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Emerson Lake & Palmer - Then And Now CD (album) cover

THEN AND NOW

Emerson Lake & Palmer

 

Symphonic Prog

2.78 | 76 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Clanking, jangling and The Blues Brothers

"Then and now" is a rather odd combination of live ELP recordings from 1974 and the late 1990's. The tracks from 1974 ("Then") are from ELP's appearance at Cal Jam in Ontario, California. The recording quality is poor, with little if any stereo separation. Given ELP's passion, some would say obsession, with the recording quality of their studio albums, this is something of a disappointment.

In terms of the music, there is little in the Cal Jam recordings which cannot be enjoyed on the infinitely better "Welcome back my friends.." live album. The opening "Toccata" seems needlessly chopped off at the start and finish, while the "Take a pebble" extract begins half way through.

The "Now" section, which is significantly the longer, is far better in terms of recording quality. These recordings come from various performances by the band in 1997 and 1998. By this time, Lake's voice had of course broken, making it immediately apparent which tracks are "Then" and which are "Now". There are some interesting tracks here though. "A time and a place" from "Tarkus" is give a fine workout, the band announcing it is the first time it has been performed live. The song actually suits Lake's new voice well. The Third movement of Emerson's "Piano Concerto" (without the orchestra of course) is also here, sounding rather clanky if truth be told.

"From the beginning" sounds truly superb, Lake's jingle jangle guitar and Emerson's sympathetic orchestration making for one of the high points of this collection. "Tiger in a spotlight" sound like the band have decided to change their name to "The Blues Brothers".

The 22 minute combination of "Fanfare for the common man" and "Blue rondo a la Turk" is a superb excuse for Emerson to take centre stage on synths and organ. If this album is worth seeking out, this is the best reason to do so. If nothing else, it demonstrates that the band could still play the wonderful prog of the early 1970's. The rendition includes a fine variety of classical and modern references. On the downside (for me), it also indicates that Palmer retains his penchant for a lengthy solo workout on the drums. The album closes with a medley of a quick verse of King Crimson's "21st Century Schizoid man" and the Nice's interpretation of "America".

In all, a diverse and interesting collection. The newer recordings fare far better than the old ones, primarily because A) they are a of a far better recording quality, and B) because the old recordings can be found on the far superior "Welcome back my friends..".

The Retro Gold re-release omits two tracks, both from the 1997/8 recordings. These are "Karn evil 9, 1st impression part 2" and "Take a pebble", presumably because both have already appeared in the 1974 recording. Nevertheless, as the these tracks are not replaced with other material, it simply makes the CD shorter. It is poorly packaged, with no details of the source of recordings it contains; the 18 page booklet simply offering a few random quotes and an elementary track list. That track list also claims that "Karn evil 9, third impression" features Carl Palmer, whose solo is of course a part of the "Second impression". The lack of attention to detail is symptomatic of the inferior quality of the package, especially when compared to the "Then and now" presentation.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |

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