Tag Archive | Greatest Hits

Come and See the Show: The Best of Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Come and See the Show ELP CD Cover

Emerson, Lake & Palmer are one of those favorite bands from my youth that, like The Beatles or Queen, I can pretty much talk about forever. For all the overblown pomp and ceremony that defined 1970s Progressive Rock, few bands dished it out bigger or better than the “super group” trio known as ELP. Keith Emerson (formerly of The Nice) broke all kinds of ground with the use of keyboards – organ in particular – in rock music, being responsible for greater innovation than any other musician of his ilk save for perhaps Rick Wakeman. Greg Lake, bassist and vocalist, had previously lent his impressive and wildly fluid voice to the first two King Crimson albums. On the drums, ELP had a percussive force of nature in Carl Palmer. One of the first rock drummers to tackle a massive kit, Palmer surely influenced the showmanship of renowned players from Terry Bozzio to Tommy Lee and Mike Portnoy. While they haven’t necessarily maintained household name status, for a sizable chunk of the seventies ELP enjoyed global popularity – and deservedly so.

In the context of what’s going on musically today, ELP’s often-bombastic musical scenarios are undeniably identifiable with seventies Arena Rock excess, while their roots in classical composition allow them to remain oddly timeless, and therefore totally accessible. Quite a feat, if you ask me. I never get tired of listening to their music, which is why it was such a nice surprise to recently find an ELP collection in my mailbox. Originally released in 2008, the 14-song, single disc retrospective, Come and See the Show: The Best of Emerson, Lake & Palmer was just re-released by Razor & Tie as part of a catalog licensing deal that will see the label re-issue expanded and remastered versions of the group’s first six albums over the next year. Bring it on!

The disc kicks off with the song whose lyrics give the CD its title, “Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression – Part 2.” Arguably ELP’s best-known song – or the song they are best-known for“Karn Evil 9” takes its own little journey, as Greg Lake’s post-apocalyptic carnival barker hawks the greatest sideshow “In Heaven, Hell or Earth” – promising “sights to make you drool” including Jesus conjured magically from a hat and “Rows of Bishop’s Heads in Jars.” I’m there! Of course, when Lake declares, “You gotta see the show / It’s Rock ‘n’ Roll!” he reminds his audience that ELP are basically singing about themselves. Come and See the Show, indeed.

If ever a band could be said to have written the soundtrack to The Church of Rock & Roll, ELP’s music is (for some at least) akin to a religious experience: from the bone chilling organ fugue of “Knife-Edge” to the trio’s epic re-working of the traditional English hymn “Jerusalem.” They were also the first band to successfully meld two seemingly disparate musical genres. As an interpreter of the classical tradition, Emerson’s pop hook-laden keyboard arrangements made modern day classical compositions such as Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” and “Hoedown,” and Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera’s “Toccata” accessible to a rock audience.

But for all its musical sturm und drang, ELP weren’t just about “blowing your head apart.” The group also recorded many of the most gorgeous ballads of the prog rock era, and a few of their best are on this disc. The baroque, arabesque flourishes of the transcendent, aching lament “C’est La Vie” and the lush acoustic guitar / hand percussion arrangements of the ridiculously romantic “From The Beginning” are a gazillion miles away thematically from the chaotic aural battle ground of a piece like “Toccata.” It’s almost hard to believe the same band recorded these two songs.

While it would have been fun to have “Love Beach” – the title song from the band’s most misunderstood album – included, the only really perplexing omission is the absence of “Karn Evil 9: First Impression, Pt. 1,” which firmly sets that suite’s end-of-days tone before segueing seamlessly into part two’s signature mix of exhilaration and foreboding. As essential to a completist seventies rock collection as any Queen or Alice Cooper album, Come & See The Show is a nearly-flawless introduction to ELP’s particularly dynamic and versatile brand of progressive rock, and something cool to throw on the iPod if you already own the band’s catalog.

Grade: A+

Track Listing:

1. “Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression – Part 2”
2. “Lucky Man”
3. “From the Beginning”
4. “Knife-Edge”
5. “Hoedown (Taken From Aaron Copland’s Ballet, Rodeo)”
6. “Jerusalem”
7. “C’est La Vie”
8. “Still…You Turn Me On”
9. “Tank”
10. “Fanfare For the Common Man”
11. “Toccata”
12. “Peter Gunn”
13. “Nutrocker”
14. “I Believe In Father Christmas”

Emerson, Palmer and Lake

Left to Right: Emerson, Palmer and Lake

Happy Birthday, Patti Smith!

Cover Art for Patti Smiths Outside Society CD

Singer Songwriter and Author Patti Smith was born on this day, December 30th in 1946. Read my review of Patti’s recent Career Anthology CD, Outside Society at This Link. Happy Birthday Patti, and many more!

Recommended Listening: Patti Smith, Outside Society

Patti Smith made a name for herself as a pioneer of NYC’s seminal punk scene, most notably as it relates to the birth of the legendary CBGBs rock club on Bowery, and she has continued to evolve through a career that’s lasted over three decades. Along with her original band, The Patti Smith Group (Guitarist/co-songwriter Lenny Kaye, Drummer Jay Dee Daugherty, Bassist/co-songwriter Ivan Kral and Keyboardist Richard Sohl (RIP) – each a phenomenally talented musician and creative force) with whom she recorded her first four albums, and later as a solo artist, Smith is undeniably one of the most unique and influential artists to emerge in the late 70s. As both a versatile artist (poet, musician, author) and an outspoken activist, Patti Smith is a Woman Who Rocks in every sense of the word.

Smith’s impressive music catalog has already been afforded three compilations culled from her studio recordings, but record labels know when the public is ripe for a new offering. With her having recently won multiple awards for her book, Just Kids, Sony Legacy has put together an album to catch the attention of those who may just now be getting hip to Patti Smith, or fans who are ready for rediscovery. Outside Society – the title taken from a lyric in the refrain of Smith’s arguably most powerful and emotionally charged composition (and my personal favorite), “Rock & Roll Nigger” – is an 18 song, single-disc compilation covering Smith’s recordings from her ten studio albums between the years 1975 to 2007. The disc not only includes many of Smith’s “Greatest Hits” – such as her recorded-live version of “Gloria,” her collaboration with Bruce Springsteen, “Because The Night” and the transcendent “Dancing Barefoot” – but it also features an indispensable selection of deep album tracks that casual fans will likely be unfamiliar with. If you are seeking an introduction to Patti Smith or a way to flesh out owning just one or two albums of hers, Outside Society is must own collection.

In addition to always surrounding herself with highly talented musicians and collaborators, Patti Smith has also worked with a cache of rock music’s most accomplished and legendary producers, including Jack Douglas, Jimmy Iovine and Todd Rundgren, who helped to sculpt her sound, allowing her to remain authentic no matter what genre she tackled. From the raw punkinesss of “Gloria” to one of her most polished pop songs, “Frederick,” (one of the many love songs she wrote for her husband, the late Fred “Sonic” Smith of the MC5) she absolutely owns every performance. Each song on this record, and consider that the styles presented are extremely diverse, sounds amazing and fresh, like it was just recorded.

Patti Smith has covered many rock classics in her storied career – from “Gloria” (a song first made popular by Them as fronted by Van Morrison) to the Byrds’ anthemic “So You Want to Be a Rock & Roll Star” and, most recently, Nirvana’s breakthrough, genre-defining hit, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” With each interpretation of compositions that many would consider untouchable, Smith makes the song her own with the infusion of her poetry and her inherent ability to tap into the creative essence of each song. Adding further value to an aurally sublime compilation, Outside Society includes Patti’s insightful, autobiographical notes and personal commentary on each track. Her own remembrances of the circumstances surrounding the writing / recording of each track are not only profoundly moving, but often heartbreaking, revealing her to be a woman who has coped with her share of life-changing loss while unfailingly championing individuality and the triumph of the underdog.  God Bless Patti Smith.

Remastered by Greg Calbi and Tony Shanahan, Outside Society will be released on Arista/Columbia/Legacy on August 23, 2011 as a single-disc digipak CD and on vinyl as a Double LP set. Track Listing is As Follows:

1. Gloria

2. Free Money

3. Ain’t It Strange

4. Pissing In A River

5. Because The Night

6. Rock N Roll Nigger

7. Dancing Barefoot

8. Frederick

9. So You Want To Be A Rock N Roll Star

10. People Have the Power

11. Up There Down There

12. Beneath The Southern Cross

13. Summer Cannibals

14. 1959

15. Glitter In Their Eyes

16. Lo and Beholden [radio edit]

17. Smells Like Teen Spirit

18. Trampin’

GRADE: A+