Thundering progressive rock, dazzling use of electronics, and soaring keyboards are the words that come to mind when describing Emerson Lake & Palmer's latest two-disc album Then and Now. The "then" portion of the disc are three compositions played live at Cal Jam '74, and the "now" portion is from their 1997/98 tour .
It is unfortunate that as I write this, Greg Lake has announced that he is leaving Emerson Lake & Palmer. This album might well represent the last time the three virtuosos are captured live together. It's difficult to not compare the performances for the two different time periods: there's a distinct difference in Greg Lake's vocals between in 1974 and the present. The recording quality is also superior even though the Cal Jam recordings have definitely been cleaned up significantly. However, it could be argued that the use of vintage analogue instruments make the band sound better compared to using modern digital ones. The use of the Moog synthesiser makes for some excellent noisy keyboard leads. Highlights include Take a Pebble, Karn Evil 9 (both the "then" and "now" versions) and King Crimson's 21st Century Schizoid Man.
The cover art is reminiscent of the Brain Salad Surgery cover by H. R. Giger and definitely suited for the 90s, but it is not clear who designed it. The liner notes describing the politics behind the scenes which culminated in Richie Blackmore of Deep Purple smashing his guitar into a $70,000 camera makes for interesting reading.
For some of us, music is a passion as much as anything else we do, but music is something most people take for granted (it's there when they're born, it's there when they die). The problem is that each of us have the opportunity to listen to more music than we can possibly process. And it is unfortunate that most people will indeed pass by Emerson Lake & Palmer's latest double-live album, but this is a great package that should not be missed.
Encores, Legends, & Paradox is what you get when the greatest progressive musicians of today pay tribute to one of the greatest progressive rock bands of all time, Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Each cover in this tribute is a gem, and does justice to the great band: Karn Evil 9 1st Impression has soaring keyboard work by Jordan Rudess and powerful vocals by Robert Berry; Bitches Crystal has excellent minimalist drum work courtesy of Pat Mastellotto; Toccata has cool and noisy synthesiser solos by Matt Guillory; the vocals in Knife Edge by Glenn Hughes are a stand out, nicely complemented by Erik Norlander's organ work; Martin Barre's guitar playing and James LaBrie's vocals are the highlights of A Time and a Place; in Hoedown the band (Robert Berry on bass, Simon Phillips on drums, Jerry Goodman on Violin, Jordan Rudess on keyboards and Marc Bonilla on guitar) definitively comes together to make a great rockin' tune; The Sheriff contains excellent organ and drum interplay courtesy of Mark Robertson and Mike Portnoy, respectively; the lead synth solo by Geoff Downes on The Endless Enigma is spectacular and haunting; once again, the pounding organ by Igor Khoroshev wins out in The Barbarian; and the fast-paced Tarkus with searing guitar work by Marc Bonilla makes for a fitting end to this amazing tribute.