Emerson Lake and Palmer – Live In Montreal 1977 (2013)

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Despite the lofty musical goals here, Emerson Lake and Palmer’s idea to tour in support of 1977’s Works with a full orchestra was fraught with issues — from an account-draining budget to the antiquated equipment of the day.

In fact, ELP only got 10 dates in with conductor Godfrey Salmon and a hand-picked group of some 70 classically training musicians before the money ran out. Even the idea of filming and recording a date for posterity at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on August 26 (then the biggest venue at which Emerson Lake and Palmer had ever performed) turned into a logistical nightmare when an input line from the band’s mobile recording unit went dead.

They emerged having achieved a thrilling, if largely little-heard alchemy, one that combined the brawn of rock with the verve of classical. They were, however, also nearly bankrupt.

Keith Emerson, who had been dreaming of just such a heady mixture of pomp and circumstance since his days in the Nice, wasn’t giving up so easily. He worked to salvage what was left for possible release, but when a live document from this tour called Emerson Lake and Palmer in Concert was finally issued in 1979, portions of the August 26 date had been bolstered by songs from other stops. The project was later repackaged, with the same mixture of source material, as Works Live in 1993.

Meaning, no one had ever heard anything resembling the complete set from their Montreal show — until now. Shout! Factory’s forthcoming 2-CD set, due on November 12, 2013, includes every performance from that final night with an orchestra, save for “Hoedown” and “Tarkus” — which couldn’t be saved. Production and remastering of the original analog tapes from David Skye and Randy Wine, respectively, involved the latest sonic technology.

The results, even after having been issued in part twice before, offer stirring new revelations — both in terms of context, and with the long-hoped-for release of additional tracks. This version of “Karn Evil 9, First Impression Part 2,” for instance, was part of neither earlier live set. Also new to Live in Montreal 1977 are orchestral collaborations on “The Enemy God Dances with the Black Spirits,” “Lucky Man,” “Nutrocker” and (maybe most notably) “Pirates” — a signature moment on the initial Works album. “Fanfare” also moves to the end, providing the set with a rousing finale.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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