Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends
REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/20/2006
An apt title, really, since this monster took up three LPs when it first came out. And as Yes had just released the triple-LP Yessongs in 1973, which was their career highlight, it goes to think that this record would have the same effect on Emerson, Lake & Palmer, right?
Wrong. While it is truly impressive that only three guys could make as much sound as they do here, their tendency to elongate everything with showy solos drags this down. A half hour of "Tarkus?" An entire album devoted to "Karn Evil 9?" Making "Take a Pebble" even longer by giving Keith Emerson a solo piano concert in the middle of it? Not necessary.
Worse, the concert sounds as if it was recorded from the upper balcony, never once giving the feeling of being up close, the way the best live albums do. The album has to be played loud, which makes it a little more interesting, I suppose.
The first side starts off with the blah "Hoedown," the dispensable English hymn "Jerusalem" and "Toccata," all of which are faithful adaptations of their studio counterparts. The band then launches into "Tarkus;" the majority of the song is faster and harder than the original studio epic, an improvement, but the last eight or so minutes are given to wanky keyboard noodling that do nothing musically for anyone, anywhere. The only reason to listen is for a few brief bars of King Crimson's "Epitaph" at the end.
"Take A Pebble" also is a little better in this setting and includes solo acoustic versions of "Lucky Man" and "Still...You Turn Me On" from Greg Lake; the latter does not disappoint, as it is vastly different from the studio take. But then again, Emerson pops up to play piano for 12 minutes, followed by a medley of those dumbass honky-tonk songshe liked.
The affair closes with the entirety of "Karn Evil 9" performed, and if you can manage to sit through it all, more power to you. It's fine in pieces; best to listen to one movement at a time, if you must, or go back to the studio version, or go pull weeds out of the garden. Whatever.
Sure, ELP was pompous and bloated, but it seems much of that falls on the E part of the equation, judging by this concert document. Yet the music is so expertly played and the trio works so well together that at least half is worth hearing.