- Emerson, Lake & Palmer
- Live in Montreal 1977
Prog rockers and classical buffs unite! The pairing of Emerson, Lake and Palmer with a 70-piece orchestra on Live in Montreal 1977, the final performance of the progressive trio’s “Works” tour, has finally surfaced, remastered from the original analog tapes, on a two-CD set. Grand and dramatic, it’s an embodiment of the decade’s musical ambitions, with hits dotted amongst symphonic precision and relentless Olympic Stadium whistles and screams.
Disc one opens with the martial build of “Abaddon’s Bolero,” instantly establishing the tone of the collection. Likely sequenced on record differently than in concert, the tracks alternate between large pieces driven by orchestral rave-ups like “Karn Evil 9” and “Pictures at an Exhibition,” and quieter Greg Lake moments, as on “C’est La Vie” and “Lucky Man.” The cinematic chase of “Piano Concerto No. 1 3rd Movement” and Lake ballad “Closer to Believing” do the best job of marrying the two worlds.
The second disc is darker and dominated by instrumental prowess. The ominous “Knife Edge,” off-set by Keith Emerson’s bright and bouncy B-3 intervals, leads to a gorgeously frenetic “Tank,” with displays of virtuosity that volley between arrangement and improvisation, including Carl Palmer’s percussive occasion to shine. “Nutrocker” is all Emerson, a rollicking, cheeky ride through familiar melodic territory. Classic cut “Pirates,” swoops and soars, before “Fanfare for the Common Man (including Rondo)” closes with a Gershwin-like flourish worthy of an Olympiad.
Flaws, and there are some, include a mix that at times sounds brash and tinny, and the white noise of the audience that, abundant in its enthusiasm and support, can be shrill and overbearing. The music, however, is as joyous as it is rich. ELP was a band treasured and respected for its ability to perform, to play its instruments for exhaustive stretches of emotion and tempo, and the presence of an orchestra certainly complements and inspires. Beyond an historic footnote in the trio’s history, this is a defining example of the majestic intent of progressive rock.