Oh sweet Jesus, is this radiant gem long overdue! Ever since that way cool but mercilessly abbreviated Mar Y Sol three-fer issued in 1972, we of the proghead persuasion have been wondering just what the hell the rest of each group's appearance sounded like, especially ELP's. Well, all praise to Shout! Factory, because now we know: it was killer! Recorded on April 2, '72, it's been almost 40 years since this 80 minutes of music went down, a set now grabbed straight from ELP's prime, and I can already hear blissed-out progrocking aficionados dropping bodily to the floor in unmitigated bliss. They're soon to be joined by many more. It may even become an epidemic.
Keith Emerson is one of the finest keyboardists the many splinters of rock music has yielded. Coming off his legendary The Nice ensemble, the guy paired with King Crimson's Greg Lake and Atomic Rooster's Carl Palmer to take his place in one of the most fulsome power trios ever. Emerson's background training lay chiefly in classical and jazz musics, but he took easily to rock and roll, more specifically progrock, infusing the genre with the power and majesty of classicalism. While residing in The Nice, he took apart such plums as Leonard Bernstein's America in a shattering atonal decomposition. Dave Brubeck's Rondo fared just as well, and those two cuts remained among the most respected and requested as ELP arose and toured, the latter song featured in a lengthy version here, though you'll find evidences of Emerson's affinities for the old Nonesuch electronic pioneers throughout this gig.
Palmer's his usual indomitable powerhouse self, Lake equally in full poetic powers, and so you get the former's pyrotechnic drumming and the latter's bassmanship and distinctive vocals alongside Keith's unstoppable prowess. I not long ago reviewed the latest ELP DVD (here), remarking it was quite obviously a farewell performance, and indeed, or so I'm informed third-hand, Palmer has come out and admitted this is so, but the Mar Y Sol recording shows the group in its earliest days, its youthful transcendent magnificence. For 80 long glorious minutes, ELP takes Puerto Rico by storm, to the delight of a delirious crowd (not heard on the recording but Emerson in the liner notes remarks upon the loud raucous night-time reception).
Despite many attempts to keep things going in this vein, the prog mode has not been heir to its own erstwhile halcyon era, the days when a still drooled-over epoch of mind-blowing overachievement held sway. This document clearly shows why. There are some very good bands out there now, all striving to keep the blazon lit, but, for one reason or another (too often the ennervatingly dismal estate of the style's frequently pathetic critics and fan mags [Progression, Expose, etc.]), the ambiance is not the same nor the field as plentiful as would be hoped…nor, I'm afraid, is the genre as understood as it should be, which may be the most telling fissure. Nonetheless, that's as may be and largely out of the listener's control. Therefore, sit back and bliss out, fellow dinosaurs, as well as the intelligent among rising generations, because we're being treated in 2011 to an ongoing bonanza of uncovered gems, reissues, and even re-formings of the founding bands from all points. Not only did the children of the 70s live, breathe, smoke, drink, and wallow in the heyday, but we're now able to fully recall—yea, I tell thee verily, even through hallucinated memories—just what it meant and how damn lucky we were. If you doubt for even a nanosecond, you need to hear this CD.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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