CRR Archive album review bt Eric Sandberg — Carl Palmer's ELP Legacy - Live
Editor’s Note: This review covers only the CD portion of this release which also contains a DVD of a different concert featuring special guests.
Since their inception in 1970, it cannot be argued that Emerson, Lake & Palmer spent far more time apart than together. I suppose it could be argued that they often weren't together even when they were together. ELP's flamed burned brightly really only for about four years and five genre-defining albums. After a four year break ELP released Works Vol. 1 serving their harshest critics all the evidence they needed on a platter of bacon.
Although I rather enjoy an occasional spin of Love Beach it's important to remember that it was released in 1978 along with All Mod Cons, Give 'Em Enough Rope, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo, Germ-free Adolescents...you get the idea.
The less said about their 90's reunion the better. Black Moon was, to quote Roger Waters , "a fair forgery" but In The Hot Seat was a betrayal. And what is so dramatic about an empty chair tied to a train track with a train bearing down on it? Was it a symbol of all three abdicating their responsibilities to the band's recorded legacy?
But I digress.
For many years the question had been for Keith Emerson, Greg Lake and Carl Palmer: How do I make a living off of ELP without actually having to be in ELP? Keith had Marc Bonilla, Greg utilized horrific pre-recorded backing tracks and told lot of stories, while Carl, now the only surviving member, has his ELP Legacy. If you think about it, Carl's current approach to presenting the music of ELP can be traced all the way back to Works Vol. 1 where he chose to record a reinterpretation of "Tank" with an orchestra.
ELP was the perfect vehicle to showcase Carl Palmer's prodigious percussive prestodigitations (sometimes I just can't help myself). His work with Asia is, however, unfairly overlooked for the gravitas he brought to their sound. The ELP experience replicates the trio format of the original band but eschews vocals in favor of instrumental arrangements and, most controversially, utilizes a guitar player in place of the keyboards.
This is a bold move considering...well...um...jeez the original band pretty much revolved around someone dubbed as the Jimi Hendrix of the organ.
For the most part it works. Guitarist Paul Bielatowicz is an amazing player, as is bassist Simon Fitzpatrick. Between the two of them they manage to convey the melodies, the lead breaks and the vocal lines, often switching who carries what load.
Fitzpatrick makes great use of sound patches to alter his bass sound to fit whatever musical theme he is carrying. My main quibble with this performance is that Bielatowicz mostly sticks with the same guitar tone throughout, occasionally using a keyboard emulator where appropriate.
While I admire his ability to play all of Emerson's most finger-twisting runs with speed, precision and accuracy, hearing all of them in the same up the neck trebly tone becomes monotonous and distracting after a while.
Emerson used a panoply of keyboard sounds to great effect with ELP and just marveling at the guitarist's ability to nail all the notes with mostly the same tone isn't quite enough to satisfy.
What this approach to the music of ELP does, however, is highlight the incredible contributions of Carl Palmer. The music is delivered at a demonic pace which emphasizes the incredible skill of the main attraction. Led Zeppelin couldn't work without John Bonham and Emerson, Lake & Palmer surely would have been a top-heavy disaster from the get go without Palmer's musical training to shore things up.
Now that Keith and Greg have both left us, I would really like to see Carl Expand the ELP legacy to include a keyboard player and a powerful vocalist and take the band's true legacy on the road.
Eric Sandberg: My true opinion on everything is that it's splunge.