The Song Remains the Same (Tarantura TCD-85)
Madison Square Garden, NY, NY – July 27, 28, 29, 1973
Disc 1 (63:04): Intro., 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 (53:39): Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Moby Dick
Disc 3 (39:28): Heartbreaker, Whole Lotta Love, The Ocean, Organ Solo, Thank You
The July 1973 Madison Square Garden Concerts, which ended the 9th U.S. Tour, are important dates in Led Zeppelin history as all three shows were filmed and professionally recorded for the official ” The Song Remains The Same” audio and video releases.
What Tarantura has attempted to do with this beautiful box set is to offer an alternate take on the official “Song Remains The Same” release using the available bootleg soundboards by selecting tracks from the three shows to make up a complete representative concert.
Tarantura is well known for their lavish packaging and this release is no exception. The discs come in a gorgeous heavy cardboard box with a flip open top. The high gloss graphics mimic the official release artwork with the setlist shown on the back. The case opens to reveal a removable trifold heavy cardboard glossy package which has openings like an LP for each of the three discs which in turn are in removable paper sleeves with clear plastic circular windows and top flaps. The front and back artwork mimic the outer box while the three inner surfaces of the trifold have concert review text (from the NY Times, July 73), notes on the shows ( from Variety Magazine, August 73) and also have pictures of a ticket stub from each of the shows, a picture of a backstage pass, NY Times mail order advertisement and a picture of Peter Grant, his daughter, her friend, and author Howard Mylett. The actual discs are silk screened with a picture of the Swan Song label logo artwork. There is also a very nice small fold up poster of Jimmy in action from the 73 tour included in the box.
Tarantura did not provide any details on what nights the various tracks are from, and unfortunately I only had a copy of the EV release from the 28th titled “The Effect is Shattering” to compare the sound quality too, so I was not able to determine what tracks are from what shows. All of the tracks seem to be complete with the exception of Moby Dick which is only about 13 minutes long. The edit in it is so good I was startled when Jimmy’s guitar kicked back in at the end. The new and old official releases of this track are 11:02 and 12:47 in length so the only thing I can think of is Tarantura was trying to replicate the original releases in editing the track? Curious to say the least and I wish they had just included the complete version as there is plenty of space left on the disc. The sound quality of the all the tracks used ranges from VG+ to EX+. I would compare the VG+ tracks to the EV release from the 28th as they are very clear with all instruments well balanced and just slightly compressed. While they are in stereo the soundstage is not particularly wide but there is just enough audience in the mix to keep the sound from being dry.
The stars of this release are the tracks which rate EX+ as they are incredibly atmospheric with very wide stereo separation. All the instruments perfectly balanced, and if I was to nit pick, I would say the mix on some of these tracks is a little low in the bass frequencies which steals a little of the power from Bonzo’s drums but honestly these tracks are as good as the official releases and they reminded me of the 73 Southampton mutlitrack boot in quality. My favorite track has to be “The Ocean” which is an absolutely perfect mix with Jimmy in the right channel JPJ in the left and Robert and Bonzo perfectly centered. Jimmy’s guitar has a nice raw sound to it and Bonzo’s drums are even up in the mix on this track which gives it a nice kick.
I was also impressed with the editing by Tarantura on this release as they did a great job balancing and homogenizing the various sources so that the tracks flow seamlessly together as a complete concert.
As for the performances I have read that the band was very tired after the long tour and felt the shows were mediocre but I always thought they were underrated. Robert voice is still in fine form with none of the hoarseness which plagued him during the 75 tour and Jimmy’s playing is fairly crisp as opposed to some of the sloppy performances which are evident in later tours.
Tarantura has produced an outstanding release from the incredibly beautiful packaging to the excellent sound quality. If you are a fan of the official “Song Remains The Same” compilation release and want to hear the tracks as they were played this release is highly recommended.
And one last request from Tarantura, if you are listening, how about releasing the individual soundboards you used for this compilation?! Based on what I heard they would be a real upgrade over what is already in circulation.