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Emerson Lake & Palmer - The Return Of The Manticore CD (album) cover

THE RETURN OF THE MANTICORE

Emerson Lake & Palmer

 

Symphonic Prog

3.60 | 69 ratings

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Ivan_Melgar_M
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Prog Specialist
4 stars When this box set was released I worked for a modest salary, and paying US$85.00 for this compilation was the difference between paying all my bills or being forced to avoid some superfluous expenses as the telephone bill (which I didn't payed that month), but I never regretted the decision of buying "The Return of the Manticore".

A good box set must have the best possible versions of their classics, some great Live tracks, a couple of rarities, a couple of covers from other bands and previously unreleased versions of their best tracks; The Return of the Manticore" has all of them, IMHO one of the best box sets ever released.

Disk One:

Starts with the average Touch and Go (from "Emerson Lake and Powell") but is followed by three excellent cover tracks from the ELP pre-history, Hang on to a Dream by "The Nice" with Emerson, 21st Century Schizoid Man by "King Crimson" with Lake and Fire by the legendary "Arthur Brown" with Carl Palmer, it's important to mention that one ELP member played in the original release of each track.

The cover versions are excellent but the most important track in this disk is the first 100% studio version of Pictures at an Exhibition which is enhanced by the new technology available in the 90's and the chance to record the track "in a controlled situation" (as Carl Palmer says), great track.

Strictly speaking every track up to this point is a cover including Pictures at an Exhibition by Mussorgsky, so their own material starts with "I Believe in Father Christmas" which is probably the highlight of the weak "Works II", and in this album sounds even better with the support of a Gospel choir.

The last tracks of Disk One are Introductory Fanfare/Peter Gunn from "Works Live", Tiger in a Spotlight from "Works II" plus the always classics Toccata, Trilogy, Tank and Lucky Man all versions recorded from their original albums. This Disk deserves 5 stars, but we have to rate all the Box Set.

Disk Two:

Starts with the excellent 20 minutes Epic Tarkus and From The Beginning, two tracks that must be present in every ELP compilation.

If there is a Live version that had to be included is "Take a Pebble" from the triple album "Welcome Back My Friends ." which also features an acoustic version of Lucky Man (with the famous "be crazy" shout by a fan) and Piano Improvisations including Gulda's Fugue and Joe Sullivan's Little Rock Getaway one of the best medleys I ever heard in my life, Keith is magical with the piano, Greg with his powerful voice and Carl precise as always.

The disk continues with Knife Edge (Adapted from Janacek's Sinfonietta) an excellent track from their debut album, a strong song that works excellent after the softer medley and isn't affected by the weak Paper Blood from "Black Moon" that follows.

The Album ends with the well known Hoedown and a previously unreleased cover of Rondo by "The Nice", can't believe they never included this track before, it's simply frantic and brilliant.

Another 5 stars disk, but still have to wait for the other two.

Disk Three:

There's nothing to say about The Barbarian, Still You Turn Me On, The Endless Enigma, A Time and a Place, Bitches Crystal, Living Sin, and their greatest achievement Karn Evil 9 (the three impressions together as they should have been recorded in "Brain Salad Surgery") because all are well known tracks and most of them masterpieces.

But not everything is good in this disk Ces't La Vie is a weak ballad from "Works I", the previously unreleased Bo Diddley is a filler and Honky Tonk Train Blues not bad neither great, just an average song.

I have a special weakness for The Enemy God Dances with the Black Spirits, an excellent Carl Palmer adaptation from The Scythian Suite by Serge Prokofiev, one of the best songs from "Works I", strong and ultra complex, captures the essence of the early Modern Classical era.

This album IMHO deserves only 4 stars because of the bad balance between masterpieces and boring ballads.

Disk 4:

The weakest disk from the set, even when it starts very strong with Jerusalem, another masterpiece from "Brain Salad Surgery".

Fanfare for the Common Man is probably one of the most controversial songs from the ELP catalogue, some fans define it as a masterpiece others as pompous crap, I wouldn't go to extremes, IMO is a good adaptation of Aaron Copland done 5 years before by Styx (just a curiosity).

Black Moon seems strong but lacks of direction, an uneven track from a good album released when ELP's peak of creativity was already in the past. The next song Watching Over You, is a cute ballad but nothing else.

The turn comes for Piano Concerto N 1 (Third Movement Toccata con Fuoco), even the name is pompous, not what a real fan can expect from a talented keyboardist and composer as Keith Emerson, various influences, complex changes but completely lacks of head and feet.

The real problems start at this point, For You is a horrible track from a horrible album like Love Beach as bad as the pompous but infamous Memoirs from a Officer and a Gentleman. ELP detractors, the fans and even the members of the band know that Love Beach was a mistake, why don't they bury this album and forget everything about it?

There are three tracks left to comment, the previously unreleased Prelude and Fugue (adapted from Gulda) which sounds excellent being between the two Love Beach tracks, Pirates, a great and emotive song probably too long and Affairs from the Heart, a good ballad from Black Moon with a nice piano section, good closer.

My rating for this Disk is three stars.

Could "The Return of the Manticore" have been better? I believe the answer is yes, they have enough great studio and live material to replace the few weak tracks, specially those from Works II (Except I Believe in Father Christmas) and the two from Love Beach.

But nothing is perfect in this life and our favorite bands are not the exception, a great box set that every ELP fan must own. Solid 4 stars.

Ivan_Melgar_M | 4/5 |

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