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Reviewed by - Matt Rowe

Emerson, Lake & Palmer
The Essential ELP

The three stars that made up the Emerson, Lake and Palmer unit (hereafter referred to as ELP) were unique musicians coming from unique positions. Greg Lake arrived from the very demanding role of bass player for King Crimson, Carl Palmer from Atomic Rooster, and Keith Emerson from The Nice. Assembled, they began a with a bang producing a top-selling debut album, the self-titled Emerson, Lake & Palmer, yielding the successful single, “Lucky Man.” From there, it was one excellent album after another, until excess and a changing market smiled poorly upon this trio of musicians that took progressive rock to the masses in the beginning of the ‘70s.

Briefly, from Emerson, Lake and Palmer in 1970 until the over-the-top production of Works I in 1977 (taking advantage of their collective status to sell solo works via sides of albums – not counting the necessary assorted tracks of Works II), ELP held millions in thrall to their style of classical/rock fusion. No one has ever equaled their successes in this regard (other than Yes) since although some had tried.

Producing some 12 albums within the time-span of this 28-track Essential ELP, the band left plenty of memorable songs to fill several disc. Some of those 12 albums are almost fully represented although one of the songs (“Take a Pebble” – from the debut, ELP) is truncated from its original 12 minutes. Otherwise, the 2CDs here are sequenced by album release.

The first album is represented by 5 of the 6 songs found on the album leaving out only “The Three Fates.” Tarkus, the band’s second, provides the “Tarkus” medley in its entire 20+ minutes, as well as “Bitches Crystal.” With their creativity at a full steam, Trilogy arrived after a live, classically dominated Pictures at an Exhibition – here represented by the excellent “Nutrocker.” Trilogy offered a slight shift in style, and is in parade here with 6 of the 9 original tracks found on that album.

The successful Brain Salad Surgery is arrayed here with 5 of the 8 original tunes. With the exception of Pictures at an Exhibition, which is a live album, the band’s best studio work ending with Brain Salad Surgery, dominates this set. The final 9 tracks on this set are found from 6 subsequent albums ending with the reunion album from 1992, Black Moon.

What you’ll hear is a fine progression of styles and the development of the band as it moved between the years of 1970 and 1992, with the best material culled from 1970-1974. Shout! Factory, a label dedicated to updating and providing classics from the past has begun a complete restoration project for the Emerson, Lake & Palmer catalogue (scheduled for all of 2007), with this 2CD Essential Collection as the lead off set.

What you’ll also hear is a very nice remastering of ELP songs, music which greatly benefits from such work. From the beginning buzzsaw guitar of “The Barbarian” and the keyboards of Emerson through the clarity of the opening of “The Endless Enigma, Pt One,” through the final notes of “Paper Blood,” there is vast sound improvement, which will be abundantly evident in the re-issuance of the band’s complete catalogue.
This set also provides a booklet that has photos and music listings and credits, along with detailed liner notes by ELP archivist, Bruce Pilato. With this first salvo for ELP, we look forward to the reissues of the ELP catalogue.

The 24-pqge booklet has plenty of photos of the band, then and now. You can find a great shot of the entire entourage of ELP during their '70s run, when it took an immense effort to stage one of their classic shows. There are 2 pages of song credits. I would have liked the booklet to be a bit more exhaustive in information, however, there is a new catalogue reissue campaign underway from Shout! Factory that I believe will shore that up. The CD set is housed in a brilliant jewel case (brilliant meaning the type of CD packaging, in this case, a single CD casing that effectively holds 2 CDs in a swing CD holder).

Yes, there is a wealth of ELP material out there. But for newcomers, completists, and people that want this Essential series title package because it is an Essential title, this is a great little package. I don't think that you're going to be disappointed.

Welcome back, my friends…

Release Date: January 30, 2007
Produced by: Greg Lake / Peter Sinfield / Keith Emerson / Mark Mancina
Format: CD

Track Listing:

Disc One - The Barbarian / Take a Pebble / Knife- Edge / Tank / Lucky Man / Tarkus a) Eruption b) Stones of Years c) Iconoclast d) Mass e) Manticore f) Battlefield g) Aquatarkus / Bitches Crystal / Nutrocker / From the Beginning / Hoedown / Trilogy.

Disc Two - The Endless Enigma, Pt One / Fugue / The Endless Enigma, Pt Two / Jerusalem / Toccata / Still...You Turn Me On / Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression - Part 1 / Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression - Part 2 / Jeremy Bender~The Sheriff (Medley) / I Believe In Father Christmas / C'est La Vie / Fanfae For The Common Man (Edit) / Honky Tonk Train Blues / Canario / Peter Gunn / Black Moon / Paper Blood.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP):

Keith Emerson - Keyboards / Synthesizers / Moog
Greg Lake - Bass / Vocals / Keyboards / Guitars
Carl Palmer - Drums / Percussion

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