Robert Plant and Jimmy Page: No Quarter appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though generally decent, the picture remained decidedly average at best.
Sharpness caused many of the concerns. Much of the program looked rather soft. Some shots appeared acceptably tight and accurate, but others lost focus for no apparent reason. Even close-ups often came across as somewhat fuzzy. Jagged edges and shimmering appeared frequently, and I also noticed some signs of edge enhancement. The program seemed free of source flaws.
Colors appeared somewhat erratic. At times they came across as nicely distinct and vibrant, but on other occasions, they looked a bit heavy. The program featured lots of almost pastel tones, and those seemed moderately runny and messy at times. Black levels were tight and deep, however, and shadow detail looked clean and appropriately defined. For the most part, No Quarter presented an acceptable image, but my overall score came only to a “C-”.
No Quarter provided both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. Although I often discern little difference between the two, that didn’t occur here. In the case of Quarter, I felt the DTS mix substantially bettered the Dolby version. Initially I’ll discuss my reactions to the DTS rendition and then describe the variations I noticed.
As with most concerts, the soundfield of Quarter remained mostly oriented toward the front speakers. However, it did branch out quite substantially throughout the show. Within the front, stereo imaging seemed solid. Vocals remained centered, and the rest the mix provided good space and delineation of the instruments. They all appeared neatly localized and mixed together well. They combined crisply but didn’t lose their individual characteristics.
Surround usage seemed noticeably more aggressive than during most concert programs, but it didn’t come across as gimmicky. Instead, the rear channels added lots of percussion, alternate instruments, some background vocals and even lead guitar at times; for example, Page’s slashing chords flew all around the room during parts of “What Is and What Never Will Be”. This worked well and didn’t turn silly.
Audio quality appeared very good. Except for occasions when the production intentionally altered his tone, Plant’s voice consistently sounded natural and warm. Instrumentation came across as accurate and distinct. Highs appeared crisp and well defined, while bass response seemed tight and lively. The audio was consistently firm and immediate and demonstrated terrific dynamics and clarity.
While not bad on its own, the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix of Quarter seemed less compelling than the DTS one. It appeared somewhat flatter and thinner, as it lacked the same punch and life heard during the DTS edition. Highs were a bit bland, and they didn’t display the same immediacy and verve. Bass was duller and less rich. The soundfields appeared similar, though the DTS one came across as more involving due to the higher quality of the audio. Taken individually, the Dolby Digital track remained reasonably good, but it paled when compared to the DTS edition.
As we move to the DVD’s extras, we get an interview with Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. This lasts 13 minutes as the pair chat about the project. They tell us why they came back together, issues connected with recording in Morocco and various influences, song selection and a few other musical topics. Likely intended to promote No Quarter, a lot of program clips show up here, and since we already own the show, they get tedious. Still, Page and Plant present enough decent info to make the interview worth a look.
Next we get a bonus track via Led Zeppelin IV’s “Black Dog”. Plant mentions this as a tune that didn’t work well in the “Unledded” setting, which seems to explain why it failed to make the final cut. Presented with stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 mixes, this rendition doesn’t work amazingly well, but it’s an interesting variation on a great song.
In the Moroccan montage we see 104 seconds of local sights accompanied by some native music. Some of the shots include Page and/or Plant, but many focus on the residents. It’s pretty dull. Lastly, we encounter a music video for “Most High”. A track off of 1998’s Page & Plant studio album Walking into Clarksdale, it shows the influence of their Moroccan experiences. It’s a decent song and a moderately interesting video.
It might not be a full-fledged Led Zeppelin, but Robert Plant and Jimmy Page’s No Quarter is the next best thing. It offers alternate takes on a bunch of classic songs and makes most of them fresh and powerful. The DVD presents mediocre picture and only some minor extras, but the audio quality soars, especially via the excellent DTS mix. It’s not a stellar release, but since it includes a very good performance and sounds great, I recommend it.