So, we just watch a ton of Monkees, and now we watch Led Zeppelin: The Song Remains the Same? Does that make any sense at all? I mean, the Monkees are a fun pop group with more musical credit than many people realize (they toured with Hendrix!), but Zep is one of the greatest rock 'n' roll bands of all time. Does this make any sense?
The Song Remains the Same starts with some silly home movies of Plant watching his Houses of the Holy naked kids playing in a brook, Bonham plowing his field, their manager machine gunning a room full of faceless record execs and werewolves, and that sort of thing. Then they go on tour and we get a concert at Madison Square Garden.
As a band, they are magnificent. Plant is one of the great guitarists of the age, a brilliant bluesplayer and master of tricky rhythm. Bonham can follow him anywhere, and Jones does as well on keyboards as on bass. Page's voice is a wonderful instrument, as long as you kind of ignore the hobbity lyrics.
And there lies the rub. Because mixed in with this concert footage, we have the boys (Page mostly) acting out their Arthurian/Tolkienesque/Highlander fantasies, in little mini-movies. And frankly, it reeks of Spinal Tap's "Stonehenge".
Also, and some may disagree, the concert is probably not their best work. They do some great songs - I especially like "I Been Loving You So Long". There are some wild solos, including an extended drum solo (I like drum solos, so sue me). But some of the songs seemed to lose focus in places, and there was a little slack in some of the long stretches of the extended songs. And of course, there's the old warhorse, "Stairway to Heaven". Wasn't it getting tired even in 1976, when this was made?
Sitll, I can't deny that the music is great, if not perfect. Just ignore the silly medieval stuff and the home movies and enjoy the concert.
What I want to emphasize is this: the Monkees can't compare to Led Zep, but the bozos who made Song can't compare to Bob Rafelson, who directed the Monkees. That evens the playing field.