RATINGS: A = must own B = buy it C= average D = yawn F = puke

Keith Emerson And Greg Lake - Live From Manticore Hall
Manticore Records


Rating: B

Keith Emerson and Greg Lake have recently released a new live album, Live From Manticore Hall. The album is a live version of songs from the glory years of Emerson Lake and Palmer, as well as additional material from The Nice and early King Crimson. It is sort of a scaled down, intimate version of the huge compositions that made ELP one of the greatest bands in prog-rock history.

The inescapable and intriguing elephant in the room is the presence of the E and the L and the absence of the P. Where’s Carl Palmer (or Cozy Powell, for that matter)? Not that these artists need to justify their decision to play only as a duet, but they must know that fans who have followed them since the seventies will inevitably ask this question. Palmer has made statements to the effect of not wanting to perform in what would be known as a nostalgia band. But is that the actual reason? Who knows? Lake mentions something in the “Introduction” track about he and Emerson just getting together and deciding to have a bit of fun. But as an explanation it just falls flat. Making the reason truly clear from Emerson’s and Lake’s perspectives would have removed any questions beforehand.

Equally mystifying, also missing from the disk is any reference whatsoever of who is actually playing drums on the album. C’mon guys, if a drummer is important enough to be on stage with you, he or she is important enough to deserve some recognition. Unless, of course, you’re using drum sequencers and/or loops, and I don’t even want to go there! As musicians who undoubtedly struggled at some time in your lives, you wouldn’t do that to your fellow musicians, would you?

Is any of this important enough to detract from the album? You tell me. I’m a lifelong die-hard fan of ELP who is four paragraphs into a review and I have yet to mention the music. That should tell you something; and I know I am not alone.

Having said all that, anytime Maestro Emerson gets behind a keyboard I am going to drop what I’m doing and listen with excited anticipation. He has never failed to amaze, (well, Love Beach notwithstanding), and he comes through here as well. I am always baffled at how one brain can continually perform insanely complex left handed bass parts while simultaneously creating equally intricate and independent melodies with the right hand. One person shouldn’t be able to do that! This album is an excellent vehicle for the maestro to show off his unparalleled talents, especially in songs like “Bitches Crystal” and “Tarkus”. I can only sit and listen to these songs with my eyes squinting, mouth open, head shaking, and saying “how the hell does he do that”!

Greg Lake also helps stir up the nostalgic juices. There is a very nice performance of “Take A Pebble” on this disc. Even in his younger days Lake never sang with a huge vocal range, and that works to his benefit as the years go by. He is still able to sing in the original key and doesn’t sound like he is struggling too much to hit the high notes. The voice and the emotion are still there. Hearing the lads perform “From The Beginning” instantly swept me back to my days in high school, playing the song on my guitar in the park at night with my best friends. This is precisely what an album of this nature is for.

To that end, this album is a nice journey, if not a bit clumsy at times. It’s wonderful to hear “Lucky Man”, a great song in its own right, with the keyboard solo being performed on the original Moog synthesizer recorded on the 1970 self-titled debut album. For nostalgic keyboard wonks like me, that’s a very cool treat. But I would have also liked to have enjoyed a better track list more in line with the true ELP discography. And, of course, Carl Palmer really needed to be there to make it all work.

But, truth be told, I would have loved to have been in the venue and seen this performance live, so it is hard to fault the album too much.

Track Listing:

  1. From The Beginning
  2. Introduction
  3. I Talk To The Wind
  4. Bitches Crystal
  5. The Barbarian
  6. Take A Pebble
  7. Tarkus
  8. C’est Le Vie
  9. Pirates
  10. Moog Solo/Lucky Man

By Roy Rahl