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Emerson Lake & Palmer - Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends CD (album) cover


Emerson Lake & Palmer


Symphonic Prog

4.28 | 649 ratings

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Jim Garten
Special Collaborator
Retired Admin & Razor Guru
4 stars Welcome Back My Friends was the first I ever heard of ELP back in the early 1980s, via a scratchy original vinyl release bought for 2.00 second hand (and I only bought that, because I was going through a 'must buy live albums' period at the time). A lot has been said of this album over the years, from 'throwaway contractual obligation' to 'overblown pomp' to 'essential listening' - personally, I come down on the 'essential listening' side of the argument for the sheer quality of musicianship & clarity of recording (rare in early '70s live albums). WBMFTHSTNE (how's that for an acronym!) opens with a storming version of Hoedown, to Jerusalem (where Lake's voice lets him down a little for the only time on this album), then to a masterful Toccata..... but they're only just beginning. Tarkus is played in its entirety, faster than the studio version, but not overly so, with Emerson especially coming out on top form - an inspired exerpt from KC's 'Epitaph' leading to one of the finest Moog solos ever put down on tape, and finally to a franky astonishingly powerful conclusion. The stage is then left to Lake for 'ballad time' - as a central feature, these songs always played a major part in pacing the show, and whilst they may not be my favorite songs of all time, are an essential part of ELP's live dynamic. Emerson is a masterful keyboard player, and this comes to the fore during the piano improvisations (especially considering that on this tour, he was regularly winched from the stage, piano and all, and spun end over end whilst playing! Show off? Emerson?) . After all this, most bands would be content to finish off the show with a shorter track, followed by a quick encore - ELP played the whole epic Karn Evil 9! Lake's vocal talents shine well here, as does Emerson's playing (as usual) but the show is initially stolen by Palmer, contributing that most rare of beasts, the interesting drum solo (I kid you not). 2nd impression comes to a suitably grand finale, then they're straight into the strange beast that is 3rd impression, with Emerson showcasing his talents as a jazz pianist - it is during the 2nd half of 3rd impression I tend to find my attention wandering, as even in the studio,I found the writing flagged a little here, and became frankly a bit preposterous at the end (but hey! this was the 1970's, after all). In my opinion, ELP never again scaled the heights reached on the Brain Salad Surgery tour, with interpersonal relationships crumbling, the ever popular "musical differences" raising their ugly heads, and creative ennui creeping in, Welcome Back My Friends..... was the final powerful roar of one of the great prog rock dinosaurs - highly, highly recommended
Jim Garten | 4/5 |


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