes could have been better, more detail would have been nice. Also there are no extras, some lobby card reprints or small poster would have made excellent additions to the set. Doing reviews of this nature is a daunting process, thankfully there are a few excellent web sites I used for resources, a big shout out goes to Eddie Edwards Garden Tapes, The Led Zeppelin Data Base, and some old dusty books on my bookshelf, most notably Luis Rey’s Led Zeppelin Live, Dave Lewis’ Concert File, and Robert Goodwin’s Illustrated Collectors Guides (the last three).
Rocking The Big Apple: First Night At The Garden July 27, 1973
Disc 1 Version A (49:22): The Rain Song, Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven
Disc 2 Version A (54:35): Moby Dick, Heartbreaker, Whole Lotta Love, Audience / MC, The Ocean, Audience / MC
For the first two discs we have the audience recording for the show Version A, the source is a good to very good recording, it does suffer from distortion at times but has wonderful ambience and is by far the most enjoyable, yet fragmented, of the audience sources. It features the last 100 minutes of the concert, there is a gap in Moby Dick at 13:16 to 16:05 that is filled with the soundboard and the splice is seamless.
Disc 3 Version B (49:22): The Rain Song, Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven
Disc 4 Version B (54:37): Moby Dick, Heartbreaker, Whole Lotta Love, Audience / MC, The Ocean, Audience / MC
Disc 5 Bonus Disk (53:40): Moby Dick, Heartbreaker, Whole Lotta Love, Audience / MC, The Ocean, Audience / MC
Version B features the longer of the two sound board sources, it’s an excellent well balanced yet incomplete fragment of the last 60 minutes of the concert. Empress Valley uses the audience source to fill in the gaps and elected to also add The Rain Song and almost all of Dazed from the audience source as well. The last 40 seconds of Dazed and Stairway come from a third soundboard tape; the quality is excellent although the mix does float around a bit during Stairway. The second soundboard tape is used for the rest of the show, filled with bits of the audience source for the first 40 seconds of Moby Dick, (just audience cheering), during Whole Lotta Love gaps at 1:45 to 2:22 and 6:14 to 7:55, and the very last minute and a half of audience cheering at the end of the tape. The bonus disc is the earliest version of the sound board to appear, it shares the same cuts as the above version, the main difference is the balance is slightly different. I would go mental in even finding them so let’s not even bother. All three sound boards are excellent, well balanced recordings that have just a bit of hiss on them, all are extremely enjoyable recordings.
The first night at the Garden is the most incomplete, while both audience and soundboard sources exist they are sadly incomplete. The performance is extremely important to The Song Remains The Same project, from what we have we can tell it is the tightest of the three and much of the show is used officially by the band. The audience source has been released before as The Out Of Song Remains (Holy SH003), the soundboard has been out as Discover America (Tarantura T3 CD 10), Grandiloquence (Antrabata ARM 17773), Best Of Tour ’73 Vol 2 (Dynamite Studios DS92J020), The Safecrackers Show (Midas Touch 62211), and Complete Madison Square Garden (Wendy WECD 18-20). The audience source provides such an atmosphere that you know what’s happening, during the audience shots of the official film you can see the crowd is going absolutely bonkers, these recordings back it up.
Plant tells the audience just prior to Stairway “Things are beginning to vibe up a bit…now listen we got to get one thing straight…stop acting like pigs, alright…cool it. This is a song of hope…a very quiet song so shut up” all during screaming insanity and the distant sound of fireworks being let off. This is the introduction used for the soundtrack slightly edited but here it is in all its glory…curious to hear since the “song of hope” has become a Zeppelin standard. We get the complete unabridged version of Dazed and Confused that is truly excellent, so much in fact Page uses this version for the soundtrack slightly edited of course. A real pleasure to hear it in its natural form and the audience recording does is total justice. After The Ocean encore the tape continues to run and the vibe in the building is electric, the fireworks and loud booing are the audience response to Led Zeppelin being gone, a superb first night at the Garden.
Taking The Building Into Stratosphere Second Night At The Garden July 28, 1973
Disc 1 Version A (64:41): Audience / Tune Up, Rock And Roll, Celebration Day, Black Dog, Over The Hills And Far Away, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song
Disc 2 Version A (73:19): Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Moby Dick
Disc 3 Version A (31:54): Heartbreaker, Whole Lotta Love, Audience, The Ocean, Audience
Second night at the Garden, Version A features the audience recording and to my knowledge has never been released on bootleg. It is for good reason, first off the recording is incomplete clocking in at about 113 minutes, there is a sizable chunk of tape missing from the last 8 minutes of Dazed and Confused and all of Stairway to Heaven and Moby Dick. The sound is fair, distant from the stage, muffled sounding and a slight layer of hiss is present yet surprisingly there is clarity (thankfully) and once your ears adjust it can be enjoyed. The cuts throughout the recording have been filled with the soundboard recording that can be jarring due to the sheer difference is qualities. The soundboard is used for the Audience / Tune up at the beginning and for the first five seconds into Rock And Roll, after Black Dog at 5:45 to 5:51, after No Quarter at 12:05 to 12:27, and for the last 13 seconds of the first disc. It resumes for the first 36 seconds of the second disc, and at the 22:00 mark of Dazed And Confused continuing on for the rest of the disc. There is a cut between Whole Lotta Love and The Ocean that is filled with the soundboard source, about a minute and half long of nothing but cheering and the last 50 seconds of the disc, again just cheering.
Disc 4 Version B (64:56): Audience / Tune Up, Rock And Roll, Celebration Day, Black Dog, Over The Hills And Far Away, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song
Disc 5 Version B (73:09): Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Moby Dick
Disc 6 Version B (31:48): Heartbreaker, Whole Lotta Love, Audience, The Ocean, Audience
Disc 7 Bonus Disc (61:05): Moby Dick, Heartbreaker, Whole Lotta Love, Audience / MC, The Ocean, Audience / MC
Ahh, the soundboard source for the second night at the Garden, the most complete of the three nights as well as the best quality of all the circulating shows from MSG. Again there are two versions of the soundboard, the oldest version is found on disc 7 the bonus disc. The main soundboard is excellent, well balanced, except for small cuts in The Rain Song from 3:16 to 3:34, Whole Lotta Love at :16 – :46, and finally in The Ocean at 1:52 – 3:08, and 3:49 – 3:57. All cuts use the alternate soundboard source as well as the audience source. There has been a bounty of releases for this recording, Another Magic Vol 1 & 2 (DS98M023/24), Madison Square Garden (Turtle TR-09), Wizardry (Joker JOK-008-A), Madison Square Garden (Pirate Master PM-712), Tour-De-Force (Tarantura TCD-MSG-1,2,3), 9th US Tour (Whole Lotta Live WLL 004/5/6), One More Magic (Immigrant IM-019-21), Out From The Movie (FSS 99-003), MSG (Cannonball CA-2004019/20/21), The Effect Is Shattering (Empress Valley EVSD 285/286/287), Towa No Uta (Tarantura TCD 73-1,2,3), and Complete Madison Square Garden (Wendy WECD 18/19/20).
The soundboard is excellent, well balanced and does not suffer from the flat sound that some of the other 73 board tapes do. There is a very minor amount of hiss present but this recording does sound great when cranked up. For me the performance suffers from the middle show syndrome, it is a good but not great show. The playing at times showcases the band getting a bit loose, I love the version of No Quarter from this show, parts of it were used in the soundtrack and The Song Remains The Same and The Rain Song are were lifted intact. Plant gets some of his most amusing Plantations during this show, talking about going to Bangkok and its accented reference and his hilarious rap about hashish. The interesting part of this show is what is featured on the bonus disc, while discs 4, 5, and 6 feature the tape we all know and love the sound is consistent with the best versions circulating, the bonus disc features a 60 minute fragment of the end of the show but the quality is noticeably brighter, clearer and very enjoyable. It does have cuts in Whole Lotta Love and The Ocean that are filled with the other soundboard and audience sources. It would be something to get the rest of this show in this quality.
Final Magik Third Night At The Garden July 29, 1973
Disc 1 Version A (64:10): Audience, Rock And Roll, Celebration Day, Black Dog, Over The Hills And Far Away, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song
Disc 2 Version A (73:01): Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Moby Dick
Disc 3 Version A (48:40): Heartbreaker, Whole Lotta Love, Audience, The Ocean, Audience, Organ Solo, Thank You
The final night at the Garden and an excellent show by the group. There is a single audience tape that is almost complete save for some small cuts, the recording is a fair to good source that is distant. While it is a bit muddy you can certainly make out the vocals and instruments clearly and is not a difficult listen. There are times where the audience response is almost deafening, like during Plant’s introductory speech. The cuts are filled with the soundboard source, the first cut is during No Quarter from 7:45 to 8:07, in the middle of Dazed And Confused at 22:19 to 22:38, during Moby Dick at 20:21 to 20:56 and the last is the audience cheering and first couple seconds of the organ solo prior to Thank You. What is most curious about the audience source is again, the deafening roars in the beginning and after Stairway To Heaven, it gives you a scope as to how big the events were. There is very little audience noise near the taper, the only real disturbances are during Moby Dick when they get a bit restless. Another curiosity is the show features the least amount of fireworks, while there are a few it is not as “war like” atmosphere as the previous two nights.
Disc 4 Version B (63:27): Audience, Rock And Roll, Celebration Day, Black Dog, Over The Hills And Far Away, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song
Disc 5 Version B (73:42): Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Moby Dick
Disc 6 Version B (48:51): Heartbreaker, Whole Lotta Love, Audience, The Ocean, Audience, Organ Solo, Thank You
The last night in the Garden, the band pull out all the stops on the final night of the 1973 US tour and the last live date until the January 1975 date in Rotterdam. The soundboard recording, while excellent, is not as clear but is more powerful than the other two nights, Jones’ bass is well represented in the mix giving a nice fat sound. It is almost complete, missing the end of Dazed And Confused as well as all of Stairway To Heaven and a bit of the Organ Solo prior to Thank You. Plant calls the concert a fitness test, and one can agree, yet the playing is perhaps the best of all three nights. For me the concert comes alive with the soundboard recording, it conveys the power of the collective. The audience source was issued as The Last Of The Last (Tarantura TCD-115), while the sound board has been released under such titles as The Trade Mark Of Quality Masters (Flying Disc FD 101-105), A 2 Last Nights (Tarantura T2CD-5-1,2), and Madison Square Garden 1973 (Firepower FP032) feature the soundboard portion, Grand Finale (Empress Valley EVSD 173/4/5/6), Missing Doll (Tarantura TCD-12-1/2/3), and Madison Square Garden Trios (Wendy WECD 188/189/190) use the audience source to fill the gaps.
Page is in great shape for the last show, his fingers are nimble and he rapes his fret board during the opening stretch of Celebration Day and Black Dog, nice chunks of both songs are used for the soundtrack and movie. The roar to Plant’s opening speech comes through nicely followed by a brilliant Over The Hills And Far Away. No Quarter has the first musical cut, from 8:48 through 9:00. The version of Dazed is great, it has a mysterious yet laid back vibe to it, Luis Rey describes it as Latin meets Spanish and is epic as far as 1973 versions go clocking in at well over 32 minutes. The ending of Dazed is cut at the 25:34 mark, the remainder of the song as well as Stairway To Heaven comes from the audience source and the soundboard resumes just prior to Plant’s introduction to Moby Dick.
This concert features the longest version of Whole Lotta Love of the three nights, it is a great loose version of the song. The funky Crunge section is…well funky and Jones’ bass playing during the Theramin section is excellent. Page and Plant take their time getting into Boogie Chillun’ but once they do it’s great, yet loose as they are having a great deal of fun. The song is brought to a riotous conclusion as Bonham does an extend coda while belly dancers take the stage, Plant loves every minute of it! The audience recording is used for the audience after the song as well as Plant and Bonham’s introduction and the first 10 seconds of The Ocean. A rare for 73 version of Thank You closes the event in superb fashion, a restfully easy version that has Plant expressing his affection during the song “You to me, are the only ones” in reverence to his houses of the holy.
Out From The Movie: The Song Remains The Same Outtakes And More
Bonus DVD (63 minutes): The Song Remains The Same Outtakes, Madison Square Garden July 27, 1973 Amateur Footage, Madison Square Garden July 28, 1973 Amateur Footage, Madison Square Garden July 29, 1973 Amateur Footage, B&W News Footage
The Song Remains The Same Outtakes were released in the early 90’s and feature a 35 minute hodgepodge of clips mostly incomplete. For me the best of the lot is The Song Remains The Same and Rain Song, we get different scenes of Robert’s “journey” that I find very enjoyable. While the footage is professional it is not up to the movie quality by any means yet it is interesting to watch and since my last copy was on VHS, this is a nice inclusion to the set. The amateur footage has been released many times in various incarnations, 1973 (Cosmic Energy CE 1973), Film Noir (Hercules), Assemblage (Cosmic Energy CE-017) and Assemblage II (Cosmic Energy CE-021). The footage from the 27th was shot close to the stage and is silent with a soundboard audio of The Song Remains The Same and Rain Song plays along with the footage. The footage was transferred by using a video camera while the footage played on a home video screen. The footage from the 28th was shot some distance from the stage, we get a great view of the full stage and all the action, again it was silent with Black Dog and Over The Hills And Far Away playing along. The footage of the 29th is a mere snippet of Dazed And Confused with actual dubbed sound, curiously it looks like it may be semi professional since it was shot very close to the stage from the right side and looks to be at stage level. The black and white news footage is interesting, it is not on the DVD menu and consists of a news story about an investigation into the wealth being generated by the music industry, it does feature footage of Zeppelin and the Starship.
The final word? Empress Valley have released a definite edition of the three Madison Square Garden shows, sound quality meets or exceeds all previous versions, the mixing of the sources is seamless and well done and the mastering is excellent. The presentation is visually appealing and the subject matter is of major historical importance. After spending literally weeks listening and enjoying these performances I find myself very happy with this box set and while the price tag was reasonable for a set of this magnitude, for me it was worth every penny.