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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Emerson, Lake and Palmer

Once Upon A Time In South America

Review by Gary Hill

This live set should definitely please ELP fans. It's four CD set that is made up of music recorded on three different nights. The first two shows were from April of 1993. The final one is from August of 1997. There is quite a bit of overlap in terms of repeated songs. The renditions seem to all have their own identity, though, so that's not really an issue. The recording quality varies a bit from show to show, but the worst of them (the '97 show) is still very listenable. All in all, this is quite a cool set.
This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2017  Volume 3 at
Track by Track Review
Disc 1

Estado Chile - Santiago, Chile, April 1, 1993

Introduction Fanfare

This is literally what is says it is - an introductory fanfare. It's less than a minute long.


This is such a classic piece, and they power into it with style, power and drama. They work through the various sections of the extended introduction showing off their virtuosity. It drops down for the first vocal segment of the show. Lake sounds great on this song. The tune is a powerhouse built on contrasts of evocative movements and incredible instrumental movements. I really love the keyboard soloing that follows that first vocal movement.

Knife Edge

I've always loved this song. This live take comes straight out of the previous number. It works forward with class and some great sounds. This is a faithful live telling of an exceptional ELP song.

Paper Blood

With some harmonica built into it, this is more of a straight-ahead rocker in a lot of ways. It's scorching hot and rather bluesy. It still has enough classic ELP trappings to make it interesting. The sound suffers just a little on this tune.

Black Moon
This title track is pounding hard rock. It's less complex than older ELP stuff, but it's also so powerful. I really love this song, and this performance.
Close To Home
Here we get a Keith Emerson piano solo. He was one of the finest piano players of our time, so this is a great piece.
Creole Dance
Emerson really knocks it out of the park with the piano work at the beginning of this song. This is another piano solo. It's much higher energy and flashier than the previous tune.
Still You Turn Me On
Another song that I've always liked a lot, Lake sounds a little hoarse at times on this live rendition. Still, it's pretty and works well.
C'Est La Vie
Here we get another classic ELP ballad. This is also pretty. Lake's voice seems to be in better form here. There is some European cafe styled stuff on this.
Lucky Man
It might seem an obvious choice, but I've always been a big fan of this tune. The audience clearly likes it, too, as they sing along. This is a solid live rendition. I love Emerson's synthesizer work later in the piece.
Honky Tonk Woman

This old school honky tonk tune is a lot of fun. It's an instrumental with a lot of energy and fire.

Touch And Go
I know a lot of people don't like this newer stuff. Personally, I've always really liked this tune. This live rendition works really well, too.
An epic length piece, this is also full of trademark ELPisms. It shifts this way and that during the ride. Please be sure to keep your limbs inside the car at all times to avoid injury. There are a lot of different sections and movements here. I like the lyrics to the song, but then again I like pirates.
Disc 2


Emerson's synthesizer starts this off and they launch out from there into a fast paced and fun jam.

Pictures At An Exhibition
This extensive classical music adaptation takes up roughly 23 minutes or so here. It's a solid live performance of an extensive piece of music. The sung sections serve as grounding for the soaring sounds of the instrumental portions. There is a pretty extensive drum solo built into this thing, taking up a huge hunk of it. The audience cheers along at times, almost as a percussive instrument at Palmer's command.
Fanfare For The Common Man - America - Rondo
Another extensive (almost 18 minutes) piece of music, I've always loved ELPs version of this opening piece. This instrumental works out to the classic song "America" from Neil Diamond. It makes its way into more classical territory as it continues onward. This is really a powerhouse piece of music. Emerson really shines brightly on this. This works through so many familiar classical pieces in the course of the tune.
Obras Stadium, Buenos Aires, Argentina, April 5, 1993

Introductory Fanfare

This introductory piece as captured here is less than half a minute in length.


Here we get the second version of "Tarkus" on this set. If anything, I think the performance on this one might be more inspired and "on fire" than the previous one. Either way, it's another rendition of a killer ELP classic. I think I like the Emerson synthesizer soloing better here than on that first one.

Knife Edge

I can say for sure that this version is stronger than the one on the previous disc. It's a killer tune in this performance. Well, it was in that one, too. They just turn it up to 11 here.

Paper Blood

This thing really rocks here. It's a definite upgrade from the other version, too.

Black Moon

They rock this one dramatically, too. It's another powerhouse modern ELP stomper. The synth really stomps on this one.

Emerson Piano Solo

While this is listed as a piano solo, it sounds like there are some synthesizer elements here, but I guess it could be distortion on the recording. Either way, this is an expressive solo. The division on the album is weird because at the end we get the spoken introduction for the first song on the next CD. Honestly, I think it should have split before that.

Disc 3

Creole Dance

I definitely like this version better than the one from the previous show. It just seems to have more passion and fire. The soloing gets to be pretty crazed on this thing.

From The Beginning

Here's a change from this first set. This slot in the first show was occupied by "Still...You Turn Me On." I think I might like this song better than that one. It's similar in some ways. This just seems more evocative and powerful. I love the intricate guitar work on this song.

C'Est La Vie

Again, I think this is a superior performance than the one in the first concert. It's a strong, if mellow, tune that works pretty well.  The end of this includes and extended spoken bit that has an introduction for the next song included in it.

Lucky Man

Probably ELP's best known tune, this gets a strong telling here. I might prefer the one from the first concert, though. Still, you can go all that wrong with this song, anyway. I do love the synthesizer soloing here.

Honky Tonk Train Blues
This little honky tonk jam feels on fire here. It's stronger than the one on the previous disc.
Touch And Go

Again, I think this one seems stronger here than it did in the first show. I still love this song.


I think this number works better here, too. It seems more immediate and a bit less freeform to me. This really gets into some powerhouse territory here.


This is a killer jam that works really well here.

Instrumental Jam

I like this jam a lot. It really rocks. It's not all that long (less than two minutes), but it works quite well.

Pictures At An Exhibition
Again, I think this epic works better here than it did on the other disc. It's a stronger cut here overall. I have to admit that I'm not a big fan of drum solos, so that section doesn't do a lot for me.
Disc 4

Fanfare For The Common Man - America - Rondo

I still love ELP's version of Copland. This whole piece works through the usual suspects. Again, I think this is superior to the earlier version presented here.

Metropolitan Theater, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 15, 1997

Karn Evil 9 1st Impression Part 2

A classic ELP rocker, this works pretty well here. The recording quality is not as good as that of the other shows, though.

Here we go with another version of this cut. It's a rocking rendition for sure.
Touch And Go
Somehow this song doesn't seem as potent here as it did in the last performance. Still, it's a great tune, either way.
From The Beginning

Again, I like this song. For some reason the drum presence seems a bit expanded here. I guess maybe the drums are further up in the mix. All in all, this is a strong rendition of the tune.

Knife Edge
Another rendition of this classic ELP tune, I like this one a lot. It's solid and really works well here.
Lucky Man
Of the three versions of this on the set, this is the best performance. It's the closest to the original studio rendition. The sound quality on this one isn't quite as good as that on the previous discs, though.
This is another solid live rendition of a classic ELP tune. It's rocks pretty well here, moving this way and that as it goes along. I really dig the keyboard soloing on this thing.
Pictures At An Exhibition
This is dramatically different than the other versions. It has a lot of different sections and movements. It's my favorite of the bunch of them, really. It's considerably shorter, too - at less than half the length.
21st Century Schizoid Man

Here they give us a short version of the classic King Crimson tune. It works well in this arrangement. It's more keyboard heavy for sure. It segues straight into the final cut.


Here we get a less than minute and a half instrumental version of the Neil Diamond song. There is a bit of "Fanfare for the Common Man" at the end of it.  It's a cool cut and classy closer.

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