Anthology literally means ‘selection’, the best an artist has to offer. Usually a tribute to the artist and, more often, after his/her death. Unfortunately, that is also the case with Greg Lake’s The Anthology: A Musical Journey. It is the definitive career-spanning ‘Best of’ the protagonist of this story, featuring music from King Crimson, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Lake’s solo career plus some rare recordings from his early days in 1967 and 1969 with The Shame and The Shy Limbs, respectively.
The Anthology comes as a deluxe 2CD hardback set and as a double vinyl with gatefold cover. Inside, an extensive essay by the well-known (rock) author Chris Welch (Yes, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin) is illustrated with a large number of never before published photos. In addition, there are contributions from ELP manager Stewart Young and the woman Greg Lake has been married to for 40 years, Regina, as well as many heartfelt tributes from friends, artists and colleagues.
After being invited to join The Gods, with future Uriah Heep members Ken Hensley and Lee Kerslake (both recently deceased), Lake accepted an invitation from Robert Fripp to join King Crimson in 1969, as bassist and singer on their first two albums, In the Court of the Crimson King and In the Wake of Poseidon.
He left in 1970 to found supergroup Emerson, Lake & Palmer, with which he gained worldwide fame, and later started a successful solo career in the ’80s. And I must not forget the iconic Christmas song I Believe in Father Christmas from 1975, which even hit number two in the charts.
Lake died in December 2016 at the age of 69 after a battle with cancer.
A number of things are noteworthy about the collection of songs on this album. First of all, there are a considerable number of live versions. The compilers have apparently preferred the greater dynamics that live songs harbour. It is also an ode to the stage animal, which Lake certainly was. Convinced of his own qualities as a musician but also as an entertainer, he often rose to great heights on various world stages. Appropriately, the choices for live versions are In the Court of the Crimson King, 21st Century Schizoid Man, The Great Gates of Kiev, Tarkus VI, I Talk to the Wind and Karn Evil 9
In addition, the number of melodic, romantic songs by his hand is striking, often with an acoustic or “folky” approach. Funny actually: he always thought he was responsible for the rock side of ELP, as a counterbalance to keyboard player Emerson’s classical and orchestral influences. And then being mainly known for and associated with extremely melodic but sometimes soft ballads and easy-listening songs, how ironic.
Remarkable, too, there’s hardly any compression, avoiding grinding everything down to one sound level, thus benefitting the dynamics. A striking and courageous choice that is rarely made nowadays.
The golden voice of yesteryear changes over time. Not only in terms of timbre, but also in range: starting out as a baritone, but becoming more of a bass towards the end of his career. No problem: there is plenty to enjoy, the Voice is iconic and easily recognisable.
Lucky Man, also the title of his 2017 autobiography (for a reason) in many ways marks a crossroads in his long and successful career. The song that Lake wrote at the age of twelve, which was to serve as a filler for the 1970 debut album Emerson Lake & Palmer, became a worldwide hit, not least because of the legendary, improvised contribution on Moog keyboards by companion Keith Emerson. And that is precisely what does the trick: it took the music to a higher level, the sum of the parts was clearly greater than the underlying. Fortunately, Lake acknowledged this fact, despite all the egos involved.
Later collaborations, also present on the album, like Paper Blood and Touch and Go, lack this special sparkle, and drift more in the direction of what I would call “power-prog”, powerful and effective but less special. Anyway, everyone is entitled to their own preference.
The album set starts with Peace – A Beginning and ends, appropriately, with Peace – An End, both from the unbeatable second King Crimson album In the Wake of Poseidon. In between, supply remains varied with heavily orchestrated pieces (C’est La Vie, Lend Your Love to Me Tonight), Fleetwood Mac-like songs (Black and Blue) and tear-jerking ballads (Daddy, Affairs of the Heart, Haunted), plus a series of AOR songs that, although high in quality, could have come from a bunch of random bands/writers (Slave to Love, It Hurts). But there are also brilliant, timeless classics like Still… You Turn Me On and From the Beginning. Too many to mention.
Extra compliments for the packaging, a beautiful booklet with countless photos and no less than 62 pages of info. It is wonderful to read the prose of veteran rock author Chris Welch who provides a wealth of information, even if the contents of Lake’s aforementioned autobiography is still vivid.
Of all 33 songs on the double CD, (the LP contains only 21 songs), one track has never been released, at least not until this version: Closer to Believing dates from 2016 and is the so-called ‘final version’ of this song, originally on the fifth ELP album, Works Vol. 1 from 1977. But that does not detract from the material on offer. The Anthology: A Musical Journey is an excellent album that does justice to the talent of Greg Lake. He would have gladly watched approvingly from behind his cloud, with an affable smile, thoughtfully strumming an acoustic guitar.
You can read Alex Driessen’s review of Lucky Man: The Autobiography book HERE.
01. Peace – A Beginning (0:53)
02. Don’t Go ‘Way Little Girl (Single Mix) (3:05)
03. Love (Single Mix) (2:58)
04. The Court of the Crimson King (Live at the Fillmore West, San Francisco, USA, 15th December 1969) (6:49)
05. Take A Pebble (2012 Remaster) (12:32)
06. Lucky Man (2012 Remaster) (4:37)
07. The Only Way (Hymn) (2012 Remaster) (3:52)
08. Oh My Father (2012 Stereo Mix) (4:06)
09. The Great Gates of Kiev (Live at Newcastle City Hall, 26th March 1971 – 2012 Remaster) (6:04)
10. From the Beginning (2015 Remaster) (4:13)
11. Trilogy (First Section) (2:27)
12. The Endless Enigma (Part Two) (2015 Remaster) (2:02)
13. Still… You Turn Me On (2014 Remaster) (2:52)
14. Epitaph from Tarkus: vi. Battlefield (Live, 1973/74) (4:53)
15. I Believe in Father Christmas (2017 Remaster) (3:34)
16. Closer to Believing (Final Version, 2016) (6:13)
01. C’est La Vie (2017 Remastered) (4:19)
02. Lend Your Love to Me Tonight (2017 Remaster) (4:04)
03. Watching Over You (2017 Remaster) (3:55)
04. For You (2017 Remaster) (4:29)
05. Black and Blue (3:59)
06. It Hurts (4:29)
07. Haunted (4:50)
08. Slave to Love (3:23)
09. Touch and Go (3:40)
10. Affairs of the Heart (4:05)
11. Paper Blood (2017 Remaster) (4:29)
12. Daddy (2017 Remaster) (4:43)
13. The Sage (1994 Studio Version) (2017 Remaster) (3:12)
14. 21st Century Schizoid Man (Live at Hammersmith Odeon, London, 5th November 1981) (9:03)
15. I Talk to the Wind (Live from the ‘Songs of A Lifetime Tour’, USA, 2012) (4:32)
16. Karn Evil 9 1st Impression – Part 2 (Live at Teatro Municipale, Piacenza, Italy, 28th November 2012) (5:26)
17. Peace – An End (1:53)
Total Time – 145:16
King Crimson: CD One (1 & 4) | CD Two (17)
The Shame: CD One (2)
The Shy Limbs: CD One (3)
Emerson Lake & Palmer: CD One (5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,,13,14 & 15) | CD Two (1,2,3,4,9,11,12 & 13)
Greg Lake: CD One (16) | CD Two (5,6,7,8,14,15 & 16) | CD Two (14,15 & 16)
Emerson Lake & Powell: CD Two (9)
Greg Lake & Geoff Downes: CD Two (10)
Record Label: BMG
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 23rd October 2020
– The Anthology: A Musical Journey (2020)
– Live in Piacenza (2017)
– Ride the Tiger (with Geoff Downes) (2015)
– Live from Manticore Hall (with Keith Emerson) (2014)
– Songs of a Lifetime (2013)
– Greg Lake Live (2007)
– From the Underground II: Deeper Into the Mine (2003)
– Nuclear Attack (2002)
– Live (2000)
– From the Underground: The Official Bootleg (1998)
– The Greg Lake Retrospective: From the Beginning (1997)
– King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents Greg Lake in Concert (with Gary Moore) (1995)
– Manoeuvres (1983)
– Greg Lake (1981)