EMERSON LAKE AND PALMER — Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends - Ladies And Gentlemen

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EMERSON LAKE AND PALMER - Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends - Ladies And Gentlemen cover
4.23 | 6 ratings | 1 review
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Live album · 1974

Tracklist

A1 Hoedown (Taken From Rodeo)
A2 Jerusalem
A3 Toccata (An Adaption Of Ginastera's 1st Piano Concerto, 4th Movement)
Tarkus
B1 1. Eruption
B2 2. Stones Of Years
B3 3. Iconoclast
B4 4. Mass
B5 5. Manticore
B6 6. Battlefield (Including Epitaph)
C1 7. Aquatarkus (Conclusion)
-
C2 Take A Pebble (Including Still... You Turn Me On And Lucky Man)
D1 Piano Improvisations (Including Friedrich Gulda's 'Fugue' And Joe Sullivan's 'Little Rock Getaway')
D2 Take A Pebble (Conclusion)
D3 Jeremy Bender / The Sheriff (Medley)
E Karn Evil 9 (1st Impression)
F Karn Evil 9 (2nd And 3rd Impression)

Line-up/Musicians

Drums, Percussion – Carl Palmer
Engineer – Andy Hendriksen, Peter Granet
Keyboards – Keith Emerson

About this release

Manticore Records – K 63500 (UK)

Recorded live on Emerson, Lake & Palmer's 1973-74 World Tour

Thanks to snobb for the addition

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EntertheLemming
Triple Whopper McELP with Extra Cheese & No Brainer Salad: Tall Proggy Syndrome

"Our drummer has a 30 piece drum kit"

"Is he Ringo?, ours is made of stainless steel and weighs over two and a half tons"*

"We have a song that lasts 23 minutes"

"Are you the Ramones? We've got one that lasts half an hour"

"Our stage set up requires we bring in three of our own generators for lighting, sound and video and a spider lamp gantry weighing 80,000 pounds"

"Minimalism losers. We have two 60 foot proscenium arches with 156 foot projection screen, 13 separate keyboards and a $5,000 persian rug, a 28,000 watt surround sound system PA, a three tiered mixing desk, and if we have to block fire exits to get all 36 tonnes of it all in, we will Daddio"

Prog never monopolised Chutzpah one-upmanship in Rock but certainly brought the idea of music as spectacle to the hirsute, bedenimed and steadfastly earnest music fan. ELP also brought Liberace, Cecil B. DeMille, Billy Smart, Michael Crichton's Westworld and the performers as sparkly stuntmen into their hitherto cramped cosmos where nervous laughter drowned out any misgivings as to the theatrics undermining substance "it's just bread and circuses for the hoi polloi innit?" First of all, the sound quality of the original vinyl was truly dreadful. A muddy, boggy and unfocused skidmark of a recording that sounded like it was recorded from the trunk of a car parked outside the stadium. Digital transfers have improved things in the interim but even with the Atlantic Japan '91 CD version I have now it still sounds kinda murky with feedback and all strange manner of leakage and echoing artifacts. Whether this is a result of the original tapes being recorded specifically for the then burgeoning Quadraphonic format is up for debate. It also seems odd that these same Anaheim, California recordings were used for the King Biscuit FM broadcast release which sounds, to my ears at least, a lot clearer and less swathed in reverb. I'm advised that even if you hear the recording in Quad, the rear speakers are silent for about 90% of the time anyways. With (3) vinyl LPs you would have anticipated at least 120 minutes playing time in 1974 but here we get just 19 seconds shy of 110 minutes. That said, the commensurate hike in the fidelity of a shorter lathed album simply never materialises. Aretha Franklin's vaunted '67 release 'Lady Soul' doesn't even hit the 29 minute mark but most ELP diehards still think she's just that overdressed dinner lady who sang at Barack Obama's inauguration (and that felt longer)

The whooping synth glissandi of 'Hoedown' kick things off in thrilling fashion, but although the trio are perfectly in sync throughout, it's played way too fast and just becomes a hollow victory for accuracy over feel. No music can breathe properly at such a slapstick tempo and has prompted some, like the band's biographers Martyn Hanson, George Forrester and Frank Askew to speculate they were competing amongst themselves. I'm not entirely convinced by this but if there is one crucial difference between the Nice and ELP, it's that the former still had a vestige of soul and were not obsessed by technology, speed and complexity.

That huge organ sound on 'Jerusalem' was replicated using a flanger and it's great to hear a live recording of a number the band were not allowed to play in the UK. I'm always disappointed it was never included on future set lists. 'Toccata' is even more visceral and demonic than the studio original and this is probably the best ever live version of 'Tarkus' available. Lake quotes quite ingeniously from his former band Crimson's 'Epitaph' during the 'Battlefield' section and makes this listener wish a recording of ELP's apocryphal live version of 'In the Court of the Crimson King' was available' (Does anyone know if this critter actually exists?)

Keith pays homage to one of the earliest electronic music pioneers Dick Hyman by quoting quite extensively from the latter's 'Minotaur' Moog melody during an extended and exhilarating solo on 'Aquatarkus' under which Greg and Carl lay down a syncopated and hypnotic Latin groove that is unparalleled in ELP's output. That the barroom medley of 'Jeremy Bender' and 'the Sheriff' (using a specially built piano) is a sobering argument for prohibition is confirmed by Greg's slurred and wheezing vocal which resembles a sprint back onstage with indecent haste after a fag break. For a band of avowed perfectionists this is indefensible.

'Take a Pebble' is bo-toxed to over 25 minutes although that does include Greg's solo acoustic versions of 'Still You Turn Me On' and 'Lucky Man'. Neither is particularly memorable and when stripped of the concealing filigree of the band's debut, the latter just sounds like what it is i.e. a teenager's juvenalia hiding in plain sight. Keith's 'Piano Improvisations' are both admirable and frustrating in equal measure but I'm still conflicted if this is a result of an overly compressed piano sound or lack of subtlety in his execution. The playing seems to be stripped of all nuanced dynamics and all we are left with is 'really loud' and 'even louder than that' by way of contrast. Notwithstanding these flaws, he still gives us an entertaining whistle stop tour of many of his formative influences including adaptations of Friedrich Gulda and Joe Sullivan together with stylistic nods of deference to Fats Waller, Respighi, Rachmaninov, Jacques Loussier and with the perverse Emerson sense of humour still intact, silent movie pianolas. Once again, alas, the camouflage of technique being able to supplant feel means that Gulda's fiendishly difficult 'Prelude and Fugue' suffers the same fate as 'Hoedown', by being much faster than the composer's original intentions but completely bereft of any requisite subtle swing. 'Karn Evil 9' probably hadn't been road tested enough at the time of the recording so is the album version verbatim apart from Carl's overlong drum solo 'Con Brio'. That's not to say it's lacking in any shape or form but just don't go looking for any deviations from the studio original. Retrospective feedback is self evidently futile but Carl baby: Just because you had a church bell and two gongs doesn't mean you had the inalienable right to encourage people to take up passive smoking to avoid your interminable batterie home tour. Wot...No 'Benny the Bouncer'? the only track omitted from the 'Brain Salad Surgery' album which polarises most of the band's fan-base. I love it so kill me. Jeremy makes Benny sound like a work of labyrinthine conceptual genius so I always just wish it was here. You have to embrace the crass vulgarity, showmanship, cheap razzmatazz AND musical depth, breadth and technical sophistication of ELP as love them or loathe them, they epitomize the best AND worst of Prog. Without the performance as theater aspect, this type of Prog bombast makes little sense and it could be argued that in another genre where chops are de rigueur, (Jazz) is still just some guys standing/sitting there playing. That's not to say it's better or worse but just has less perceived artifice. It also might be indicative that proggers know full well the substance of much of their music might not stand up to the sternest academic scrutiny when stripped of the Ben Hur choreography.

Listening back to previous live records of the Nice and ELP is telling here e.g. on 'Pictures at an Exhibition' and the live half of 'Everything As Nice As Mother Makes It', you feel as though you are right there in the front row able to see the glistening beads of sweat gather on our heroes foreheads as they perform their wizardry at close quarters. On 'Welcome Back', we're not even in the same zip code and can barely see three long haired subbuteo players performing on a Persian rug in a concealing fog of reverb and dry ice from behind a rotating piano and drum kit.

* Somewhat ironically, it was Sir Richard Starkey who ended up buying this custom built steel kit of which Palmer stated 'he's welcome to it'

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