CD Review: Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Live At Montreux 1997

A blistering performance by these prog rock legends.
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Prog rock super group, Emerson, Lake & Palmer took the music world by storm in the 1970s. Keyboardist and former The Nice member Keith Emerson's virtuoso abilities were matched by drummer Carl Palmer and former King Crimson member, bassist Greg Lake, who added a pop sensibility to the mix. The studio records were good, but the band was even better on the live stage, where they could extend jams for as long as they liked and present a flamboyant stage show that included, among other things, knives in keyboards.

The band broke up in the early 1980s, only to return in the early 1990s, releasing two studio albums. In 1997, the band took to the famed Montreux Jazz festival and delivered a staggering set filled with many ELP classics. Originally available on DVD, Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Live at Montreux 1997 is out on CD for the first time.

The show opens with a fine rendition of perhaps the band's most recognizable song, "Karnevil 9 - 1st Impression Part 2." Lake's voice aged remarkably well and when he sings with gusto the familiar verse, "Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends," the crowd knows they are in for a wild ride. Likewise, Lake gives a gritty vocal performance on the straight-ahead rock and roll of "Tiger In The Spotlight." Emerson adds a honky tonk piano solo to this driving rocker.

The band dives into its 1980s repertoire with "Touch And Go," a heavy rocker that hints at what Led Zeppelin may have sounded like had they been a synth band. "Bitches Crystal" showcases a stunning display of virtuosity from all three band members, showing they had lost none of their abilities to the passage of time.

While the band is, of course, known for their lengthy jams and technical prowess, Lake brought in two simpler songs, "From The Beginning" and "Lucky Man," that show a folksier side of the group. Both songs are offered in fine renditions here, with Lake pushing his voice and Emerson delivering his distinctive synth solo on the latter.

The show closes with a medley including "Fanfare For The Common Man," "Carmina Burana," "Carl Palmer's Drum solo," Rondo" and "Toccata And Fugue In D Minor." At nearly 19 minutes in length, with numerous musical twists and turns, it is everything fans of the band love them for and a fitting way to end the show.

Live at Montreux 1997 showcases a band that had lost none of their chops, giving a fine performance that even after all those years pushed boundaries musically. With a killer set list and a great performance, it is a must own for fans of the band.