Whenever anyone mentions legendary prog rock drummer Carl Palmer, I can’t help but flash back to an image of Palmer that is burned into my brain: that of his performance with Emerson, Lake & Palmer at the 1974 California Jam, where he performed an extended drum solo for “Karn Evil 9,” during which played part of his kit with his teeth. It’s not something one forgets. When you see Palmer behind – almost lost within – his massive kit, you just know guys like Terry Bozzio, Mike Portnoy and even Tommy Lee schooled themselves on Palmer’s considerable chops. Given his status in rock history, it’s hard to believe that such a respected and groundbreaking drummer, who recently celebrated his 61st birthday, is just now releasing his first instructional DVD, simply entitled Carl Palmer Drum Solos. Released on February 22, 2011 by Music Video Distributors (MVD), this DVD presents a unique note-for-note study of three of Palmer’s drum solos.
First up is Palmer during the legendary Brain Salad Surgery era of ELP, performing the aforementioned seven-minute “Karn Evil 9” solo, as dissected from the group’s 1974 California Jam performance. Here is the kit that Palmer is famous for playing: accented with multiple gongs, it was also likely one of the first spinning kits. While Palmer’s furious and precise kit work preceded the hyper-subdivided time now championed by many of today’s aggressive players by three decades, his playing is nevertheless awe-inspiring. His flawless and highly creative use of traditional grip is also impressive.
Each solo performance is shown four times: once as live original footage, and then again in 100% time, 75% time and 50% time, each with an accompanying Midi soundtrack. By watching the solos in the slowest motion, drummers can see exactly what Palmer is doing and how he appears to be doing it. Even when slowed to 75% of a performance’s original tempo, the man is a machine. At 50% speed, his toms on “Karn Evil 9” take on an almost tribal feel, and his obvious jazz background comes through in his snare attack. I just wish they had included the entire band’s performance of this amazing song, so you could see his playing in context.
The second solo included is “The Heat Goes On” from a 2008 performance with Asia. For this track, Palmer plays a stunning blue Vistalite kit and appears to be sitting noticeably higher. Finishing out the lesson is Palmer’s performance of Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” as performed with Asia in 2009. This track includes a cymbal solo that is just insane and that must be seen to be believed. In addition, for those who sight read, the DVD comes with note-for-note sheet music transcriptions of each solo, which can be easily downloaded for viewing with Adobe Reader.
While I understand that this is meant to be a drum-centric instructional DVD, I think that the package could have only been enhanced by adding an additional track showing the complete performance of Palmer with both ELP and Asia. Something like that certainly would’ve given the disc cross-over appeal to non-drummers that just love the music. At any rate, this is an educational DVD that I would recommend to drummers, fans of Carl Palmer’s playing, and fans of drumming in general.
Carl Palmer: http://www.carlpalmer.com