CD Review: Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Live at Montreux 1997

CD Review: Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Live at Montreux 1997
Eagle Rock Entertainment
All Access Rating: B+

Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Live at
Montreux 1997 2015
Directionless and not at all compelling, Black Moon is hardly memorable, a mere footnote in the remarkable career of progressive-rock supergroup Emerson, Lake & Palmer. And its successor, 1994's In The Hot Seat, was an even bigger farce.

The result of an early '90s reunion, these two albums pale in comparison to the inspired genius and audacious virtuosity of seminal prog works Brain Salad Surgery and their self-titled debut, when they concocted a dynamic blend of heavy riffs and classical influences that defied logic and actually made commercial sense.

It's little wonder then that nothing from Black Moon or In The Hot Seat made the set list for ELP's dazzling and edgy, if utterly self-indulgent and irritatingly dissonant, Montreux performance on July 7, 1997. Eagle Rock Entertainment has seen fit to issue an audio-only release of the show on 2CD and digital formats for the first time as a companion piece to the DVD made available in the past. From a lovely reading of the eternally wistful "Lucky Man" and the soft, melodic – if somewhat off-kilter – drift of "Take A Pebble" to the swirling, exuberant camp of "Karn Evil" and the mad energy, rolling propulsion and arty ambition of a 20:50 "Medley: Tarkus/Pictures At An Exhibition," Live at Montreux 1997 showcases the elegance, the barely controlled chaos and insanely epic showmanship of a trio that always possessed incredible instrumental chops.

Rollicking piano and dancing organ salvos firing from the fingers of Keith Emerson abound, but it's the energetic rarity "Creole Dance" – a piece never available on an Emerson, Lake & Palmer studio release – that's the most stunning here, as his sheer speed furiously builds a beautiful nest of notes. The triumphant synthesizers, building drama and flashes of brilliance of "Fanfare for the Common Man" kick off a rousing closing medley of that work along with " ... Rondo / Carmina Burana / Carl Palmer's Drum Solo / Toccata in D Minor" that brings the house down. Montreux seemed to bring out the best in them.
– Peter Lindblad

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