Song Remains the Same
"Led Zeppelin The Song Remains the Same" on Blu-ray Disc

This flick is a good example of what you're likely to get when a studio gives rock stars a bag of money and sends them off to make their own movie.

It isn't that "The Song Remains the Same" is a bad movie. It just isn't really much of a movie at all. Sure, it has some great concert footage of Led Zeppelin performing at Madison Square Garden, and this is by far the highlight of the flick, but the problem is they didn't limit this to being a concert film. Nope, they tried to make an art movie out of it - and they shouldn't have.

It takes about thirteen minutes to reach the first concert footage. Until then you have to sit through (or fast forward through!) a staged Mob hit and endlessly self indulgent footage of the band members at home living their country squire existences.

Fortunately, they open the real musical footage with a searing rendition of "Rock & Roll" followed immediately by "Black Dog," the two opening numbers (though in reverse order) from the band's classic "IVth" album.

Jimmy Page is the real star here. One of rock's finest guitarists, he shone in Led Zeppelin and in "Song Remains the Same" you get to see lots of him in action. Even here, however, they'd chosen the "artsy fartsy route" and insist on jazzing up the shots rather than just letting us watch him play.

Please! This is one of rock's great bands!

Robert Plant proves he's much better in the studio, where he can swallow his uvula and wail with the best of them. He doesn't appear nearly as up to it on stage, however, only going through the vocal motions while concentrating on "rock star posing and preening" instead.

The other band members, John Paul Jones and the late John Bonham, aren't as well featured in the flick (much as John Entwistle is treated in Who material), but they have their moments and come across as the journeymen rockers they were.

Of course just when you're beginning to settle into the concert footage, they break off again for another scene, either some contrived fantasy or some "backstage" stuff that does an excellent job of showing the size of the egos at play around this Supergroup.

The movie has a least received a decent Blu-ray treatment. The film has been remastered and remixed and the 1080p widescreen picture quality is very colorful, though it has more than its share of grain. The DVD was quite grainy most of the time, too, whether intentional or not we can't tell, so perhaps this explains the noise on the Blu-ray disc.

The audio's pretty good. Warners offers it in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (and "garden variety" 5.and it has pretty good dynamics considering their ancient, analog source. In all, it isn't bad to crank.

Extras, which were virtually nonexistent on the DVD, include two "never released before" performances - Celebration Day and a searing version of Over the Hills and Far Away. You also get performances of The Ocean and Misty Mountain Hop - all of which would be better served spliced into the movie at the expense of some artsy fartsy stuff.

And that isn't it. You also get some old TV footage (Led Zeppelin Robbed during their 1973 concerts, including Plant on the BBC and a news report. There's also the original trailer.

Now how about a Blu-ray of How the West Was Won?

Led Zeppelin, The Song Remains the Same, from Warner Home Video
136 minutes, Widescreen (1.85:1), Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Starring John Bonham, John Paul Jones, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page

Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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