Emerson, Lake & Powell | Complete Collection – Box Set Review

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Emerson, Lake & Powell were not Emerson, Lake & Palmer. But they came close and should have been bigger. The three-CD Complete Collection from Emerson, Lake & Powell pays tribute to a band that passed by too quickly, was initially unfairly compared, but featured its own sound, and sadly, all passed on.

Included here is the version of ELPowell’s only studio album, Emerson, Lake & Powell, released in 1986, with three bonus tracks, their Live In Concert and a CD of rehearsals called The Sprocket Session. This last only ever released as a bootleg.

From the opening of “The Score,” it is as evident how spectacular a remastering engineer Andy Peace did here as much as how solid this album is. Surely, Powell is a heavy hitter, heavier in his way than Carl Palmer, that ‘other’ drummer keyboardist Keith Emerson and bassist, guitarist, and vocalist Greg Lake famously played with. But he tends to drive the guys along in a way, maybe with less finesse, but no less rockin’.

I had occasion to speak to Powell after he played a set with Brian May on one of the stops of May’s solo tour. Powell, known for wailing away with some of the thickest sticks in the business, told me that although he had gotten used to drumming with the big logs they still took lots of energy to wield. A nicer guy you never would have met.

The first tunes here, “The Score,” “Learning To Fly,” “The Miracle,” and even the poppy “Touch And Go” surely get Emerson, Lake, and Powell chugging along nicely. I hadn’t spun this album in quite a few years and was surprised how solid these songs were.

Lake’s voice is rich throughout, spectacular on “Lay Down Your Guns,” especially. Emerson is his usually finger-fleeting powerhouse, laying down various synth lead lines, heavy organ, and a sly piano on “Step Aside.” Powell gets his solo turn on “Mars, The Bringer Of War,” as he would in high dramatic style when the band played this instrumental live.

B-sides “The Loco-Motion” and “Vacant Possession” are included on the first CD, as is a single edit of “The Score.” The Sprocket Sessions disc features a dozen tunes, Emerson, Lake & Powell songs as well as Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. Here the trio works through rehearsals of what would come to be their live set when they toured.

The last disc, Live In Concert features Emerson, Lake & Powell playing a dozen tunes in front of an audience. Although this is the one disc here where the sound quality is not the very best, thought I find Lake’s bass too upfront in the mix at times. It’s a great time capsule moment of what this band was capable of live. This is a slightly truncated version of the full show this trio perform at Madison Square Garden in September 1986, and the end medley of “Karn Evil 9 (1st Impression),” “America,” and “Rondo,” was pretty much the encore of the show they were performing at the time.

Opening with the first horn bleats of “Fanfare For The Common Man,” which is played later in full in this set, “The Score,” opens this live collection of 11, with two Lake acoustic numbers in the middle, ELP stuff like “Knife Edge,” “Pirates,” and, “Mars, The Bringer of War / Drum Solo.”

Fans of Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, Cozy Powell, and even ELP, do wonder what would have happened if Emerson, Lake & Powell did indeed go on to make more albums. The question is just another one of those ‘what-might-have-beens’ in the touch-and-go world of vintage rock.

~ Ralph Greco, Jr.

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