ELP - 2016 Remasters

Emerson Lake & Palmer – Trilogy | Brain Salad Surgery | Welcome Back My Friends… (2016 Remasters)

Trilogy (2016 Remastered Edition / 2015 3-Disc Edition including 5.1 Mix of the original 1972 Album)

By Leo Trimming

[A quick note: in 2015 we reviewed the then newly reissued Deluxe 3-Disc Edition of Trilogy which included a 5.1 Surround Mix of the album. At the time we were unable to properly review the 5.1 mix so it has been included here, integrated with the new 2016 Remaster 2-CD edition which also includes Jakko Jakszyk’s re-mix of the album, this mix constituting the second disc of the 2015 version.]

ELP - TrilogyIn recent times the ‘Trilogy’ of Emerson, Lake & Palmer have become reduced to the solitary Carl Palmer with the untimely deaths of both Keith Emerson and Greg Lake. It is doubtful that any readers of this review are new to the world of ELP, a Progressive rock ‘supergroup’ formed from members of The Nice, King Crimson and Atomic Rooster who almost literally exploded onto the world scene with a spectacular set at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival, complete with cannon fire – they never did things by half! Their flamboyance and musical dexterity attracted massive support in the early ’70s, and their ongoing popularity in Prog circles is indicated by yet another round of re-releases of their classic heyday albums from the early ’70s.

Their 1972 album Trilogy is given the full triple album treatment with the original mix, plus a new stereo mix and a 5.1 DVD-A version, mixed by Jakko M. Jakszyk who, in a curious echo of Greg Lake’s origins, is also a member of modern day King Crimson.

There is no real new material in this package, apart from an alternate version of From the Beginning and a live version of Hoedown from 1972, so the focus is on whether there is any real point in buying these re-releases if one already has previous reissues of the album. As a recent recruit into the world of ‘Surround Mixes’, the main attraction in these sets is the new 5.1 mix. I will confess to never being a great fan of Trilogy, much preferring the classic debut album and the gothic Brain Salad Surgery. However, it has to be said that hearing the opening of The Endless Enigma on such a system it is clear that there is more to enjoy on this piece than I had previously realised. The ‘heartbeat’ opening (unnoticed on previous versions!) moves the piece into an atmospheric instrumental, sound effect filled intro, reminiscent of cinematic soundtrack – perfect for a 5.1 surround ‘home cinema’ type music system. Both parts of The Endless Enigma gained much from the 5.1 mix, particularly Greg Lake’s pure choral vocals high in the mix, while other pieces are not particularly enhanced, such as Emerson’s short solo piano piece, Fugue.

Listening again to Trilogy helped me to realise what a truly beautiful song Lake’s From the Beginning is, with delicate acoustic guitar and gentle percussion perfectly framing Lake’s lovely vocals. A languid electric guitar line later floats over the piece followed by a mellifluous and flowing synthesizer. Realising the quality of the piece made the re-releases worth hearing, particularly the perfect aural separation and delicate intertwining of the different instrumentation takes on a crystalline clarity in the 5.1 mix. It is hardly surprising that this song reached the U.S. Top 40. In contrast, the stomping ‘comedy’ of The Sheriff somewhat jars after such subtlety, although the sound effect of the revolver shot does ring across the room in 5.1 it is not a song that particularly benefits from a remix. In my view, E.L.P. should have avoided such comic interludes, but one consolation is that it’s not the rather dubious and ill-judged Benny the Bouncer from Brain Salad Surgery.

The western feel extends into their version of Aaron Copland’s Hoedown, which became a feature of the live set and probably needs no analysis here, except to say that the new mix manages somehow to emphasise the different contributions of each band member to the whole – Emerson’s distinctive swirling keyboards interplaying with Palmer’s powerful but well-judged drumming and Lake’s driving bass, largely previously unnoticed by this listener.

The later songs on the album, the raucous Living Sin and Abaddon’s Bolero with its rather plodding and uninspiring progress, were never favourites of mine. The 5.1 mix is not enough to rescue Living Sin as a song, but it does emphasise the enormous orchestral sounds the trio managed on Abaddon’s Bolero, even if Emerson’s keyboards still sound rather weedy at times – they were more successful in conveying this powerful orchestral sound on the later classic Fanfare for the Common Man from Works, Volume One, of which the original composer Aaron Copland apparently approved.

Title song Trilogy is one of the highlights of the album, commencing with Lake’s delicate vocals over a glistening piano – the 5.1 mix makes it feel like Lake’s angelic voice is hanging in the middle of the room. Palmer’s cymbals shimmer and roll around the space and the piece takes off with pulsing drums, driving bass and sinuous synth lines. A rippling keyboard runs over Palmer’s insistent drumming and Lake’s plaintive voice returns briefly to complete this cinematic piece – again probably why it benefits so much from a 5.1 mix.

I suppose one main question needs asking about these re-releases: “If I already have this album is it worth shelling out for a new version?”

I struggled a little to answer that until I tried an experiment. I played the DVD-A version on a 5.1 setting and then alternated that with a normal stereo setting. I have to say that the difference really was quite remarkable. The stereo version sounded fine – no problem if that’s the equipment available. However, switching to 5.1 reveals quite a stunning difference; it feels as if you are in the room with the music, literally surrounded by it with all the elements in crystal clear clarity. Ordinary stereo makes it sound like the music is being broadcast into the room and feels noticeably flatter and less dynamic. In all honesty, I never was and will never be a great fan of Trilogy, but I have found much more to enjoy and focus upon in the new 5.1 mix and will listen again to an album I had rather spurned previously, which is a testament to the work of Jakko Jakszyk.

Greg Lake later described Trilogy as his favourite E.L.P. album as he felt it contained all the best aspects of their work. Therefore, in a period which has recently seen his passing it is perhaps appropriate that the 5.1 mix concludes a little ironically with an alternative version of his beautiful From the Beginning. To these ears, this alternate version does not have remarkable differences to the original, but it is impossible to tire of listening to Greg Lake’s wonderful voice – probably one of the finest voices to grace the Progressive Rock stage.

TRACKLISTING – 2016 Remaster
Disc One – Original Trilogy

01. The Endless Enigma (Part One) (6:41)
02. Fugue (1:56)
03. The Endless Enigma (Part Two) (2:03)
04. From the Beginning (4:16)
05. The Sheriff (3:22)
06. Hoedown (3:47)
07. Trilogy (8:54)
08. Living Sin (3:13)
09. Abaddon’s Bolero (8:08)

Time – 42:20

Disc Two – Jakko Jakszyk Stereo Remix
01. From the Beginning (Alternate Version) (4:15)
02. The Endless Enigma (Part One) (New Stereo Mix) (6:43)
03. Fugue (New Stereo Mix) (1:57)
04. The Endless Enigma (Part Two) (New Stereo Mix) (2:03)
05. From the Beginning (New Stereo Mix) (4:17)
06. The Sheriff (New Stereo Mix) (3:24)
07. Hoedown (New Stereo Mix) (3:46)
08. Trilogy (New Stereo Mix) (8:58)
09. Living Sin (New Stereo Mix) (3:11)
10. Abaddon’s Bolero (New Stereo Mix) (8:14)

Time – 46:48

Total Time – 89:08

[For details of the 2015 3-disc Surround Sound version click HERE.]

Keith Emerson – Hammond Organ C3, Steinway Piano, Zoukra Moog Synthesiser III C, Mini Moog Model D
Greg Lake – Vocals, Bass, Electric & Acoustic Guitars
Carl Palmer – Drums & Percussion

Record Label: BMG
Catalogue#: BMGCAT2CD5
Date of Release: 30th September 2016

Brain Salad Surgery (2016 Remastered Edition of the original 1973 Album)

By Basil Francis

ELP - Brain Salad SurgeryYou may love them, you may hate them, but Emerson, Lake & Palmer are and will always remain near the top of any “Prog’s Greatest” list, as will their fourth studio album, Brain Salad Surgery. Perhaps it’s the terrifying HR Giger artwork, or that line “Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends…” that helped make this album so iconic, but the kind of musicianship that’s seen on tracks like the menacing Toccata and the epic Karn Evil 9 has rarely been seen in the four intervening decades. Indelibly flawed, as all ELP’s albums were, the sheer ambitiousness of this particular offering put it in a league of its own.

Of course, not everyone was singing and dancing when it was released; the BBC banned Jerusalem, one of the album’s tamer tracks, deeming it to be sacrilegious. Ironically, I’d never heard of the song before listening to ELP. Then there’s Still… You Turn Me On which contains the lyric “Every day a little sadder, a little madder… someone get me a ladder!”, perhaps my favourite example of prog lyrics going too far. Benny the Bouncer smacks of The Beatles circa The White Album in its whimsy but remains to this day oft-overlooked.

The reissues may never cease (the last one only came out two years ago for heaven’s sake!) and the gods have decided that 2016 would be a good date for a new tranche of ELP reissues. “Is it worth my moolah?” is what you’re here to find out. Let’s inspect this latest revision.

If you plan to buy Brain Salad Surgery from Amazon (you don’t even need to be in your underwear to get your fill of prog these days), I’d be cautious about the description, as there are a few lies; firstly, the alternative stereo mix included on disc two is by Jakko Jakszyk of King Crimson and The Tangent, and not by the now legendary remixer Steven Wilson. This is quite the disappointment as Wilson’s remixes have always added clarity and depth to recordings, making the listener hear things they’d never heard before. Jakszyk, on the other hand, seems to have merely played with the EQ a bit, as there’s absolutely nothing new or interesting to be found. The second lie is that the original die cut sleeve has been reproduced. While this may be true for the accompanying vinyl reissue, it certainly isn’t true for the CD version you’ll pick up for a tenner.

On disc one you get the original album, all forty-five minutes of it, at last, all to itself without the kerfuffle of bonus tracks. It seems somewhat quieter and perhaps a tiny bit hissier than the 2001 Sanctuary version I also own, but otherwise no remarkable difference. I can’t quite tell if I like that Karn Evil 9 is split into four tracks, but I suppose it offers digital users the chance to piece the files together with iTunes having a half-hour MP3 on your laptop is the objective.

If there’s any strength in this reissue, it has to be in the bonus tracks on disc two so let’s investigate. All your regulars are here for completeness: the jarring NME Flexi Disc excerpts medley, the slightly more jarring but infectious non-album title track Brain Salad Surgery and the easier-done-than-said jazzy jam B-side When the Apple Blossoms Bloom in the Windmills of Your Mind I’ll Be Your Valentine. One of the issues I had with the NME Flexi Disc track on my Sanctuary version was that it had the whole of Brain Salad Surgery (the track) to begin with before reaching the actual excerpts medley, effectively repetition. This has fortunately been dealt with on this reissue.

How about new stuff? There’s some of that too! I feel like there must have been a whole host of demos to choose from to display on this release, and they really chose the oddest. In total, three versions of Karn Evil 9, 3rd Impression collectively take up nearly half an hour of this disc, bringing the total number of KE9.3s on the release to four. The first version that opens disc two is the “karaoke” instrumental version, the second is the Jakko “remix” while the third is actually a different version altogether! This one is a true demo, something the bonus disc could have used more of. The best part of this demo is hearing Carl Palmer completely flub a drum fill. It happens to the best of us! The only other real demo to be heard is of Brain Salad Surgery, quite an unexpected surprise. This version also sounds interestingly different but doesn’t venture beyond the second verse.

Unfortunately, that’s about it. The other mixes of the album are completely superfluous if you ask me, and simply pad out the second disc by 42 minutes. It’s also odd that Benny the Bouncer doesn’t get a remix; perhaps Jakko couldn’t be bothered. The CD package itself is quite well put together with all the original artwork, even if it doesn’t quite live up to the standards described on Amazon. The exquisitely horrific Giger cover gives way to a plethora of band photos and a genuinely interesting and fact-filled essay penned by Chris Welch that gives a song-by-song analysis. It’s just not quite enough, though. While it’s clearly a reissue that’s been made in earnest, I wouldn’t recommend this version to replace or update any existing copies of this iconic magnum opus.

Disc One

01. Jerusalem (2:46)
02. Toccata (7:20)
03. Still… You Turn Me On (2:52)
04. Benny the Bouncer (2:21)
05. Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression, Pt. 1 (8:36)
06. Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression, Pt. 2 (4:46)
07. Karn Evil 9: 2nd Impression (7:06)
08. Karn Evil 9: 3rd Impression (9:04)

Time – 44:48

Disc Two
01. Karn Evil 9: 3rd Impression (Original Backing Track) (9:11)
02. Jerusalem (First Mix) (2:46)
03. Still… You Turn Me On (First Mix) (2:53)
04. Toccata (Alternate Version) (7:23)
05. Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression, Pt. 1 (Alternate Version) (8:37)
06. Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression, Pt. 2 (Alternate Version) (4:48)
07. Karn Evil 9: 2nd Impression (Alternate Version) (7:07)
08. Karn Evil 9: 3rd Impression (Alternate Version) (9:06)
09. Excerpts from Brain Salad Surgery (NME Flexi Disc Version) (2:52)
10. When the Apple Blossoms Bloom in the Windmills of Your Mind I’ll Be Your Valentine (3:58)
11. Brain Salad Surgery (3:07)
12. Brain Salad Surgery (Instrumental) (2:22)
13. Karn Evil 9: 3rd Impression (Different Version) (8:26)

Time – 72:31

Total Time – 117:19

Keith Emerson – Hammond Organ, Piano, Harpsichord, Accordion, Moog Modular III-C & Minimoog Synthesizers, Moog Constellation Polyphonic Ensemble (consisting of Moog Lyra solo synthesiser, Moog Apollo polyphonic synthesiser (Polymoog prototype), and prototype Moog Taurus bass pedal synthesizer), Clavinet, Ring-modulated “Computer” Voice (on Karn Evil 9: 3rd Impression)
Greg Lake – Vocals, Acoustic, Electric & 12-string Guitars, Bass Guitar, Production
Carl Palmer – Drums, Percussion, Gongs, Timpani, Tubular Bells, Percussion Synthesizers

Record Label: BMG
Catalogue#: BMGCAT2CD6
Date of Release: 30th September 2016

Welcome Back, My Friends, To The Show That Never Ends (2016 Remastered Edition of the original 1974 Album)

By Mel Allen

ELP - Welcome Back My FriendsEmerson Lake & Palmer have often, unfairly at times, come to symbolise what people feel is wrong about progressive rock and its excesses. There is no doubt that they were progressive and pushed the musical boundaries of the time by blending rock and classical themes while attempting to give the best show they could, the sheer amount of equipment taken on the road giving rise to the belief of excess, and maybe to some extent this is true.

My personal favourite albums would be Tarkus and Brain Salad Surgery, tracks from both of these releases appearing on this live album from 1974. Having checked my collection I have found that this album is missing from it, therefore I do not have anything to compare this remaster to, so I think the best way to approach it is to consider how this version sounds to my ears.

Welcome Back My Friends… was the first ever triple live LP, and this 2016 remastered version has been created by Andy Pearce and Matt Wortham. This being a live album, it could be said that you can’t capture the full live experience in a recording. This may be true but the energy and power of the band certainly shines through. The sound throughout is bright and crisp, opening track Hoedown having precise keyboards and a forceful bass sound with punchy drums, all with good separation between the instruments. This continues throughout the album, indeed, it is noticeable as the band race through an energy fuelled and complete version of Tarkus, during which Greg Lake’s vocals are full and clear, at one point delivering some lines from King Crimson’s Epitaph. This remaster has retained that seventies obsession with stereo effects, whereby the keyboard sounds, especially the Moog, move between the speakers giving that swirling, room-filling sound. Add to all this a great sounding version of Karn Evil 9 and all the boxes are ticked.

Having played this version on a small CD player and on my larger Arcam Hi-Fi system, I believe the remaster is a good one; it performs well and sounds good on the smaller player, but it is on the large system that it really comes alive, and here the separation between all the players is more noticeable.

ELP are a bit of a ‘Marmite’ band, you either like them or not, few listeners taking the middle ground. Welcome Back… is not the greatest album amongst their body of work, but it is a worthy attempt at capturing the ELP live experience, without the visual excesses. If you don’t have this one in your collection, I don’t think you will be disappointed with the sound quality of this version, although probably one for fans or collectors only. A piece of seventies history.

Disc One

01. Hoedown (4:29)
02. Jerusalem (3:19)
03. Toccata (7:25)
04. Tarkus (27:25)
– Eruption
– Stones of Years
– Iconoclast
– Mass
– Manticore
– Battlefield
– Aquatarkus
05. Take A Pebble (11:08)
– Take a Pebble
– Still …You Turn Me On
– Lucky Man

Time – 53:46

Disc Two
01. Piano Improvisations (11:53)
– Piano Improvisations
– Fugue
– Little Rock Getaway
02. Take A pebble (Conclusion) (3:14)
03. Jeremy Bender/The Sheriff (5:24)
04. Karn Evil 9 (35:18)
– 1st Impression
– 2nd Impression
– 3rd Impression

Time – 55:45

Total Time – 109:31

Keith Emerson – Hammond Organ, Moog Synthesizers
Greg Lake – Vocals, Guitars, Bass
Carl Palmer – Drums & Percussion.

Record Label: BMG
Catalogue#: BMGCAT2CD7
Date of Release: 30th September 2016

Carl Palmer Interview

TPA’s Basil Francis recently had the opportunity to speak to ELP’s Carl Palmer and you can read the extensive interview HERE.

Emerson Lake & Palmer – Website | Facebook