Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Inside The Music Series 1970 – 1995

If you’re not familiar with Classic Rock Productions’ Inside the Music series, it consists of a critical look at a band’s career and music. These critiques are done by people in the industry and are not endorsed by the artists themselves. Meaning there is no useless flattery going on.

The series includes looks at such classic rock acts as Deep Purple, Genesis, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, T-Rex and many, many others.

This one is about one of the biggest selling acts of the 70s and the band which attracted the most people to their shows during that decade.

The critical team consists of producer Rob Corich, journalist Malcom Dome, Emmy award winning writer and producer, Bob Carruthers, former Record Buyer editor, Michael Heatley, former David Bowie and the Spiders from Mars drummer Woody Woodmansey and Mostly Autumn keyboardist Iain Jennings.

It includes a lot of bits of various live performances by ELP, critiques of each album, of the band, of the shows. Of course it’s mostly positive considering the musicians involved in the band and the great success they had. However, they are also quite critical of the extravaganza that was this supergroup.

All opinions are supported and the viewer can disagree with anything being said, that’s fine. Some of the opinions even contradict each other, showing, I believe, that everyone involved was free to say what they wanted.

A nice historical view of a great band. An in-depth look at their career, their albums and their music which is quite worth seeing.

Live At Montreux 1997

Here’s a nice offering from Eagle Vision. The seventies’ biggest rock band together in one of their last live performances. And at a legendary location too.

This DVD is a nice tribute to the band and shows why they were so big. Of course, they’re not in their thirties anymore; on this DVD they’re in their fifties, but you wouldn’t guess it by the performance.

Emerson is the same as always; band leader, incredible keyboardist. It’s a marvel to watch him perform Creole Dance. And after his wrist operation. It was thought at one point that he would never play again, but not so.

Lake’s voice may not be at the height it attained in the 1970’s, but it’s much better than it was in the early 90’s and better than that of most singers’ voices. His bass playing and guitar playing are as incredible as they’ve ever been. I think he’s the one who’s the most interesting to watch on this DVD for the simple fact that I’ve rarely seen a performer be so much into the music being played. Lake’s body may be on stage, but his mind is totally inside the songs.

Palmer’s drumming is… well… equal to none. Even after having been operated on both wrists for carpal tunnel syndrome, he’s still the best drummer in the world; don’t just take my word for it. The drum solo, here right after Fanfare for the Common Man is as awe-inspiring as ever. Anyone who says that drum solos are a thing of the past and shouldn’t be done anymore has never seen Palmer play. And watching him, it all looks so easy…

As for the list of songs; really great. This DVD offers a lot of rarely-seen live performances:

Tiger in a Spotlight

Touch and Go, quite different from the old Emerson, Lake & Powell version, performed by Palmer’s request

From the Beginning, featuring the whole band playing and the keyboard solo! Unfortunately, no guitar solo, but even a gifted musician like Lake can’t play both the acoustic and the electric guitar at the same time…

Bitches Crystal

Honky Tonk Train Blues

The opener, of course, Karn Evil 9-1st impression, part 2 is performed in its entirety! And the Tarkus Suite is played in its entirety, leading in to The Hut of Baba Yaga” and The Great Gates of Kiev from Pictures at an Exhibition. Just The Great Gates of Kiev is enough reason to get the DVD; Mussorgsky’s music is rendered in such a grandiose way in this performance. This is what huge music is all about.

Oh, and a nice piece is the close-up on Keith’s old Hammond. When he plants the dagger into it, you can actually see a piece of it fly by… And when he’s under it, playing upside-down, you can see all the wear and tear it’s taken from almost 40 years of abuse…

As for the sound and images, this was recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival, so the quality is there all the way. If you’ve never seen these guys play, this should knock your socks off. If you have, then this is something you’ll really love!

King Biscuit

If you’ve ever seen ELP live, you know what sort of ambiance these three virtuosos create. Recognized as one of the best live bands ever, even by all those critics who loved to hate them, an ELP show is an event one doesn’t forget.

So, a live album from ELP is always a treat. Contrary to many other bands (I won’t mention names such as Yes), their live albums don’t all feature the same songs. This double live CD features songs from two shows. One at The Coliseum, Wheeling, WV in 1977 during the Works tour and the other at the Civic Center in Tulsa Oklahoma in 1974 during the Brain Salad Surgery tour.

So the material covered spans their 70s career quite adequately. Some of the material is, essentially, the same as on the Works Live album (at Montreal Olympic Stadium in 77), but without the orchestra, hence giving it a different feel.

The quality of the recordings is also of very good quality, sounding quite good even with headphones.

There are songs from all of the 70s albums, except Love Beach, which hadn’t been recorded at the time, and Pictures at an Exhibition, which simply would not have fit.

Standards such as Lucky Man and Fanfare for the Common Man are of course featured. The second album features Karn Evil 9 in its entirety, featuring The Drum Solo! If you’ve never heard Palmer drum, then the album is worth buying for just this reason. Of course, there’s another drum solo on the first CD.

The second CD is also a CD ROM (for both PC and Mac). It includes live videos from the 1992 show at the Royal Albert Hall. The videos are Lucky Man, Paper Blood and Greg Lake playing solo from In the Beginning. It’s amazing to see this guy play this piece of music as if it were really simple (it’s not).

It’s interesting to note that at least some of these recordings were originally used on the Welcome Back My Friends, to the Show that Never Ends – Ladies and Gentlemen, Emerson, Lake & Palmer album. I did recognize that person in the audience saying “Whew! He’s crazy!” just as Lake begins Lucky Man.

ELP live is just the way they were meant to be.

The Show That Never Ends

You can find several books out on Jethro Tull and Yes. Oddly enough, there wasn’t one on ELP. I say oddly as they were the biggest-selling band in the ’70s. They were also the most bashed-upon band of their time. Critics loved to hate them.

Considered by them as “pretentious” and “self-indulgent”, most of them, the British in particular, just didn’t want to see into the music. Why did they seem to be pretentious? Emerson explains it rather well. “You have to be self-indulgent to do something new.”

Finally, there is a book on the band. An interesting one at that. This books starts off before ELP were formed. Obviously, most people know that Emerson came from The Nice, that Lake was with King Crimson and that Palmer was with Atomic Rooster. And that they broke up three bands to form one. Yet, beyond that, very little of their past history is ever discussed.

So, it’s nice to find out that Emerson was into classic Jazz music, that Lake’s former bandmates from The Gods ended up as Uriah Heep and that Palmer was also into Jazz and not into Rock and Pop at all.

The book is a concise look into the band’s history. Don’t look for dirt on the band members here, you won’t find it. Enough has been said in the past, anyway, about all the goings-on during the tours, etc. Instead, you’ll find a lot of facts about the band and learn how they came about making such music as they did.

There are also very interesting passages. A couple in regards to comments made from Lake regarding Eric Clapton. “Cream missed me by a mile, and I think that was because once you’d seen Hendrix you’d seen the thing done properly, if know what I mean”. And this more interesting one where “Lake made a historic, if tongue-in-cheek, faux pas by saying he’d love to play with Clapton “just to see if [Clapton] could keep time”!”

All in all, the Authors do a fine job of sifting through thirty years of history to come up with a comprehensible story of the band, it’s members and their motivations.

Every album is examined in detail and every song is also detailed. The authors’ treatment of the albums and songs is excellent. They really know the material. With only one exception: Still… You Turn Me On. The author states “While the song is musically uncomplicated”. Try playing it on the guitar. Lake’s fingers must be at least six-inches longer than mine in order to play the damn piece! And the song has so many textures from keyboards, strings, acoustic guitar and electric guitar, that it is perhaps one of the most complicated pieces the band ever did.

I must, however point out, that I found it odd that the Montreal Olympic Stadium show, deemed by the band as their best show ever, turned into a live album and a live video, played with a 60-piece orchestra, is hardly discussed beyond the point that the band still hold the attendance record at Olympic Stadium, having a bigger attendance than the Olympic games themselves. I have to add that the attendance was even larger than when the pope went there.