Then And Now

Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Eagle Entertainment, 1998

http://www.emersonlakepalmer.com

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/04/1999

For their long-time fans, Emerson Lake & Palmer were and are the ultimate molding of classical music and progressive rock. For their detractors, the band was the ultimate illustration of how a genre could be taken too far.

I find myself in the middle of the two camps. While I've never claimed to be highly knowledgable about the career of Keith Emerson, Greg Lake and Carl Palmer, I've known what I've liked and disliked in their music. In my book, they put out some music in their nearly 30-year career together that has been touchingly beautiful, while at other times they've been quite overbearing. To each their own, I guess.

The latest offering from the band, Then And Now, captures two different live portraits of the group: one from 1974 at the height of their popularity, and one from their recent tour. (Side note: I was at their show in the Chicagoland area last year, but missed their entire set while a bunch of us - guests of Dream Theater - waited to see if John Pertrucci would come by for the meet-and-greet. No one checked passes afterwards, so I could have waited around to meet the band, but my feet hurt, and I really wanted to see Deep Purple.)nbtc__dv_250

The first half of this disc showcases ELP's set at 1974's California Jam. The sound quality is a bit touchy, occasionally bordering on sounding like a higher-quality audience tape. Palmer's drum work on "Toccata" occasionally sounds washed out, although his performance is interesting. The solo performances of "Still... You Turn Me On" and "Lucky Man" by Lake are also eye-opening, highly worth the experience only if you've never heard these works more stripped-down. (Also, throughout this album, the cardinal sin of fading out between tracks of a live album is committed. Sorry, but this is a sore point for me.)

Possibly the best-known portion of this show is their performance of excerpts from "Karn Evil 9" (originally off Brain Salad Surgery). "First Impression Pt. 2" is the portion most of us are familiar with, and ELP doesn't disappoint. However, "Third Impression" is a bit long in the tooth, and is a performance for the die-hard fans only.

Rounding out the first disc and providing all the content of disc two are selections from the 1997-1998 tour from around the world. Although the voices show the passage of time, they still ring out as loudly as the instruments. Long-time fans will welcome the appearance of songs like "A Time And A Place" and "Honky Tonk Train Blues," while the fans who maybe know the band only from classic rock radio will love hearing "From The Beginning", "Karn Evil 9 First Impression Pt. 2" and "Lucky Man" in their modern glory.

The classical influence is most notable here, with the appearance of a selection from Emerson's "Piano Concerto No. 1" as well as two workings of selections from Aaron Copeland, "Hoedown" (which is a big mistake) and "Fanfare For The Common Man" (which the band first did on Works Vol. 1).

What is noteworthy about this era of performances is that the music has more of an edge to it than it did in the early years, almost daring the listener to take it on its own terms. For that reason alone, Then And Now might just capture ELP a new generation of fans.

Then And Now has some rough edges to it -- kind of like Emerson Lake & Palmer's career. But in the end, it's a journey into the time capsule that's well worth taking.

Rating: B-

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© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Eagle Entertainment, and is used for informational purposes only.