“Chocolate is poisonous to cats.” “Wait…. I think you mean dogs.” “No, no, it’s definitely chocolate.”
And now, we return to the scene of the crime, the album that is patient zero for my hatred of drum solos (and any unaccompanied solos to be fair). The Song Remains The Same is the live soundtrack album of the concert film of the same name by Led Zeppelin . The soundtrack was recorded 27–29 July 1973 and released three years later on 28 September 1976 on Swan Song Records
Upon its initial release in 1976, the album received some mixed reviews, with a number of critics considering it to be over-produced and lumbering. Indeed, the band’s members themselves have since expressed a lack of fondness for the recording. Page has admitted that the end product was not the best representation of Led Zeppelin as a live band.
I was a little apprehensive about reevaluating this album. Of all the Led Zeppelin albums, this one was never high on my Zepp-rotation and after hearing How The West Was Won, the 2007 remastered version of this album and a couple of bootlegs, I realised just how poor the original The Song Remains actually is. The first side I’ve got no complaints about; strong performances and great songs but this goes downhill when side 2 rears it’s head and we get dazed and confused into boredom.
Look, I really do enjoy long songs (hello Supper’s Ready) and when I first heard this I loved it (I taped this track and would play it on my Walkman when I would walk to my mate’s house, it was just the right length). And seeing the visuals in the movie that accompanied this song, made a lot more sense. But this album doesn’t have the visuals, just a long, messy song that could have lost 15 minutes and no-one would have cared. My mind started wandering (where it will go).
Side 3 grabbed my attention again with an excellent No Quarter and a very energetic Stairway and then side 4 comes into view and off to snoozeville we go.
Is John Bonham a great drummer? Undoubtedly. I’m not claiming otherwise. Was he essential to Led Zeppelin? Damn straight! Just listen to any Zepp reunion performance. They sound like a shadow of their former selves because they lack the power, strength and subtlety of Bonzo. Do I want to hear him hammer away, unaccompanied for 10 minutes? Uuh-uh. I never did like this song when I first heard their second album: the riff is sloppy, the pace of the song is slow, oh and there’s a drum solo in the bloody middle of it! Anyway, Black Sabbath did it better with Rat Salad, coincidentally on their second album too! And I hate that drum solo too! Ending with an extended Whole Lotta Love, including an unnecessary rock’n’roll medley, ends the album on a rather dull note.
Is it excessive? Oh, yeah! 5 of the 9 tracks are over 10 minutes and and 1 track takes up the entirety of side 2. If the ELP live triple(!) album was exhibit A in excessiveness, then this is exhibit B. Would I listen to it again? Maybe side A and No Quarter, but not much else. Would I recommend it? No, not unless it’s the remastered version, with 6 other songs and a much brighter, cleaner production or How The West Was Won, which is a great document of a Led Zeppelin show.
So as I step off the Pequod, I’m giving this album a 5/10. Highly disappointing. Next time, more long songs and drum solos. Yay!