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Emerson Lake & Palmer - A Time And A Place CD (album) cover

A TIME AND A PLACE

Emerson Lake & Palmer

Symphonic Prog


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4 stars Wow, simply wow.

This gorgeous little package is a marvellous way to be dropped into the ELP live experience. I must say right away that I have not heard any of the other bootleg box set releases, so I'll leave it to others to complain if this is all merely repackaging of already available materials. If nothing else this is certainly more affordable than any of the other sets. So, that's something to be thankful for.

Pointless personal background material: ELP were one of the first prog groups that I truly fell for. I wore down my vinyl copies of those first five albums. I also had the Works albums and the dreaded one with the suntanned strangers on the cover. I was still convinced enough to buy a new album that swapped a Palmer for a Powell. By the 1990s some of the love had faded and I couldn't persuade myself to buy albums by a reunited team. The luster had dimmed. Since then I found myself in the trade of buying different company's remasters of those same first five albums. The love had returned, but I regretted never getting to hear any new material or at least some new variations on old themes. So, for me, getting to hear live versions of the classics as well as some of the best material from the later works has been a true pleasure that has reawakened the band in my ear and heart.

So, what's in the box? Discs one through three come straight from the soundboards and the sound is simply unbelievable. These are crisp recordings of dynamic performances. Disc one covers the early 1970s, from the Isle of Wight performance through the Someone Get Me a Ladder tour. Disc two gets you through the late 1970s, a lot of Works stuff, without the orchestra, but also intense, speedy performances of "Pictures" and "Tarkus." Disc three brings us to the reunion of the 1990s. I must admit I was worried about this one, fearing some pretty poor vocals from a straining Lake. Though he is clearly wrestling with the likes of "Knife Edge" and "From the Beginning," he pulls it off and the songs work. I'll even admit to liking the "newer" songs: "Paper Blood," "Black Moon" and "Touch and Go." (Okay, not so new, but you know what I mean). Finally, disc four includes tracks from 1971 through 1993 that come from fan recordings. These are obviously the only true bootlegs here, and the recording quality is obviously less than top notch, but all de-hissed and de-popped enough to make them great to hear, especially for live rarities like "The Endless Enigma" and "Abaddon's Bolero."

Whether it's all enough to convince the anti-ELP squads is doubtful, but it's been a pleasure for this listener to be welcomed back to the show. A wondrous box of treasures from the stage that shows off how monstrously intense this group really could be.

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Send comments to questionsneverknown (BETA) | Report this review (#292584)
Posted Thursday, July 29, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars A nice little collection of animated ELP live material. Killer renditions of Tarkus and Fanfare. Includes some rarer material live like Touch And Go, performed in the 90s, drum solos in the 70s. There is 3 discs worth of material, plus a fourth disc of audience bootlegs. The 3 discs of soundboard recordings are just that... very low if audible integration of audience mikes, so it sounds like very raw studio work most of the time. I would prefer to listen to much of the material on this album compared to some of the live releases, like Works Live or Live At The Royal Albert Hall. Nice job ELP and a nice record cover to boot....

I cannot wait for another ELP studio album though. I think ELP has a lot of room to grow still. As this album shows, they have perfected their old music already!

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Send comments to RoyFairbank (BETA) | Report this review (#307894)
Posted Monday, November 01, 2010 | Review Permalink
Neu!mann
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars On paper it looks great: a three-CD retrospective of ELP's career, drawn entirely from live performances, with a fourth disc of bootleg audience recordings (subtitled "a fan's view", but honestly aren't they all?)

Even better, and unlike the comprehensive but completely haphazard "Return of the Manticore" box from 1993, the selections in each set (official and illegal) are arranged in chronological order. When heard from start to finish the program follows the entire trajectory of the band's life span, from Progressive supergroup to dinosaur has-beens to their bittersweet rebirth on the nostalgia circuit in the 1990s. All in all an invaluable history lesson, in just over four hours.

So I had high hopes for this package. But the experience of actually listening to it was more than a little frustrating, for a number of reasons. Even before arriving at the bootleg tapes on Disc Four the audio quality is wildly inconsistent, because the material comes from so many sources. And the standard of the supposed re-mastering is lackluster at best: much of the music here has been previously (or subsequently) released, and sounds better elsewhere.

Not surprisingly, the gems are all front-loaded onto the first half of Disc One, dating back to the band's "first debut performance ever", according to a confused emcee at the Isle of Wight Festival in August of 1970 (it was actually ELP's "second debut performance ever"). Robert Fripp, who at the time expressed an interest in joining the new group when the future of KING CRIMSON was looking bleak, puts the embryonic trio in perspective: "For a while it looked as if ELP might hold the possibility of carrying forward the aspirations of Crimson. The while was very short."

Sour grapes, perhaps, after his advances were spurned by Keith Emerson. But you can hear what he meant in these recordings: the excitement of those early gigs is still palpable over forty years later. The CD cheats by including separate excerpts from "Take a Pebble" under different titles ("Ballad of Blue" is Greg Lake's acoustic section, with singing; "High Level Fugue" is more of the Emerson solo spot in the song), but it's fascinating to hear the pianist test driving riffs from "Tarkus", "Tank", and Aaron Copeland's "Hoedown", long before they appeared in studio form.

That initial, innovative spirit was too soon sidetracked by success, and in retrospect the Prog Rock pioneers didn't actually progress too far after 1971, except in sales and surplus equipment. The "Works"-era gigs on Disc Two drive that point emphatically home: it's easily he weakest of the first three CDs, and doesn't even include any samples from the full orchestral leg of the tour.

The band's comeback in the '90s, represented on Disc Three, at least exhibited more vitality (if not originality). And the fan recordings on Disc Four include some rare performances ("The Endless Enigma"; "Abaddon's Bolero"), small consolation for the not unexpected and sometimes quite poor bootleg sound.

My advice to consumers, for what it's worth, is to skip this four-disc box altogether and go straight to the individual live packages from each era in ELP's checkered history: "Welcome Back My Friends..." for the classic '70s stuff; "Live at Nassau Coliseum '78" for the "Works" material; and "Live at the Royal Albert Hall" for the '90s reunion shows. Throw in the "Live at the Isle of Wight" concert CD or the original "Pictures at an Exhibition" and the band's history is more or less complete. You'll get the benefit of complete performances and better sound, both of which are conspicuously missing here. The legacy of ELP deserves something more than the fan's scrapbook presented here.

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Send comments to Neu!mann (BETA) | Report this review (#591751)
Posted Monday, December 19, 2011 | Review Permalink

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