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The Freedom of Music: The Song and the Medium Remain the Same

October 19th, 2008

One likes to believe in the freedom of music.

Rush – Spirit of Radio.

I was in Toronto a couple of weeks ago for a few hours, prior to seeing Steve Howe. Alone in Toronto can only mean one thing: HMV. It would have been Sam the Record Man’s on Yonge street, but it’s gone now. Second best (by a mile) is the HMV store across the road from the former Sam’s location. I had three hours to kill and figured I would spend an hour at HMV’s.

DVD’s, records and CD’s oh my. Tons of movie, all the CD’s you can listen to and, oh yea, records, lots of records. Real vinyl records, with readable print, gatefold covers and little wee holes in the middle. Newly released versions of old stuff like the Police’s Zenyatta Mondatta and the newest releases from Metallica, the Eagles and, oh yea, Led Zeppelin. A lovely boxset of the freshly released complete set of The Song Remains the Same.

It’s a really nice set, 4 LPs, with nice sleeves and a large detailed booklet that’s ½ the original Song Remains the Same booklet ½ new writeup by Cameron Crowe. But that’s just the window dressing. The real heart of the set is the music, and quality thereof.

The LPs are sturdy, reasonably heavy things. This is good. If you remember records, you’re first edition Abbey Road is thicker, heavier and less flexible than your copy of Born in the USA. This has an effect. Heavier, thicker vinyl records allow for deeper grooves. A deeper groove allows more contact between the record and the needle, which means a better quality record. On first listen it shows. The sound is rich and thick, the music sounds closer to concert hall quality than your Dad’s old Victrola.

The music, however, remains the same, at least somewhat. What’s special about this collection is it is a complete set list from those 1973 Madison Square Garden shows. Black Dog, The Ocean, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Over the Hills and Far Away and Misty Mountain Hop were not released on the original Song Remains the Same back in 1976. This set is more complete, better quality with better reading material. Just great, yet somehow, when Robert Plant starts moaning about hearing “my mama and papa talkin'” it’s like all those years in between never slipped away. And that’s what is best, returning home with a new Zeppelin LP, throwing it on the turntable and getting lost in the music for just a while. It’s like you can go home again, and it feels great.

Or as Robert Plant would sing:

My, my I’m so happy.
I wanna join the band.

It was true then, and sitting here listening to Celebration Day live from 1973, it’s true now.

The Freedom of Music, The Mighty Zep

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