Working Live
Volume 3

Carl Palmer

Drummer Carl Palmer still hits very hard, very hard indeed. Carl Palmer is still pushing the limits of his drumming, pushing very hard indeed. Carl Palmer is not a half bad arranger, not half bad indeed. On Working Live - Volume 3, Palmer treats us to hard playing, pushing the limits, and playing in and around some classic Emerson, Lake and Palmer chestnuts with a new approach.

This live album comprises Palmer’s own power trio, featuring the blisteringly fast guitar work of Paul Bielatowicz and the locked-in, simple and effective bass playing of Stuart Clayton. Opening with Henry Mancini’s “Peter Gunn,” it’s difficult to tell if it is the recording or the arrangement that makes this a little weak. Clayton is buried in the mix, lending the song with little bottom end and Palmer isn’t doing all that much more than play a hard snare. Fortunately, “Romeo and Juliet” fares better with the trio sounding much more like a real band.

The centerpiece of the CD — and a very ambitious one at that — has Palmer and his band working through almost every movement of Mussorgsky’s Pictures At An Exhibition. With a really spectacular volume pedal opening from Bielatowicz, the band rolls into one of ELP’s most recognizable pieces. This is where Palmer’s chops as an arranger take hold. There are the expected intervals where Bielatowicz and Clayton emulate Emerson and Lake, and, for the most part, Palmer stays pretty much true to what we know. But it’s on the quieter Greg Lake pieces where Palmer’s band mates take over and make it their own.

Pictures At An Exhibition is top-notch; “Bitches Crystal” is supremely amazing. Somehow the trio manages to get to the meat of what I consider one of the better tunes on Tarkus and makes it into a modern jazz-fusion piece. Palmer is on the mark, while Bielatowicz and Clayton couldn’t be tighter. There’s a fun jam on “The Nutrocker,” one of the weaker ELP covers as far as I’m concerned. The closing “In A Moroccan Market” is a pretty awesome eight-minute-plus drum solo that has Palmer using much of his drum arsenal, toms and cymbals especially. As a whole, Working Live - Volume 3 is all about Carl Palmer and his band at the top of their game, playing classic songs with a freshness any ELP fan will enjoy and appreciate.

~ Ralph Greco, Jr.

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