Live At Montreux 1997

Emerson, Lake & Palmer

You have to acknowledge Claude Nobs’ foresight. Most of the performances from Montreux, the famed Swiss jazz festival Nobs has been running since 1967, have not only been filmed, but have kept up with the latest high-definition technology. Apparently, going back as far 1997, the appearance of Emerson, Lake and Palmer was captured by high-def cameras. Thirteen years later, in a year where the famed trio is to reunite, Live At Montreux 1997, ELP’s magnificent turn at the foot of the Swiss Alps, is a vivid reminder that the show will never end.

Once you get past the glaring truth that this isn’t the Emerson, Lake and Palmer you worshipped at the alter of Brain Salad Surgery; that this is an older, more seasoned, but just-as-tight-as-a-whipper-snapper on their game…well, then, you might as well sally forth and give it a try, eh? There isn’t much here in the way of the “new” music the group recorded in the 90s. No, this is a hardcore set laced with carnal damage (“Karn Evil 9”), hayrides (“Hoedown”) and cutting-edge blather (“Knife Edge”). Emerson was still (and still is) “turning them on” with his piano work on “Creole Dance” and “Honky Tonk Train Blues” — two wild and extreme examples of his erratic style. “Take A Pebble” is merely the rapturous cherry on top — a taste of how in their early stages, ELP’s collective brilliance was berthing with each and every giant step forward.

Lake’s “Lucky Man” assumes a multi-dimensional role of illustrating of the singer’s simple, almost childlike tale of a nobleman, drawn to a close by an angular grunt of Emerson’s obligatory, yet ambiguous response. And it still shakes the floor after all this year — even more so with DTS HD Master. The floorboards stiffen up for the extended suite of “Tarkus” and “Pictures Of An Exhibition.” And then it’s spotlight time through a medley maze of “Fanfare For The Common Man,” “Rondo” and “Carmina Burana” and whatnot. Emerson and Palmer push their crafts, taking extended solos and wowing the crowd with the very thing they came to see. What a shame that a year later, ELP called it a day and another 13 years pass (it was 13 years between the first break of 1979 through 1992 — creepy, huh?). It’s hard to imagine Emerson will ever punish his keyboards like this again, so you best grab Live At Montreux 1997 in crisp high-definition and see the show as in-your-face as possible.

~ Shawn Perry

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