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Emerson Lake & Palmer - Live at the Mar Y Sol Festival '72 CD (album) cover


Emerson Lake & Palmer


Symphonic Prog

4.21 | 67 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Prog Reviewer
4 stars It's hard not to award this CD an enthusiastic five stars: had it been released a little less belatedly it night be recognized today as arguably the best live album ever recorded by ELP. The set list is more concise than in the sprawling "Welcome Back My Friends..." package; the sound is better than anything since the original "Pictures at an Exhibition" LP (it's hardly pristine, but more immediately vital); and the playing shows the band in their early prime between the "Tarkus" and "Trilogy" albums, when they were still very much in sync with each other and firing on all cylinders.

Even better, it's a complete performance from introduction to encore, recorded in sunny Puerto Rico at the April 1972 Mar Y Sol Festival, a sort of Caribbean Woodstock without the counterculture vibe. A quick digression: imagine attending a weekend music festival featuring everyone from Alice Cooper to Dave Brubeck to Roberta Flack to Black Sabbath...nineteen acts including Emerson Lake & Palmer, and all for a single admission price of only fifteen dollars!

The show begins, not unexpectedly, with Aaron Copeland's "Hoedown", introduced here three months before its studio appearance on the "Trilogy" album. It's a thrilling performance, and unlike later concert versions is played at the correct tempo (clearly this was before Keith Emerson's acknowledged cocaine habit kicked into high gear: another plus for this particular gig).

The live rendition of "Tarkus" was, at this stage in its evolution, still a work in progress. It doesn't fully measure up to the definitive performance heard on the 'Welcome Back My Friends..." disc, but the extended "Aquatarkus" jam offers some interesting variations, notably an interpolation (not entirely successful, in retrospect) of Edvard Grieg's "In Hall of the Mountain King" theme from his "Peer Gynt" suite.

And the piano improvisation in the second half of "Take a Pebble" features an attractive unplugged jazziness rarely heard elsewhere in ELP's concert history: a throwback to Emerson's waning days in THE NICE. Astute fans will notice a preview of the song "Tiger in a Spotlight", years before its (sadly degraded) studio debut on the album "Works, Volume II".

But the "Pictures at an Exhibition" climax to the set is the real revelation here. This fifteen- plus minute abbreviation (not just another medley, please note, but actually the entire second half of the suite) rocks harder than even the Newcastle gig committed to vinyl the previous year. "The Curse of Baba Yaga" segment in particular generates real thermodynamic heat, unlike the strictly rote encores of the piece that would surface on later concert recordings.

All that plus a performance of "Rondo" that sounds like Emerson pumped his Hammond C3 full of steroids and then had to wrestle it into submission. The eighteen-plus minute length of the encore is misleading, however: it includes an almost nine-minute Carl Palmer drum solo, fortunately one of his best, even involving the festival crowd in a little percussive call-and-response.

The entire show is a welcome blast from the past, capturing the genuine energy of ELP in concert before the trio began merely going through the motions. I can only hope the band has other such gems in the archive waiting to be rediscovered.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |


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