BMG [Release date 29.07.16]
In a year that has had its disproportionate share of rock/pop casualties, Keith Emerson’s passing was one of the saddest. And, inevitably, there is an immediate reflection on a long and varied back catalogue.
This latest batch of reissues presents us with nothing really new, other than 140gm vinyl versions and updated liner notes. Indeed they are an excuse to recycle the 2012 Steven Wilson album remixes but without the 5.1 mixes that also appeared on 3-CD sets at that time.
The debut album Emerson Lake & Palmer in 1970 set down the template for what followed: a mix of classical re-interpretations, a commerciality evident when Emerson was in The Nice, and the more thoughtful lyricism of Greg Lake. At times, the material reflects all the constituent members’ previous incarnations including King Crimson (Lake) and Atomic Rooster (Palmer). A later live staple, ‘Lucky Man’, features the first recorded Emerson Moog solo. ****
Tarkus is rightfully declared as the band’s classic – along with ‘Brain Salad Surgery’ - the opening 20 minute suite a prog piece-de-resistance freely mixing odd time signatures, jazz and rock. *****
1971′s Pictures At An Exhibition was originally scheduled as the second album release but management were concerned that it was more strictly classical in content (an interpretation of Russian composer Mussorgsky’s work).
The work had actually been previewed at the band’s major gig debut – the Isle Of Wight Festival in August 1970. This newly remastered reissue – which includes tracks recorded in South America in December 1972 – is paired with a live gig recorded in December 1970 at the Lyceum in London (The extra live tracks were previously available in 2011 and on the 2008 deluxe edition of ‘Pictures’).
When it did finally get a general release, the album was sold at the special budget price of £1. Like Deep Purple before them, it is significant in demonstrating the crossover potential of the classics and rock and was to influence many a progster with an ear for fusion. ****
Rounding out this batch of releases, and an adequate introduction for most, the Anthology covers the years 1970 to 1998. This 3-CD set cherry picks all the key tracks from the earlier albums (including most of the first two) and collects nuggets from their later incarnations. Inquisitive punters will therefore be thankful that ‘Fanfare For The Common Man’, ‘I Believe In Father Christmas’ and C’est la Vie’ appear on the third disc ****
By the time of 1977′s ‘Works’ the band had already taken time off and there was a four year hiatus since the previous album. They had displayed the worst excesses of prog and now found themselves on the eve of punk rock and an industry revolution.
1992′s ‘Black Moon’ may not have been Emerson Lake & Palmer as we knew them but the earlier excesses were curtailed and with an AOR sheen befitting of the age they produced their best “later” album.
Pioneers of prog pomp, revered and reviled in equal measure, Emerson Lake & Palmer were famously described by BBC DJ John Peel as “a waste of talent and electricity”. This reissue campaign will carry on until next year highlighting the band’s peaks and troughs and supplemented with live recordings, packaged primarily for a new generation of vinyl junkies.
Review by David Randall
David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.
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