Should ELP’s Catalog Be Reissued…Again? [Update]

With the recent news that wunderkind remix genius, Steven Wilson, has completed 5.1 and 2.0 remixes of Emerson, Lake & Palmer‘s eponymous first album (1970), and its followup, Tarkus (1971), internet buzz for the two ELP titles have escalated. A few short years ago, Shout! Factory revisited the famed trio with remastering and a ‘best of’ featuring the band’s entire catalog property.  And since those are relatively fresh, you have to (rightfully) ask the question…why again?

The answer is quite simple.  Steven Wilson is handling the job.

You don’t have to step back too far to remember the stunning remix of Aqualung by Jethro Tull accomplished by Wilson, which was revelatory in every way.

What I’m hearing is that these two UK titles will be three-disc affairs.  My question to you ELP fans is simple.  Despite the recent Shout! sets, will you be splurging for these Wilson-crafted remixes?

For me the answer is very simple…hell yeah!!!!!

[Update]: The following Steve Wilson post was posted in the comments section by reader, RT (thanks, RT), and bears to be up front and center:

“Hi folks!

The first 2 ELPs will be DVD releases with DTS 5.1 and LPCM stereo. But the level of interest in high res has been noted by Sony, and I think we may now be in a position to change this for future releases.

So ELP have not stood the test of time as other bands from the era ??? I couldn’t disagree with such comment more, but anyway that’s not a reason to “re-conceive” Tarkus. I will not try to make a competition between ELP vs King Crimson vs Genesis vs Yes to make a point, as I love them all, but any of those can be beaten to death by whoever is not willing to understand prog aesthetics and label it “dated” (and I’m not implying that did happen in the interview). Anyway, I really find this comment very awkward. ELP has indeed passed the test of time, and by that I mean it has never been nor will be ever under dispute that ELP is one of the best prog bands ever (in terms of ambition, influence, music levels, performance levels, technology, historical importance). If nowadays music has nothing to do with ELP, well that’s another discussion, but then maybe it’s a good sign that ELP has nothing to do with nowadays music.

Well I did say it was just my opinion! I love ELP, sometimes acknowledging that something is a part of its time is not a criticism at all. I found that some of the music belonged more to its time than say music from the same era by Pink Floyd and King Crimson. And yes we are certainly not in dispute over ELP being one of the greatest prog rock bands ever.

And Jeremy Bender/Are you ready Eddy are “fillers”?? I’m sorry, but I just can’t accept this. So why ELP played so much Jeremy Bender in public during the ’70s? And why “Are you ready Eddy” have such incredible piano lines?

Well for me, yes Are you Ready Eddy really is the epitome of filler – a drunken rock n roll jam recorded by the band in order to make up enough music for the LP. On the other hand a track they worked really hard on like “Oh My Father” was left off for reasons of band politics or personal reasons, which are no longer relevant. Jeremy Bender, point taken.

What comes next? Will “Benny The Bouncer” be considered a “filler”? Maybe the Second Movement of Emerson’s Concerto is also a “filler”. “Tank” from Works 1 is most probably a “filler”. So what? Fillers should be treated with respect, as someone who counts once decided they’d be in. I personally don’t like “C’est la vie”: what if someone who shares this opinion with me, and is given power, decides it’s a “filler”??

It depends – the whole idea grew out of the fact that for the first album the master tapes for Tank and two thirds of The Three Fates were missing, so with the caveat that the original album master was going to be included anyway, we came up with the idea of using some of the excellent out-takes to create a an alternative version of the album on the second CD with the new mixes. Having done this I thought it would be cool to extend the concept (with the band’s approval) to Tarkus and to include the 2 excellent ballads that were left off the album in the running order of the new mixes of CD2 (again the original album master is included on CD1). It’s only this second CD in the package that includes the alternate running order – Jeremy Bender and Are You Ready Eddy? are included in the correct place in the high res stereo on the DVD. Same is true of the 5.1 running order which matches the original album exactly (with Oh My Father as a bonus 5.1 mix at the end).

If we did carry the idea forward for a alternate running order to future albums, and replace one of the more (let’s use this word instead of filler) “frivolous” tracks (and I accept that humour was an important part of these records, I’m not trying to wipe that out!), then one of 2 things would have to be true: either the multi tracks would have to be missing to that track, or there would have to be an out-take that was so good it merited replacing it in the alternate track listing order. Once again this would only be done on the basis that the original album master is also a part of the package.

Isn’t the “Works 2″ an album made of fillers?

Yes, it is – I won’t be doing that one!

Is it difficult to understand the concept of respecting a band’s decision 40 years ago?

What about respecting the band’s decision now? This is all with their approval (in fact Greg wanted to change a lot more believe me!)

I just think things are being mixed-up here: there are musical/aesthetic decisions, and there are technical/audiophile decisions. Both are very important. But IMMO, there’s an inner part of the former activity which the latter should not step into.

I guess where you draw the line on that is a personal thing. For example some would say don’t even remix the material into surround sound, since it was never intended for it in the first place. Others would say leave out-takes unreleased since the band clearly didn’t want them released at the time…etc.. My own line with these releases is to always ask the record company to include the original mix too, so that if there is a new mix then it simply becomes an alternate perspective. For the very first (and possibly) last time this has also extended to trying to present an alternate running order too (in one case by necessity, in another by choice). All I would ask is wait until you hear it before telling me whether you think it works or not. By the way, if you’ve never heard “Oh My Father” I really think it’s astoundingly good, it’s really the main reason why I wanted to do the alternate Tarkus thing.

One other thing worth noting is that the creation of the new stereo mixes is actually a necessary step towards creating the 5.1 mixes – when I started doing the 5.1 mixes of the Crimson catalogue it never occurred to me that the new stereo mixes would also be included. But then we began to hear that sometimes the new stereo mixes had a degree of clarity sometimes missing from the original mixes, and so starting with Lizard this became something that was always an option. I certainly don’t think my ELP mixes are better than the originals (there’s only a couple of times I would claim that there was a notable and clear improvement – Lizard and Aqualung, but even then it’s down to taste), because the originals are fantastic – but they do sound different, and some people do seem to appreciate the alternative perspective.

Best! SW”

(Personally, I’m more than anxiously awaiting the revitalization of Trilogy! What about you?  Or is this update an unnecessary one?)

[As luck would absolutely have it, I’m writing this post on my phone.]