Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Emerson Lake & Palmer
The Original Bootleg Series vols 1 & 2


Released 2001 on Sanctuary
Reviewed by Billy Milk, 03/10/2001ce


I know, I know: ELP are about as cool as Peter Skellern and three times as ugly, but the perverse little imp within has made me listen to these 15 (count 'em!) CDs in funky little boxes. Here comes the history lesson: Emerson Lake and Palmer formed from the ashes of the Nice, a proto-prog band which used to set fire to flags on stage. Lake is famous for his page boy barnet and choirboy voice, Emerson is famous for sticking knives into his organ and Palmer is famous for having the same surname as the bird who played Bianca in EastEnders. Together they released four or five towering prog rock follies and many albums of dreck. At their best they welded E's manic Moog welly with L's pastoral lyricism and P's tub-thumping. They peaked with the Geiger-covered Brain Salad Surgery and were swept aside by punk. Unlike many of their contemporaries they await re-evaluation. Like Crippen, their excesses were pretty unforgiveable. If you have the time or stomach for it, these CDs have some magic moments and prove that ELP were a great live band. Combining a showmanship that out-grosses their earnest contemporaries with a musical muscle that belies their humble six hands, this is rock as she is meant to be played: balls out, salivating and thoroughly bonkers. Stemming from 1972 to 1977, this is a record from another era and should be treated as such. Emerson treats his keyboards like electric guitars leaving his two oppos to provide the rhythm section bedrock. Quality varies from disc to disc – these are bootlegs remember – the set taken from the Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs, NY, in August '72 sounds like a night to remember. Brain Salad Surgery was not even a twinkle and the slide into indulgence was still four years away. It's pretty much the same set list spread throughout the boxes - the later stuff drops Pictures at an Exhibition for newer material - but that's half the fun here. To go through each CD would be as tedious as the final 15 choruses of Let It Be. Suffice to say that if you're a fan these are worth crawling out of the woodwork for. Mind you, that's 70 quid for the two boxes, but imagine what they'll do for your street cred.


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