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Emerson Lake & Palmer - Live At The Isle Of Wight Festival 1970 CD (album) cover


Emerson Lake & Palmer


Symphonic Prog

3.44 | 77 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars ELP from the beginning

It is of course now a matter of prog history that ELP played their first gig together at the Isle of Wight festival. OK, so the pedants among us may point out that they actually played a warm up gig prior to that, but in the true spirit of overblown pomposity which goes with the band, let's allow history on this occasion to be bent slightly in favour of folklore.

At the time, the band did not have their extensive catalogue to select from, so there's no "Karn evil 9" here for example. Indeed the focal point of this album is a full rendition of "Pictures at an exhibition", a piece which would later be released in live format as an official album. The recording used for that album came from a gig in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, UK; this version thus predating it.

The relative shortage of rehearsed material is evidenced by the inclusion of a piece by The Nice and a cover of the 1960's single "Nutrocker" which is itself a classical interpretation. There are a couple of early versions of tracks which would appear on the first album, but clearly that album was still in development at the time.

All that said, the quality of both the sound and the performance here are remarkably good. There is a raw energy to pieces such as the opening "Barbarian" which would stay with the band for a few years at least. "Take a pebble" is the only other song which would appear on an ELP studio album. As with "The Barbarian", this version is pretty much the finished article, the smoother tones of the song offering the audience the chance to chill.

The rendition of "Pictures.." is also pretty much as it appeared on the live album of that name, and thus represents an astonishingly ambitious work for such an early point in the band's career. The early synth sounds may now come across as dated, but at the time they would have been highly original and somewhat exciting. The track concludes with the now legendary cannon fire, which (allegedly) destroyed half of the Isle of Wight.

The version of "Rondo" is heavily abbreviated, while "Nutrocker" is allowed to run on a bit longer. In order to pad out the CD, a six minute interview is included, with the band looking back from more recent times.

Quite what the audience would have made of ELP is a matter for speculation. Bear in mind that this recording is taken from a music festival which featured a diverse range of artists. ELP's blend of the classics, improvisations and progressive rock may have gone down well with those who were familiar with combos such as The Nice, but others must have been mystified by what they witnessed.

The main attraction with this album is that it serves as a historical document. The music is contains has been performed many times since and better live recordings of everything here are available. This is though where it all began for ELP, it is akin to witnessing the birth of a new planet.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |


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