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Emerson Lake & Palmer - Live At Nassau Coliseum '78 CD (album) cover

LIVE AT NASSAU COLISEUM '78

Emerson Lake & Palmer

 

Symphonic Prog

3.73 | 22 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
3 stars The career-ending fiasco of "Love Beach" was yet to come, but in February of 1978 ELP was already a nostalgia act, trotting out the predictable classics in concert and content to rest on their (at the time) still considerable laurels.

This particular gig, recorded in upstate New York while the trio was recovering from the financial debacle of the "Works" orchestral tour, was once a much sought-after bootleg, and after only a minor digital facelift has become a certainly worthwhile official release. The quality improves if you boost the low end of your stereo system (assuming such a relic still exists in this brave new world if i-pods and smartphones); the Ripper bass guitar Greg Lake was using then had a trebly echo to begin with, and the sometimes cheesy synthesizer patches favored by Keith Emerson in the post-"Works" era hardly filled out the sound (and, by the way, didn't do any favors to the music of Sergei Prokofiev: lend an ear to "The Enemy God Dances With the Black Spirits" for proof).

There were some questionable performing decisions: omitting the "Battlefield" chapter from the "Tarkus" suite; eliminating the signature Moog solo from the climax of "Lucky Man"; and, in what might have been a lame attempt by Emerson to maintain his relevance at the end of the 1970s, incorporating more than one blockbuster movie theme into his solos...some Close Encounters here, a little Star Wars there, plus a brief quote from Also Sprach Zarathustra, famously used a decade earlier in Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey".

But the good news is that this certainly doesn't sound like a band on the skids, despite their unfortunate practice of always playing much too fast (possibly fallout from Emerson's acknowledged cocaine habit at the time). The often frantic pace kills the natural tempo of Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag", to cite just one example, but elsewhere these dinosaurs are a long way from extinction. The abbreviated "Tarkus" is impeccably tight, even with the rinky-dink John Williams soundtrack inserts, and the 11-plus minute encore of Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man" provides a rousing coda to the show (and, in retrospect, to ELP's golden age as well).

It's true the orchestra is missed, in the Prokofiev number and in particular during "Pirates", which here sounds thin and unconvincing. And let's face it: Greg Lake had a lovely voice but was always a lousy singer, as heard in the lightweight "Tiger in a Spotlight", or when crooning his way through Peter Sinfield's trite libretto for "Pirates", a song I'm always convinced was better suited to a tacky Broadway musical or amateur high school pageant.

But, nagging criticisms aside, the group performs with surprising confidence and unity, while obviously detached from what must have been an enormous stadium crowd. Note the relaxed banter in between songs, and note too the unabashed enthusiasm of their audience. ELP may have been horribly unfashionable in early 1978, but contrary to critical opinion were hardly unpopular.

And because the CD is more comprehensive (and certainly better sounding) than either the "In Concert" or "Works Live" recordings from the same era, it may well stand as arguably the best representation of the ELP live experience during what had to be a difficult time for prog rockers and their loyal fans. If so, feel free to add another star for historical significance, always necessary when revisiting the waning days of a once influential band.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |

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