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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Emerson, Lake and Palmer

The Birth of a Band: Isle of Wight Festival

Review by Steve Alspach

Since the two products are essentially the same, this overall review is taken pretty much intact from the accompanying DVD review. Check out that one for more specific details on the video content as the DVD is essentially the same as the video side of this DualDisc - ed.

The Isle of Wight Festival, sometimes known as the "Kill the Messenger" festival for the hostility towards many of the performers (boy, that Joni Mitchell is a sensitive sort, isn't she?), had at least one highlight - the "first debut performance" (um, how many debut performances can you have?) of The Supergroup (in caps) of the 1970s - Keith Emerson, Greg Lake and Carl Palmer. (As the liner notes say, there was a "warmup" gig in front of some 3,000 people a few days prior.) One has to believe that the audience must have been caught off-guard by this three-man army, complete with cannons.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Pictures at an Exhibition
Only ELP would be ballsy enough to start their career covering Mussorgsky's masterpiece. This version lies between the 35-minute version off their 1972 album and a more abbreviated version from the "Live Works" album that closed out their days with Atlantic. The editing may have done this piece some good, though, since the band would get lambasted by critics for their take-no-prisoners approach to the classics. But other parts, like Greg Lake's "The Sage" seem to end too abruptly.
Take a Pebble
Opposed to the 12-minute version on the debut album, this version is only 4:28. The languid guitar section is much abbreviated while Emerson's second piano solo section gets whacked entirely. To be honest, it's a bit of a disappointment. "Lucky Man" was the single from the first album, and this edit makes it sound like they tried to give this one that role.
Rondo
An old barnstormer from Emerson's days with the Nice, "Rondo" gets a full-throttle treatment. Emerson pulls out all the stops, figuratively anyway, with his organ playing. It sounds like Emerson quotes a bit of a snippet from Bach in the intro when he isn't making the organ sound like a runaway train. He then does the knife-in-the-keyboard routine, "rides" the organ across the stage, rocks it and spins it and generally beats the hell out of it. Palmer gets a drum solo halfway through, and this treatment of Dave Brubeck's standard shows that ELP was a band to be reckoned with.
Nutrocker
Plucked from the old single formerly by B. Bumble and the Stingers (Kim Fowley came up with the idea - he also produced the Runaways so take that for what you will), "Nutrocker" is met with a big cheer from the crowd - perhaps it was more famous there than here in the States. This boogie-woogie excerpt from Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker Suite" also gets the editor's knife and lasts all of 2:15, plus 15 seconds of cheering.
 
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