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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Carl Palmer

Working Live - Volume I

Review by Gary Hill

While fans of Emerson Lake and Palmer should be an obvious audience for this release from Carl Palmer and his new band, these guys don't do music that duplicate's ELP's sound. That fact is really to Palmer's credit. These guys do cover some of the material that ELP originally recorded, but where as that band's sound was dominated by Keith Emerson's keys, guitar plays a predominant role in this instrumental mayhem. In fact, this at times leans heavily on heavy metal. The true key here is probably more along the lines of hard rocking fusion, though.

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
The Barbarian
This actually has a classical music introduction and then the spoken intro for the group at its start. After this, though, the band launch into this hard rocking take on the ELP classic cut. They put in a smoking rendition here with segments that even feel a bit like King Crimson to me - at least on this hard-edged introduction. A short percussion interlude gives way to a more sedate segment that feels more like classical music at times, then the group begin working back up from there. This one is full of changes and new segments that seemingly emerge from thin air. For fans of extremely dynamic progressive rock with lots of crunchy textures, this is perfect. It has an almost heavy metal sound to it at times, but still with so much prog virtuosity that no one will ever mistake it as that genre. This is modern, but well rooted in the original musical concepts.
The Enemy God Dances with the Black Spirits
If the last cut had metallic textures, this one stomps in with a major heavy metal approach. The group set out on a series of hard-edged musical explorations from there. There are more Crimson like portions to this screaming beast, too. This one is probably equal parts heavy metal and fusion. At just about three minutes it's also a short one.
L.A. Nights
Furious drums and bass begin this one to set the band off on another fusion jam. They turn several corners on this one and even shift it into a smoking guitar hero hard rock jam later. They don't stay in any one place too long and this rocker is a powerhouse.
Tank
Here they move into more Emerson Lake and Palmer territory, but once again rather than duplicate, this is just the fertile ground in which they play. They put together another smoking hard-edged take on this classic from Palmer's earlier outfit. While there are musical passages that will seem familiar, no one will ever mistake this one as being ELP. Once again it's jam packed with all kinds of twists and turns.
Bullfrog
This time they create their sound around a staccato pattern, and it's another smoking jam. Everyone gets a chance to shine here, as they have throughout. The percussive based break late in the track is especially cool.
Toccata
More atmospheric modes start this and the group build very tentatively on it. Eventually, though, they launch out full throttle into this smoking rocker. This one probably resembles the ELP rendition more than anything else on this disc does its earlier incarnation. It's still frantic and furious fusion, though. It just works so well here. This is my favorite cut on the disc. They pull it through a series of changes and reflect different flavors and musical concepts in the process. This one will please pretty much any prog rock fan.
Canario
I can't think of an album that more needed a respite from the fury, and they give us just such a thing at the beginning of this track. Pretty rather atmospheric playing makes up the introduction here, but the band soon launch into a fast paced and fiery neo-classical excursion that is another highlight of the album. It, like the whole album, contains a lot of changes.
Drum Solo
Anyone familiar with ELP knows all about Carl Palmer's trademark drum solos. As the title indicates, that's what we get here. It's solid, but I'm not a big fan of drum solos myself, so I personally don't see it as a great way to end the disc.
 
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