The rock gods must have been smiling when Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, and Carl Palmer journeyed from their perspective corners of the music world and combined to form the band Emerson, Lake & Palmer, or merely ELP to the fans. Keith Emerson had made quite a name for himself with his manic organ riffs in working in the band The Nice. Greg Lake was busy with the band King Crimson where he worked with long-time ELP collaborator Peter Sinfield. Carl Palmer was the youngest member of the group and had played for several bands before meeting up with his eventual ELP bandmates. Together they would help to define an entire genre of music. This new progressive rock era would be recognized not by hit singles and AM radio play; instead this music would be enjoyed for its virtuosity and complexity. In all of the years the band enjoyed success, they’ve released less than a handful of what the industry defines as a single. Yet, anyone who has ever seriously picked up an instrument in the last 40 years knows exactly who they are.
The band formed in 1970, and by the end of that year they were already doing some quite ambitious things. One of the most ambitious and most memorable was their modernization of Mussorky’s wonderful Pictures At An Exhibition. The piece was actually originally written by the classical composer as just a piano piece. It was one of the first classical works I had ever fallen in love with. Unfortunately, that original arrangement is rare. I find that most people are unaware of the composer’s original intent. It strikes me as odd that there are people who call themselves purists who have ranted about the reinvention of this music by ELP. It’s a bit hypocritical when you consider that the version that they likely enjoy was also tampered with and not what the composer intended for the work. When Emerson Lake & Palmer took on the collection of works, they added a modern spin that included MOOG synthesizer solos and even lyrics written and performed by Greg Lake. The beauty is that these new elements were quite faithful to the subject and fit as if they had always belonged. It’s no less sacrilegious than the orchestrated version you’ve likely heard, which is enjoyed by the elitists.
This is the most complete version of the performance ever released. It includes music that did not find its way to the 40-minute record LP version released in the early 70’s. It is also very much a product of its time. The screen often displays psychedelic images that you probably haven’t seen since the days of daisy chains and tie-dyed shirts. There’s even a section that adds panels from Spider-Man and other 1970’s era comic books. I’ll admit that I found it distracting, and it sometimes even gave me a bit of a headache. You should also know that this concert isn’t for any but the true ELP fans. This is early work and doesn’t include any candy pop or outrageous stage elements. About 80% of the concert is instrumental. Some of it is very self-indulgent. You have to take it as a whole, and from a musical virtuosity perspective, or you will be greatly disappointed here. For the true fan of the band, this is nothing more than vintage gold.
The concert is presented in its original full-frame aspect ratio. You really have to keep in mind that this was a 30-year-old live performance and adjust your expectations accordingly. There are moments when the image is quite clear with good color. There are others when the image looks a bit murky. One of the cameras used had some dead pixels.
The PCM 5.1 is pretty good. Again you have to consider the age and circumstances. There’s considerable hiss at times and even some distortion at higher frequencies. Don’t expect too much of a sub response either. The mix is fine, and you’ll hear everything coming through.
Pop Shop 1971: (52:05) This is a 1971 television appearance by the band. It begins with a short interview section and includes the following live performances: Rondo, Nutrocker, Take A Pebble, Knife Edge, and a Blues Jam. The sound is bootleg quality.
The release is collectable mostly for the nostalgia. You can’t really expect it to hold up to today’s standards, but no ELP fan should be without this concert. It was a pivotal moment in the band’s development. Their integration of classical works and rock “n” roll turned an entire generation of kids to the classics. It may look and sound rough, but it was the beginning after all. Thirty years later we all “carry the dust of a journey”.