Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Beyond the Beginning
First Appeared in The Music Box, September 2005, Volume 12, #9
Written by John Metzger
If there are any lingering doubts that Emerson Lake & Palmer (ELP) was the most pretentious outfit to emerge from the progressive rock movement of the í70s, the double-DVD set Beyond the Beginning ought to remove them. Sure, even in its formative years, the ensemble employed a mixture of glittery outfits and cannon fire, but when it incorporated a talking computer that spread its wings and emitted a cloud of smoke during the finale of Karn Evil 9, 3rd Impression, it quickly became apparent that the collective was determined to push the boundaries of its stage show to the point of preposterous insanity ó which it surely did by utilizing everything from spinning drum platforms (Carl Palmerís solo rendition of Toccata) to a terrified tiger (Tiger in a Spotlight) to the massive symphony orchestra that it lugged along on its 1977 tour (Pirates). Fusing together a jumble of television appearances, live performances, and promotional spots that span the bandís career, the first portion of Beyond the Beginning highlights the groupís increasingly garish and egocentric behavior, while the latter half includes an honest and informative, hour-long documentary as well as a pieced-together replication of its 1974 concert at California Jam. All of it would be laughable, of course, except for the fact that the trio of Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, and Carl Palmer actually were incredibly talented musicians who were capable of transforming an oddball mixture of classical, folk, blues, and jazz styles into a rather inspired bit of rock ínĎ roll. Itís not surprising, then, that the most revealing moments on the set come when the theatrics are kept to a minimum. Indeed, ELPís explosive romp through Aaron Copelandís Hoedown, Emersonís playful duel with legendary pianist Oscar Peterson on a rousing whirl through Honky Tonk Train, and the jazz-fusion jam that erupts from the staid classicism of Take a Pebble accentuate the notion that behind the amusing pomp and circumstance lay a rather formidable group. Although the visuals are sometimes murky, the audio is occasionally flat, and abrupt segues abound ó these recordings, after all, were never meant for commercial release ó Beyond the Beginning surely will please fans of both Emerson Lake & Palmer as well as its more recent doppelganger Medeski Martin and Wood.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2005 The Music Box