Album review: CARL PALMER’S ELP LEGACY – Live (CD/DVD)

In this exclusive, extended, interview edit, Carl Palmer chats about his formative years and the influence of his musical family in terms of career direction. (9:14)

The full interview with Carl was broadcast on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio on Sunday 17 June at 18:00 GMT.

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CARL PALMER'S ELP LEGACY - Live

BMG [Release date 29.06.18]

In June 2016, Carl Palmer was supposed to be celebrating his 50th anniversary as a professional musician.  Instead, when he played the Olympia Theatre in Florida, it became a tribute to the recently departed Keith Emerson.

This gig is commemorated on the accompanying DVD which also features special guests Steve Hackett and Mark Stein (Vanilla Fudge).  The CD is recorded in New York two years previously.

As a package, whilst a celebration of former lives, it still elevates Carl Palmer as percussionist par excellence.  We saw him at HRH Prog last year and it was quite clear that he still has the enthusiasm and energy and with his younger journeymen,  Paul Bielatowicz (guitar) and Simon Fitzpatrick (bass/Chapman Stick).

For some, especially on the CD, the element of drum bombast may be overpowering although his guitarist and bassist help keep things grounded and the presence of guitar gives these workouts  a new makeover.  The long ‘Tarkus’ reinforces that the original album influenced bands like Focus in the early seventies whilst the “shorter version” of ‘Trilogy’ is essentially a showcase for Palmer’s drum solo.

The DVD setlist edges the CD if only for the presence of seasoned prog veterans and the colour of a Hammond. Here Palmer is joined by Mark Stein for ‘Karn Evil 9′ and ‘Knife-Edge’ and Steve Hackett (who plays harmonica as well as guitar)  for ‘Fanfare For The Common Man’ and the finale ‘Nutrocker’ when he is also joined by Stein and co-producer David Frangioni.

The basic trio are also accompanied by The Center For Contemporary Dance Ensemble including during the Emerson tribute ‘Pictures At An Exhibition’.  Palmer recounts that both he and Emerson were inspired by the piece and it gave them some early common ground.  There’s added poignancy because, before Emerson’s death, they had discussed collaborating on this very show.

Some sloppy DVD menu titling means that ‘The Barbarian’ is hidden before ‘Bitches Crystal’ but, overall, this is a worthwhile release with Palmer providing informative between song banter.

Like Steve Hackett, for the rest of his days it seems that Palmer will be forever chained to earlier material – not least because no-one else is playing this stuff – but at least the Genesis guitarist still releases relevant solo albums.  It would be a shame if Palmer didn’t revisit his earlier incarnations, such as PM and Qango.

For some purists, the dominance of Bielatowicz’s frequently shredding  guitar may detract somewhat from the ELP canon but – overall – the legacy lives on and is safe in Carl Palmer’s hands. ***1/2

Review by David Randall

David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.

HRH Prog (November 2017)


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