I have always thought the title The Song Remains The Same was not very accurate when it came to this album, as many of the songs were really not the same given their extended length.
Led Zeppelin brought their live act to Madison Square Garden in New York City for three shows during July of 1973. These performances were recorded for a film which would be released to theaters worldwide.
The soundtrack album was issued September 26, 1976 to mixed reviews. It would, however, be another commercial success for Led Zeppelin, as it topped the charts in their native country of England and reached number two in The United States, selling four million copies.
Jimmy Page and Robert Plant have expressed dissatisfaction with the album over the years. One reason may have been the three-plus year passage of time between its recording and release. Led Zeppelin had acquired some new material in the interim and in some ways this live set was a little antiquated. Still, it was the only live document of their career for a number of years.
I find the album to still be interesting. I have also seen the film, and it does work well visually, especially on the longer tracks. But the album does give an accurate portrait of their live show. The group liked to improvise and here, Led Zeppelin is presented at their early seventies live best.
I still like this album and have replaced my old vinyl copy with the CD, as I find it a good traveling companion for my car CD player on long trips.
The original vinyl release clocked in at close to 100 minutes, yet only contained nine songs and four were on the first side of the two-record set. “Dazed and Confused,” at over 26 minutes takes up the entire second side itself.
The highlights are a 10-minute version of “Stairway To Heaven” and a 14-minute workout of “Whole Lotta Love.” The basic song structures are retained but also serve as jumping of places for Jimmy Page and friends to move in different directions. Page is one of those rare musicians who can pull off not having a rhythm guitarist in support. The near 14-minute performance of “Moby Dick” is almost of the same quality.
There have always been complaints that some of the music from the film was left off the album and visa versa, and in some cases performances from the concerts were left off both. “Black Dog,” “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” “Bron-Yr-Aur,” and “Autumn Lake” all grace the movie but were nowhere to be found on the album. The 2007 reissue coordinated the two but did chop up several of the songs. My advice is to stick with the original and ignore the extras.
The Songs Remains The Same is a look back at a different Led Zeppelin. It remains an excellent document of their concert style.