Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Pictures At An Exhibition
The Anthology

Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Fans of Emerson, Lake & Palmer are all too familiar with how the band’s catalog has been passed around like a jug of wine at a Roman bacchanal. Ever since Atlantic Records relinquished the rights to the trio’s seven studio albums, three live albums and various compilations, boutique labels like Victory, Shout! Factory and Razor & Tie have reintroduced ELP to a new record-buying public with reissues, unearthed live sets, and even more compilations. Beginning in 2012, Razor & Tie rolled out expanded versions of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Tarkus, Trilogy and Brain Salad Surgery, with plans to do more. However, the baton has changed hands again, and BMG is reissuing ELP titles for 2016 and 2017, starting with the debut album Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Tarkus, Pictures At An Exhibition and a three-CD compilation The Anthology.

If you picked up Razor & Tie’s Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Tarkus, you may want to pass on the BMG reissues (unless you’re a completist). Both are essentially the same package with the Steven Wilson remixes, minus the 5.1 surround mixes. Remastered original albums on one disc are accompanied by “alternate” Steven Wilson stereo mixes and bonus tracks on a second disc. Just like the Razor & Tie 2012 reissues, the alternate mix of ELP’s debut loses parts of "The Three Fates" and "Tank," but adds outtakes from "The Three Fates, " an in-studio jam called "Rave Up" and alternate takes of "Take A Pebble," "Knife Edge" and "Lucky Man." The alternate Tarkus features extra passages in the title suite, plus two bonus ballads — "Oh My Father" and "Unknown Ballad."

The true gem of this first round is Pictures At An Exhibition. The first disc features a 2016 remaster of the March 26, 1971 Newcastle performance released in 1971, plus a “Pictures At An Exhibition” medley from a December 2, 1972 show in Puerto Rico. The second disc comprises the audio recording from Pictures At An Exhibition film, which featured an earlier performance of the piece on December 9th 1970 at the Lyceum Theatre in London. Fortunately, the sound has been enhanced to stereo from the original mono mix, with additional live versions of "Knife Edge," "The Barbarian" and "Rondo." While this earlier performance is a little less polished, it exhibits a hungry band ready to take the world by storm. This set is definitely a worthy addition to any ELP fan’s collection.

The Anthology is a triple-disc set that collects 39 tracks from 1970 through 1998, approved by all three band members. In addition to obligatory highlights like “Lucky Man,” “Hoedown” and “Karn Evil 9,” the set features live versions of “Peter Gunn,” “C'est La Vie” and “Pirates.” Next to the four-CD The Return Of The Manticore box set released in 1993, this may well be the most comprehensive ‘Best Of’ ELP package, of the dozen or so that have surfaced, around. In the aftermath of Keith Emerson’s passing on March 11, 2016, it serves as a proper eulogy for longtime fans and a suitable introduction for the newly initiated. It’s also an excellent precursor to the next batch of ELP reissues from BMG — 1972’s Trilogy, 1973’s Brain Salad Surgery, and the 1974 triple live album, Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends. From the beginning to the show that never ends, one can never have enough ELP on hand.

~ Shawn Perry

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