Led Zeppelin: The Song Remains the Same appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. I didn’t expect much from the visuals of Song, which meant the solid transfer came as a pleasant surprise.
Without question, the concert shots looked the best. These showed startlingly good reproduction for the most part. Sharpness faltered slightly on occasion – usually in wide shots - but the live elements usually appeared crisp and concise. I noticed no shimmering, jaggies or edge enhancement, and source flaws seemed mostly absent for the concert bits. They also demonstrated nice color reproduction, as the stage lighting was full and rich. Blacks were deep and dense, and low-light shots seemed smooth and clear. Some crowd images could be a bit too dark, but that was to be expected. I felt quite impressed with the live shots.
Unfortunately, the film lost some points when it left the stage. Most of the staged interludes looked fine, though they could be a little soft at times and they showed a few specks and marks. The backstage footage was the weakest aspect of the film. Those shots tended to be murky and grainy, and they lacked great delineation.
These somewhat problematic aspects of Song didn’t dominate, so they shouldn’t be taken as major concerns. Since most of the movie concentrated on the live shots, the majority of it looked great. The non-stage scenes caused enough concerns to knock down my grade to a “B+”, but I thought the transfer was quite good as a whole. I expect that Song has probably never looked this strong.
Or sounded so wonderful either. Song came with both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. I discerned virtually no differences between the two, as I thought they sounded very similar.
That meant that they sounded similarly good. As one might expect from a concert presentation, the soundfield mostly focused on the forward spectrum. The music showed very nice stereo delineation. Vocals remained centered, while Page’s guitar usually came from the front right and Bonham’s drums veered toward the front left. When Jones played organ, those elements also came from the left.
The track used a few musical gimmicks – like some vocal ping-ponging in the rear for a brief moment or the “all around the room” theatrics of Page’s guitar during “Dazed and Confused” – but usually stayed with a straightforward mix. Other than those occasional gimmicks, the surrounds mostly focused on crowd noise and musical reinforcement. Not much in the way of unique material cropped up back there, and that was fine with me.
Audio quality seemed quite strong. Vocals were consistently natural and concise, and all the instruments boasted positive reproduction. Guitars showed good bite and sizzle, while drums offered the expected punch and power. Bass response was pretty deep and warm, and highs sounded clear and crisp. The sound deteriorated a little during some of the backstage sequences, but those were minor enough to not cause problems. I felt very pleased with this high quality pair of soundtracks.
All of the set’s extras appear on DVD Two. The Tampa News Report lasts three minutes, 25 seconds and gives us a look at the band’s allegedly record-breaking 1973 visit to Florida. It’s amusing due to the somewhat smarmy and condescending attitudes of the reporters, and we get a decent look at the band as well. This turns into a neat little addition.
A few bonus performances appear. Outtakes from the shows filmed for Song, we find “Over the Hills and Far Away”, “Celebration Day”, “Misty Mountain Hop” and “The Ocean”. The tunes receive good treatment on the DVD; they came with 16X9 enhancement and also boasted the same three audio options found for the main flick. These added tracks are a great treat.
For an eight-minute and 21-second interview, we move to Boating Down the Thames. Here BBC reporter Michael Appleton chats with Robert Plant and manager Peter Grant about Song, mostly in connection with the flick’s fantasy sequences as well as some aspects of its exhibition. Grant and Plant offer some decent insights about the production, and they even attempt to justify the existence of the idiotic fantasy scenes, even though they recognize their pretensions. This turns into a good little chat.
Back before he became a big-time movie director, Cameron Crowe was a journalist. In that guise he leads a 14-minute and 59-second Radio Profile Spotlight. Connected to Song, the audio piece mixes Crowe’s notes about the band and Led Zep music. I hoped this would be an informative look at Led Zep, but beyond some basics about their start and evolution, it mostly acts to promote Song. The facts Crowe presents are commonly known, so this piece doesn’t intrigue as anything more than a historical curiosity.
In addition to the film’s trailer, we get a five-minute and three-second clip called The Robbery. This is another news clip that examines the theft of box office receipts after the band’s MSG shows. We see some of this in Song, but it’s good to get an extended glimpse of the material.
Maybe someday someone will recut The Song Remains the Same to omit all the extraneous footage and show only live material. Unless that happens, Song will remain a frustrating document of vintage Led Zeppelin. While it provides a lot of good music, the visual excesses make it a chore to watch at times. The DVD gives us very good to excellent picture and audio quality as well as a small collection of extras highlighted by four deleted songs. The Led Zeppelin DVD remains the best look at the band’s live work, but there’s enough quality on display during Song to make it merit your attention.