Top positive review
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Required listening for all aficionados of prog rock
on 17 March 2002
If there was any doubt as to the benchmark of rock keyboardists, look no further than Keith Emerson. Always the musical focus of both The Nice and ELP, his innovative arrangements of well known (and not so well known) classical pieces were as mind-blowing as they were cheeky; his self-penned work totally setting the standard for others to follow. Yet at the same time moving the goalposts for keyboard technology year after year until we are almost blase about acquiring polyphonic instruments for under £50 these days!
This excellent 3 CD box set gives as good a history of where it all began as any, and at an amazing price. Covering both their recordings for Immediate and some rare live tracks from both sides of the Atlantic, there are some diamond moments. Check out the two live tracks from Newcastle 1968 on CD no. 3; you see the contribution O'List made during his brief stay as guitarist - completely missing his cue on "America" yet providing some dulcit tones for "Rondo" - a completely different experience with some wayward rhythm guitar added.
Other key moments would the the superlative "Ars Longa Vita Brevis" - a self-indulgence of almost 1970s quality - which introduces us to the excellent "Brandenburger" (a twice repeated track in it's own right); "Flower King of Flies", a psychedelic track in a Small Faces sort of way; the two live tracks from the Fillmore in NYC (flawless); "Azrael" - two versions, with and without O'List; and for sheer novelty value the promo for "The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack" with it's Pythonesque humour.
Despite Emerson being the focal point for much of the time, the rest of the band shines in their own right too - Davison's jazz-drumming background showcased on many occasions; Jackson's thumping Vox bass driving every tune at the low end; O'List's bizarre yet unique lead/rhythm on the first CD broadening the already stretched musical boundaries.
The effect they must have had live when they first hit the stage must have been dramatic. Even the master of stagemanship, Jimi Hendrix, was so impressed that he arranged a meeting with Keith Emerson with a view to forming a new supergroup! It was not mutual and Emerson formed ELP instead.
Buy and enjoy, and roll on the release of "Live at the BBC"!!!