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Emerson, Lake And Palmer The Original Bootleg Series From the Manticore Vaults Vols 1&2 Review

BBC Review

If you do love a bit of armoured armadillo with your chips, Castle have produced the...

Chris Jones 2002

For many, three little letters can evoke a most extreme reaction: for some ELP stands for a most unseemly display of rock pyrotechnics, flashy, empty playing and endless drum solos. For others the same acronym is the ultimate in progtastic Hammond organ abuse - a smorgasbord of tasty moog riffs and classically flavoured epics. These two releases are proof positive that Emerson Lake and Palmer are the ultimate musical equivalent of LSD - they take you to heaven or hell, and there's absolutely no halfway house.

If you do love a bit of armoured armadillo with your chips, Castle have produced the ultimate in classical rock accessories. These two boxes contain a total of fifteen (count 'em!) CDs remastered from bootlegs of American concerts between 1971-77, the golden age of stadium rock. Each concert is housed in a miniature sleeve which lovingly recreates the illicit releases from a bygone, pre-MP3 era, when you could only purchase them in a brown paper bag from a dodgy geezer round the back of Carnaby street. Ah, innocent days...

All the usual suspects are here, from the aforementioned mythical beast "Tarkus" to their legendary renditions of bona fide classical pieces such as "Pictures At An Exhibition" and Aaron Copland's "Hoedown" which, under Emerson's nimble fingers, tore down the house at the beginning of every gig. While the sound - mainly taken from audience tapes - is invariably rough, the sheer excitement of a band at its peak and conquering the colonies is undeniable. Lake's voice is always note-perfect and the lengthier pieces show just how much the band actually cared about giving the crowd value for money. At one point they actually stop in the midst of a complex piano piece to allow the crowd to settle down to get a better view of the dexterity!

All this aside, the boxes are quite obviously the work of obsessives, compiled for completists. Non-believers should definitely stay away and retain their sanity. True proggers cannot hold their heads high in public without adding these giant releases to their collections. Welcome back my friends...

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