Side One: Mint Minus Minus*
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus
Side Three: Mint Minus Minus (Often quieter)
Side Four: Mint Minus Minus (Often quieter)*
- Superb sound for this soundtrack album with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on all four sides
- Clean, clear and open with a strong bass foundation and plenty of live rock and roll energy
- An incredibly tough album to find with the right sound and surfaces
- Packed with Zep classics, including The Song Remains The Same, Dazed and Confused, Stairway to Heaven, and more
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*NOTE: On side one, a mark makes 30 light to moderate intermittent pops during the first half of Track 4, Rain Song. On side four, a mark makes 6 light ticks, followed by 7 moderate pops near the middle of Track 2, Whole Lotta Love.
It's rare that we come across a copy that sounds this good. Most of the copies we've played sound like bad, second-generation bootleg cassettes. We still pick them up every time we see them -- hey, it's Zep, man -- but we weren't sure we'd ever hear a decent copy. We dropped the needle on this one and were pretty darn impressed with how hard it rocked.
It's got the big sound that you look for on a Zep LP -- great bass, huge drums, and immediacy to the vocals. The sound is silky up top, punchy down low, and very transparent.
Turn this one way up and you might just find yourself right in the middle of a killer live Zep concert.
The only song here that didn't totally blow our minds was the version of Dazed and Confused, which sounded a bit compressed during the big jam. Other than that, all the big hits (Rock And Roll, The Rain Song, No Quarter, Stairway, etc.) sound Right On The Money.
What the best sides of this Classic Live Album have to offer is not hard to hear:
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1976
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange -- with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the venue
No doubt there's more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
Domestic or Import?
The domestic copies we've played over the years of Song Remains the Same are clearly better sounding than any import we've auditioned. The imports we've played were clearly made from dubbed copies of the master tapes, sounding small, veiled, smeary and lifeless. (Come to think of it, that's exactly the kind of sound we hear on many remastered Heavy Vinyl pressings these days, and exactly why we stopped carrying them.)
The fact that domestic pressings are consistently superior to the imports on this album may be counterintuitive, but that's the kind of thing you find out when doing blinded shootouts. We have little use for intuitions ("if it's a UK recording buy the UK pressing") and rules of thumb ("originals always have better sound than reissues").
Hard data -- the kind you get from actually playing the records -- trumps them all.
What We're Listening For on The Song Remains the Same
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- The Big Sound comes next -- wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information -- fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness common to most LPs.
- Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering -- which ties in with good transient information, as well as the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency -- the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the players.
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren't "back there" somewhere, way behind the speakers. They're front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt -- engineering legend Eddie Kramer in this case -- would have put them.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing -- an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Mint Minus Minus is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of later pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don't have the vintage analog magic that is a key part of the appeal of these wonderful recordings.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that's certainly your prerogative, but we can't imagine losing what's good about this music -- the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight -- just to hear it with less background noise.
Rock And Roll
The Song Remains The Same
Dazed And Confused
Stairway To Heaven
Whole Lotta Love
Released in conjunction with the pseudodocumentary film of the same name, The Song Remains the Same reproduces the very things that made Zeppelin concerts legendary — lengthy solos, intertwining interplay between Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, and ridiculously long songs ("Dazed and Confused" is nearly an entire half-hour).
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