'The Song Remains the Same' Remains an Essential Led Zeppelin Listen

Decades later, Led Zeppelin's The Song Remains the Same is still beguiling and definitive, and it sounds better than ever with this Rhino remaster.

The Song Remains the Same
Led Zeppelin


7 September 2018

Although initially criticized by fans (and the band members themselves) for its poor production, Led Zeppelin's The Song Remains the Same is, in hindsight, widely considered their definitive live artifact. Recorded at Madison Square Garden at the tail end of July 1973—and released in October 1976—it provided a strong overview of the band's catalog thus far. Now, it's been remastered yet again (as a means to close out the recent series of deluxe reissues and commemorate their 50th anniversary later this year), and it sounds improved. While die-hard fans of the studio versions may still have some gripes with the alternate and scaled down replications here, there's no denying that The Song Remains the Same still serves as a powerful document of the English quartet at the peak of their influence.

For the most part, these songs resemble their official counterparts fairly well and possess strong clarity and mixing. For instance, "Rock and Roll" kicks things off with more punch than ever and barely deviates from how it is on Led Zeppelin IV. Elsewhere, "Celebration Day" represents each instrument well, and Jones' bass patterns sound especially pronounced during Page's solo on "Over the Hills and Far Away". Comparatively, "Since I've Been Loving You" features dynamics that match the take on Led Zeppelin III alongside some even more fiery guitar work, and "The Ocean" is every bit as infectious as on Houses of the Holy yet it also has far more bite. As such, his updated mix really highlights Led Zeppelin's live performance ability to up the ante while also staying true to form.

Of course, what's even more worthwhile (although not always superior) is the quartet's ability to offer new takes on the beloved material. "No Quarter" is surprisingly nuanced and full-bodied for an in-concert rendition, and its extended duration allows for even more emotional fury. Likewise, fan favorite "Stairway to Heaven", while naturally missing some of the embellishments of the original, arguably makes up for it with a fresh guitar solo and vocalist Robert Plant's now-synonymous, "I think this is a song of hope" and "Does anyone remember laughter?" banter.

Perhaps the most inventively odd variation of all is the ethereal dissonance and subsequent jazzy break during the lengthier take on "Whole Lotta Love". Then again, at roughly five times the span of the 1969 Led Zeppelin cut, the 29-minute "Dazed and Confused" is easily the standout example of why The Song Remains the Same, well, remains an essential part of the group's legacy. Despite being a bit meandering at times (as is usually the case when artists drastically jam out on a track in concert), it's always at least interesting and surprising, with some truly spellbinding musicianship from all involved. It's a dense sonic journey that demands many revisits.

Decades later, The Song Remains the Same is as beguiling and definitive as ever in exemplifying Led Zeppelin's place as a one-of-a-kind outfit that's spawned countless imitators and proteges. They're equally adept as replicating and deviating from studio material to offer fans a simultaneously familiar and surprising live experience, and this latest reissue is certainly the best offering yet in terms of capturing every nuance and attack the quartet laid out on those seminal summer nights in New York City.





Old British Films, Boring? Pshaw!

The passage of time tends to make old films more interesting, such as these seven films of the late '40s and '50s from British directors John Boulting, Carol Reed, David Lean, Anthony Kimmins, Charles Frend, Guy Hamilton, and Leslie Norman.


Inventions' 'Continuous Portrait' Blurs the Grandiose and the Intimate

Explosions in the Sky and Eluvium side project, Inventions are best when they are navigating the distinction between modes in real-time on Continuous Portrait.


Willie Jones Blends Country-Trap With Classic Banjo-Picking on "Trainwreck" (premiere)

Country artist Willie Jones' "Trainwreck" is an accessible summertime breakup tune that coolly meshes elements of the genre's past, present, and future.


2011's 'A Different Compilation' and 2014 Album 'The Way' Are a Fitting Full Stop to Buzzcocks Past

In the conclusion of our survey of the post-reformation career of Buzzcocks, PopMatters looks at the final two discs of Cherry Red Records' comprehensive retrospective box-set.


Elysia Crampton Creates an Unsettlingly Immersive Experience with ​'Ocorara 2010'

On Ocorara 2010, producer Elysia Crampton blends deeply meditative drones with "misreadings" of Latinx poets such as Jaime Saenz and Juan Roman Jimenez


Indie Folk's Mt. Joy Believe That Love Will 'Rearrange Us'

Through vibrant imagery and inventive musicality, Rearrange Us showcases Americana band Mt. Joy's growth as individuals and musicians.


"Without Us? There's No Music": An Interview With Raul Midón

Raul Midón discusses the fate of the art in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. "This is going to shake things up in ways that could be very positive. Especially for artists," he says.


The Fall Go Transatlantic with 'Reformation! Post-TLC'

The Fall's Reformation! Post-TLC, originally released in 2007, teams Mark E. Smith with an almost all-American band, who he subsequently fired after a few months, leaving just one record and a few questions behind.


Masaki Kobayashi's 'Kwaidan' Horror Films Are Horrifically Beautiful

The four haunting tales of Masaki Kobayashi's Kwaidan are human and relatable, as well as impressive at a formal and a technical level.


The Top 10 Thought-Provoking Science Fiction Films

Serious science fiction often takes a backseat to the more pulpy, crowdpleasing genre entries. Here are 10 titles far better than any "dogfight in space" adventure.


'The Kill Chain': Why America Might Lose Its Next Big War

Christian Brose's defense-nerd position paper, The Kill Chain, inadvertently reveals that the Pentagon's problems (complacency, inertia, arrogance) reflect those of the country at large.


2006's 'Flat-Pack Philosophy' Saw Buzzcocks Determined to Build Something of Quality

With a four-decade career under their belt, on the sixth disc in the new box-set Sell You Everything, it's heartening to see Buzzcocks refusing to settle for an album that didn't try something new.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.