Page & Plant-No Quarter Unledded (1995)
Interviews-Cast-Jimmy Page And Robert Plant
Bonus Track-Black Dog
Additional Footage-Moroccan Montage
Music Video-Most High
|Year Of Production||1995|
|Running Time||94:13 (Case: 93)|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (58:47)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Aubrey Powell|
Brahim El Balkani
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (256Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes, the orchestra plays on.|
In 1994 an American cable television network approached former Led Zeppelin members Jimmy Page and Robert Plant with the view of broadcasting a performance of acoustic renditions of some of their past work. The pair had been seeking a project on which to collaborate, and viewed this offer as an opportunity to present their material in a new light, rather than simply re-hashing their past. A band was assembled, beginning with former member of The Cure, Porl Thompson on second guitar. Bassist Charlie Jones and drummer Michael Lee had performed in Plant's solo act and made the transition with ease. It is this core of musicians that we see for the bulk of the program.
The feature includes live performances filmed in Marrakech, London and Wales. The Marrakech footage is very raw and simple, with a percussive tribal feel. We begin with Page and Plant on their own in the forest with a haunting acoustic version of No Quarter. We're then transported swiftly to a stage in London, where more familiar renditions of Thank You and What Is And What Should Never Be are performed by the full band. Egyptian vocalist Najma Akhtar joins the musicians on stage for The Battle of Evermore, which flows directly into a very rhythmic version of Gallows Pole.
The film then cuts to a strange outdoor quarry for a laid back, plodding version of Nobody's Fault But Mine. City Don't Cry is the first of three new songs performed in Marrakech, which also includes the heavy repetitive rocker The Truth Explodes. Wah Wah returns to the tribal vibe that was established in City Don't Cry, and we return once again to the quarry for a slow rendition of When The Levee Breaks.
Wonderful One is a mellow new song, which returns us to the London set for the remainder of the feature. The band are joined on stage by the London Metropolitan Orchestra for a superb walk through their classic Since I've Been Loving You and an emotional The Rain Song. The stage becomes even more crowded when an Egyptian ensemble steps up for the last three songs, climaxing in an unbelievably powerful Kashmir.
No Quarter premiered on October 12th, 1994 to an estimated audience of 2 million people. The initial VHS release didn't include The Rain Song, but it did appear on the subsequent Laserdisc. This DVD release appears to be the same cut that was issued on Laserdisc.
When this was released on video in 1995, I recall that I was not too impressed with some of the versions of these songs. My tastes have changed a bit in the last ten years, and while I still love the original Led Zeppelin material I'm able to recognise the merit in these recordings a lot more. If you were fond of the original CD or video, then this DVD is an absolute must.
If you'd like more Led Zeppelin reading, check out my reviews of the Led Zeppelin DVD, the How The West Was Won DVD-Audio and the 'unofficial' documentary The Making of a Supergroup.
|1. No Quarter|
2. Thank You
3. What Is And What Should Never Be
4. The Battle Of Evermore
5. Gallows Pole
6. Nobody's Fault But Mine
7. City Don't Cry
8. The Truth Explodes
9. Wah Wah
|10. When The Levee Breaks|
11. Wonderful One
12. Since I've Been Loving You
13. The Rain Song
14. That's The Way
15. Four Sticks
This transfer is clearly sourced from an analogue video master and only a handful of problems are evident relating to the source itself. In addition to this it appears this PAL transfer is more than likely an NTSC conversion, given the runtimes reported in other regions. Considering the program was only intended for television broadcast, the feature shows very little of its ten years and these things considered, I'm pretty happy with the look of the video here.
The transfer is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1, full frame. As I stated above, this program was originally intended for television broadcast in the mid 1990s, making this the intended picture ratio. A cropped widescreen transfer may have been possible - similar to some of the Queen DVD titles - but I doubt the analogue source would have fared so well in this case.
Sharpness and fine detail within this transfer is limited by the analogue source. In this case the most annoying video defect is the persistence of ugly, jagged edges. Of the many occasions these appeared, the most glaring examples I noted were at 26:00 during a distant shot of the mountains and at 46:25 on Jimmy Page's guitar strings. This frequent artefacting also added to my suspicion of this transfer being converted from an NTSC source. Shadow detail is much more acceptable during the darker scenes, however the entire feature is so well lit throughout there are never any objects obscured by shadows, even on stage. There was no low level noise evident in the transfer.
Colouring is surprisingly rich and vibrant, without a hint of bleeding or oversaturation. Skin tones appear true and consistent aside from a couple of small instances where a slightly orange hue pops up, however it is likely this is due to the bright stage lighting.
No MPEG or film artefacts can be seen. The video bitrate is encoded at an average of just over 8Mb/s and often peaks over 10Mb/s, so indeed there are virtually no compression issues to be concerned about. I did note a minor magnetic tape error at 31:57, the error extending across the width of the frame and visible only for a short moment in the top half of the frame. Again, given the length of time this video master has been in storage a little damage is not surprising.
There are no subtitle streams available with the feature, however the interview included in the extras has been translated into seven languages.
This disc is dual layered (DVD9 format), with the layer transition placed at 58:47. This falls between the songs Since I've Been Loving You and The Rain Song, only interrupting a brief moment of audience applause.
So we've established the condition of the video transfer, taking into account its age and the limitations of the ten-year-old source material. How did the audio scrub up, you ask? In a word, breathtaking. I'll state firstly that the surround mixes are very active and are likely to be interpreted by some as disorienting, even unconventional. Personally I like my rear channels to be active with more than just ambience and echoes, so this surround mix really caught my attention from the outset.
The audio presentation of this DVD was overseen by Kevin Shirley, who also mixed the audio of the Led Zeppelin DVD and its companion, How The West Was Won. Bringing the No Quarter project to DVD posed several challenges from the very beginning, most of all due to a lack of proper labelling and time coding on the original multi-track master tapes. With no time code to follow, synchronising the edited video and unedited multitrack audio would have been a daunting, laborious task. I'm happy to report that the extensive audio restoration has yielded three entirely new audio tracks; Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo (256Kb/s), Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s) and dts 5.1 (768Kb/s). When comparing these with the original stereo mix, the most startling difference is the greatly increased tone and presence of Jimmy Page's guitars. Most other differences I noted were subtle edits and the like, but rest assured that this new audio transfer far outweighs the original in terms of clarity and depth.
The default soundtrack on this DVD is Dolby Digital 2.0. For the purposes of this review I listened to all three soundtracks in their entirety.
Robert Plant's dialogue and singing voice is crystal clear and easy to discern in all of the three audio options. There are the usual enunciation issues you would associate with live performances, however these moments are rare and not concerning in the slightest.
Audio sync is solid, aside from one small instance at 28:50 in which I noted the drummer's actions don't nearly match what is heard. Because the drummer is situated far in the background, it is likely this brief shot was used with the foreground objects in mind. This shot only lasts for a couple of seconds and is certainly not likely to offend the average viewer in any way.
These surround mixes utilise each channel to their full potential. I would recommend the use of equally matched rear speakers identical to your mains for these soundtracks, simply because a pair of tiny satellite or bookshelf speakers wouldn't nearly do this mix justice. The rear channels are active constantly with everything from audience noise and applause to fully panned instruments and percussion. Page's acoustic guitar is regularly heard in the rear speakers, in fact a great front-to-rear pan can be heard as his guitar fades at 12:30. Complex layers of bongo drums and percussion are often spread across the rear channels and also demand a great degree of depth and response. As I already stated above, I expect many surround purists won't like hearing instruments in the rear channels of a live recording, but I believe the viewing experience benefits from a more evenly spread, enveloping mix such as this. I rank it among my favourites.
One thing that really does impress me about this DVD is the consistent level of audio quality in the mix, despite the many different recording locations and devices. The program opens with Jimmy and Robert performing on their own in the forest, which blends into a stage performance, which is then followed later by some of the new material recorded very basically with a pair of uni-directional microphones. It's just amazing that the soundtrack can swing seamlessly from a song on a studio stage in London to a sandy stone floor in Marrakech and retain so much depth.
In comparing the audio options, I found that the Dolby Digital 5.1 track has a slightly higher output level in comparison to its dts equivalent. When the levels are matched, the dts yields more defined channel separation, subwoofer depth and overall brightness. If you're not dts capable, the Dolby Digital 5.1 option is still a great surround experience - you'll just be missing out on that extra bit of immersion.
The stereo soundtrack feels overly busy to my ears, even in the simplest musical passages. It is mastered at the highest volume of the three and sounds the harshest at times, particularly in the higher registers of cymbals and the like. Perhaps a higher bitrate would have been more appropriate for the two channel mix.
The subwoofer fleshes out the bass guitar and kick drum beautifully without becoming overpowering. Even some of the more subtle percussive elements find their way into the LFE channel, all of which enhanced the surround experience.
|Surround Channel Use|
This is an interesting bundle of extras, all of which are certainly worth a look. I had been hoping the extras on this disc might include Page and Plant's appearance on Australian television (I believe it was The Money or the Gun with Andrew Denton) and their impromptu performance of Rolf Harris's Sun Arise. I guess I'll have to be content with my dusty, old VHS recording of that one.
All of this disc's content is presented in 1.33:1 (full frame).
Robert and Jimmy discuss how the No Quarter project came to be and explain their eagerness to work with one another. Many aspects of the project are covered in this interview, from selecting which songs to revisit among their vast back catalogue to the difficult working relationship the pair found with Morocco. The interview also includes a very cool branching feature that allows the viewer to skip straight to any of the other extra features, all of which are outlined below. Even though it was filmed way back in 1994 this is an enlightening and informal chat with the two masterminds behind this project. This feature has been subtitled into seven different languages, including English.
This entirely new arrangement of the classic Zeppelin tune Black Dog features two Didgeridoo players and is barely recognisable at first, but soon kicks along with the recognisable groove we all know and love. It was recorded for Dick Clarke's American Music Awards in 1994 and includes a line-up of musicians virtually identical to those we see in the feature. Producer Kevin Shirley has stated that while preparing it for inclusion on this DVD he found the source material for this track was not in very good condition, and some slight flaws in the audio are noticeable. Unfortunately the second guitar by Porl Thompson was nowhere to be found on the multi-track tape when it came to mixing and in addition to this the quality of the recording itself was below standard. I'm happy to report that the audio has been polished up nicely and it's great to see the performance has been included despite the missing guitar. The audio options on this track include dts, Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0.
As the title suggests, this is simply a short montage of footage taken while Page & Plant were visiting various villages in and around Marrakech. Despite its brief length, the sights, smells and culture of the Moroccan people shines through.
Page & Plant's continued collaboration throughout the mid-nineties finally bore fruit in the album Walking Into Clarksdale. The collection of new songs retained some of the percussive, almost tribal vibe the pair had established in No Quarter and added an electronic element that gave the duo a decidedly less earthy chemistry. Most High was the single and in some ways it best encapsulates the overall feel of that album. The video clip uses distorted imagery to create a disorienting effect and maintains a consistent visual theme throughout. Given its many percussive layers and depth of production this song would have fared very well with a surround mix, however it is only presented here in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo.
A glossy eight page booklet is included, detailing each of the musicians involved and replicating the text found in the closing credits. The front page of the booklet features an introduction and assorted thankyous by Robert Plant, written in June 2004.
The video transfer is acceptable, but resolution is limited by the analogue source.
The audio transfer is an outstanding remastering effort, and an immersive surround experience.
The extras are worthwhile and related to the feature.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-525, using Component output|
|Display||Sanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.|
|Amplification||Denon AVR-2802 Dolby EX/DTS ES Discrete|
|Speakers||Orpheus Aurora lll Mains (bi-wired), Rears, Centre Rear. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Centre. Mirage 10 inch sub.|