Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Live In Poland (1997)

FrontCover1The bootleg. A gamble of the biggest kind for a music lover. A leap of faith and risk of love with high stakes that could leave the fan with a big hole in his pocket where 20 or 30 bucks used to be, and with a recording that would be best used as a Christmas ornament. And though it does have that direct-to-soundboard tone, ‘Emerson, Lake & Palmer Live in Poland’ is not such a recording. Initially it was licensed by Manticore and issued by Metal Mind for ELP’s fan club, eventually becoming widely available. And as ‘fan club releases’ go, it doesn’t disappoint. Sure their ’97 live set is better covered elsewhere [though this includes ‘Tarkus’ which is missing form the King Biscuit release], occasionally they seem rushed, Keith’s plastic synth sounds make us want to shake him, and Lake’s voice is markedly strained with an attractive but leathery husk. But it was 1997, they’d been through a lot, and besides hasn’t every ELP performance always danced between brilliance and disaster? Isn’t that part of the thrill? Of course it is and in that context, especially if you’re a fan, this is a neat fly to add to your tackle box. The sound is clean and well balanced, the set list is just right considering the period, and Carl, Greg and Keith put on a great show and sound marvelous here. Like they’d been playing together for decades… oh, wait.

Live1997A rousing ‘Welcome Back’ gets things going, Keith warming up and getting his synth/organ/piano levels straight. But the boys definitely came to play, Palmer ripping it up on the toms and bassdrum. A real band is heard, three guys who pulled off huge music by themselves; no relegation of duties, backing players, chamber ensembles or exotic percussionists. Just the three of them, and it is still remarkable. They’re running with the devil and it *is* Touch and Go– a tune, by the way, that has improved over time with Emerson’s courtly horn sounds and Lake’s fatalistic visions of getting older, followed by a perfect take of ‘From the Beginning’ wherein Emerson squeaks out a perfectly kitsch synth solo, and a ‘Knife Edge’ that sounds like it could be from 1970 with a harpsichord sample the only thing to give it away. The jazzy pendulars of ‘Bitches Crystal’ fit like a pair of custom-made gloves and Keith’s eight minute grand piano solo is its usual treat, though the saloon hijinks I could do without (the man just can’t swing). A top notch ‘Take a Pebble’ with a sweet Bill Evans middle followed by an obligatory ‘Lucky Man’. And then slowly up from its signature overture, out from the darkness it comes; the Armadillo. Angry on this night and though aged, as mean as ever for this enormous Tarkus/Pictures mutation. Nothing touches the originals of course but it’s nice to hear these variations. Copeland’s Fanfare next and ‘Rondo’ finishes this tiny but colorful addition to any Elper’s collection, and a CD that I’m glad I picked up when I saw it. (by Atavachron)

Alternate frontcover

Keith Emerson (keyboards)
Greg Lake (bass, guitar, vocals)
Carl Palmer (drums, percussion)

01. Karn Evil 9 (1st Impression, part 2) (Emerson/Lake) 5.35
02. Touch And Go (Emerson/Lake) 3.58
03. From The Beginning (Lake) 4.15
04. Knife Edge (Emerson/Frazer/Janáček/Lake ) 5.47
05. Bitches Crystal (Emerson/Lake) 4.01
06. Take a Pebble (Lake) 6.39
07. Lucky Man (Lake) 4.24
08. Medley: Tarkus/Pictures At An Exhibition (Emerson/Lake/Mussorgsky) 17.09
09. Medley: Fanfare for the Common Man/Rondo (Brubeck/Copland/Emerson/Lake/Palmer/Bach) 17.59