EMERSON LAKE & PALMER
Out Of This World: Live (1970-1997) (7CD box) BMG
Video Review and Unboxing Video above by Phil Aston
Prog legends Emerson Lake & Palmer were one of the early supergroups (formed from the roots of The Nice, King Crimson and Atomic Rooster in 1970) and cemented their legacy in the first half of the 70s. Often overblown, they stripped away much of the blues, soul and psychedelia from rock music, playing classical music like an insane robot. Immensely popular and rightfully so . ELP split at the end of the decade and reformed a number of times.
There is quite a live legacy, as the number of official live albums show. And while the 4 multi-disc box sets in the Official Bootleg series filled many a gap, the quality was often ropey at best. This album is just wonderful from the moment you open it up.
Out of the box comes a booklet and five live albums in card sleeves, all gatefold, two of them double sets. That’s the weekend’s listening sorted then.
CD1 – Isle of White Festival 1970
The first set is the band’s debut performance at the August 1970 Isle Of Wight Festival (the DVD now long out of print). Opening track The Barbarian (from their eponymous debut) showcases the classical leanings, as much as the band’s technical craft. It’s fast and aggressive. As with much of their music, it is Keith Emerson’s keyboards take the lead. There’s a jazz metal element to Carl Palmer’s drumming too. The second track Take A Pebble is a gentler track, featuring vocalist and guitarist/bassist Greg Lake.
The audience response is muted, largely due to the fact that while the names were known, the band and music weren’t, it was a learning experience for everyone. Next up is a 35 minute run-through of Mussorgsky’s Picture’s At An Exhibition (which was the basis of a live album in it’s own right a year or two later). It’s a track that has everything; from folky whimsical sections to, at the heavier end, imagine a robot having an epileptic fit while playing rock’n’roll. Marvellous. A take on Rondo (The Nice) and a cover of Nutrocker close the set. Rondo is take from The Nice’s debut a few years earlier, which is often considered the first bone fide progressive rock album. And the disc here is completed by a band interview.
CD2 – California Jam 1974
The second set is the band’s performance at the 1974 Californian Jam (also the source of a legendary Deep Purple performance). Opening track Toccata is pretty much a drum solo, then the gentler Still You Turn Me On, featuring some nice acoustic guitar from Lake. Luck Man follows suit, and clearly a loved track from the audience cheer. There’s the usual Emerson piano improvisation before the highlight of 2 segments of Karn Evil 9 (the full track comes form the Brain Salad Surgery album, a staple of any decent record collection).
CD3 (2 discs) – Works Live 1977
The 3rd set is the double disc Works Live. Although previously released, it has been long out of print. It is the full and expanded show from which the original live set In Concert was taken. There’s a selection of the usual and classic Emerson Lake & Palmer, coupled with tracks from the two Works sets. C’Est La Vie is the band although it is effectively a Gret Lake solo track, and the Peter Gunn Theme is always good. Tiger In A Spotlight gets the head nodding, and Keith Emerson’s take on Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag is excellent too. The sound and mix are good. A highlight is the cover of Fanfare For The Common Man (an unlikely hit single for the band). And several tracks feature a 70 piece orchestral.
CD4 – Royal Albert Hall 1992
Set 4 is a nicely packaged gig at the Royal Albert Hall, 1992, when the band had reformed for an excellent studio album or two. This show I had wanted to go to but it soon sold out. The band are solid, tight and it’s well recorded. Newer tracks Black Moon, Paper Blood and Romeo & Juliet sit nicely next to Tarkus, Pirates and Fanfare For The Common Man; the adulation is fully deserved.
CD5 (2 discs) – Union Hall Phoenix 1997
The final set here is the 2CD Phoenix Arizona 1997, which showed that ELP still had a solid fanbase. The production is solid and modern, although as a general rule the tracks weren’t as long. Honky Tonk Train Blues gets a blast, Take A Pebble is the longest track on disc one at 8 minutes, and Emerson Lake & Powell’s Touch And Go gets a run out. Disc two is more classic ELP with Tarkus running to 12 minutes and Pictures At An Exhibition to 24. This is the kind of music prog rock fans live for. And a gem and highlight is the closing track, a medley of 21st Century Schizoid Man (King Crimson) and Rondo (the Nice). This is music you can drink wine and chill out or rock out to, with ease.
Emerson Lake And Palmer were both classic and classical prog rock and this set is to be really enjoyed. Overblown, self-indulgent and marvellous all the way.
Much of this material has been officially released previously, some in a different format and all long out of print. The packaging is top-notch and there’s a colourful booklet with it too. Well worth your money, and a few hours listening too. A little bit more previously unreleased recorded to the same quality would have been the icing on the cake.
Joe Geesin | Now Spinning Magazine