Friday, March 18, 2016

Emerson Lake and Palmer - 1992 "The Atlantic Years"

As Emerson, Lake & Palmer were making a comeback on-stage and on record (with Black Moon) in the early '90s, their former record label, Atlantic, launched a series of digitally remastered reissues of their catalog and packaged this two-CD collection. ELP best-of records abound, but this one remains the best. Anyone interested in the group but unwilling to buy each and every album gets all essential tracks on two 75-minute discs. Two-thirds of the trio's debut LP are included (yes, even an unedited "Take a Pebble"). The complete studio version of "Tarkus" represents the album by the same title. The "Excerpts From 'Pictures at an Exhibition'" correspond to side two of the original LP (minus "The Nutrocker"). Trilogy has been slightly neglected, with only "The Endless Enigma" (all three parts of it) and "From the Beginning" making the cut. The producers decided to drop such crucial material as the title track and the very popular "Hoedown" in order to include all but one track from the seminal 1973 Brain Salad Surgery ("Toccata" is there, but comes from the live album Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends). The least of the worst was salvaged from the trio's late-'70s LPs, including the two group tracks from Works, Vol. 1 and "Canario," the most digestible piece from Love Beach. Considering Greg Lake's ballads and the honky tonk tunes have been largely set aside in favor of the longer, more compelling pieces, The Atlantic Years is a prog rock fan's dream collection.

Emerson, Lake and Palmer have too many compilations. However, by far the best one to own is "The Atlantic Years". This is because Joe Gastwirt did the remastering. You can bank that the sound is excellent if Joe did it. Joe uses customized (simplified) digital and analog electronics, and the sound is of the master tape: great dynamics, space and tonality.

This 1992 two disc offering is now difficult to obtain, but well worth the effort since the sound quality blows all the other compilations out of the water. All the popular songs are included in their entirety, with the exception of an edited "Fanfare For The Common Man". The 19 song list is laid down in chronological order starting with 1971's "Knife-Edge" and concluding with "Canario" from 1978. There is no previously unreleased material included. The CD booklet is a multi-page foldout with a band bio and many photos.

This is by far one of the best Emerson Lake and Palmer cds I have ever purchased. The full length "Tarkus", "The Endless Enigma", and "Karn Evil 9" are reason alone to by this cd set. Also, the fact that this collection has more of ELP's earlier stuff is one of the best parts about it. Basically, every song from Brain Salad Surgery is in here (exept for "Benny the Bouncer"). Also, a lot of their first album is in here, which shows a lot about ELP's start in the music industry. However, songs like "Trilogy" and "Hoedown" would have been great additions, but the cds ran out of time to put these on there. Emerson Lake and Palmer are by far the best band I ever heard in creativity, as well as talent. Buy it and you won't be disappointed.

If you're just thinking of diving into ELP, you may want to search this compliation out. It's better than many of the "best of" collections out there (which are usually only a single CD), but it's not as expansive as The Return of the Manticore box set. Still, this compliation is pretty damn good. It has songs that are not on the box set that should have been there. It has the classic tunes like Lucky Man and From the Beginning, and most importantly, it has the full length versions of several ELP epics. The full length version of Tarkus, Karn Evil 9, and Pirates are included here. It also has the vastly underrated epic Take a Pebble from their 1st album. The studio version of Take a Pebble is wonderful, vastly superior to the live version included on the box set. It also has the 2nd half of the original live recording of Pictures at an Exhibition. I wish they included the whole thing, but it's still pretty good that they included the entire 2nd half. Other gems are The Endless Enigma, the live version of Toccata (better than the studio version), the original single I Believe in Father Christmas (not on the box set), the studio version of Karn Evil 9, and the excellent instrumental Canario from Love Beach (which, also, is not on the box set). They did include an edited version of Fanfare for the Common Man, which is really unforgiveable. The original is a great jam, one of ELP's best. The original jam is included in its entirety on The Return of the Manticore.

If you're just starting out on ELP, you should pick this one up. It also has some great liner notes. The Atlantic Years and The Return of the Manticore are the best compliations out there, but this one is cheaper and includes many underrated gems. Search for it if you can.

I have to admit that for all of the remarkable works of progressive rock that ELP composed, they did have a few clunkers that, in some instances ruined a few of their albums for me. The more notable examples include Are you Ready Eddy?, along with Benny the Bouncer. Fortunately, none of these clunkers show up on this compilation from 1992, which may be the finest collection of ELP tracks I have ever listened to and covers the 1970-1978 timeframe.

This compilation includes the 20+ minute epic masterworks Tarkus and Karn Evil 9 in their entirety, along with the folky ballads From the Beginning and Still...You Turn Me On. I was a little disappointed that none of Keith Emerson's solo piano pieces were included but it does not detract from the overall quality of the compilation. Overall, you get a good selection that includes the best pieces from their peak (1970-1973), along with a few highlights from 1977-1978 (the mini-epic Pirates comes to mind). Mercifully, only the instrumental track Canario was taken from the atrocious Love Beach album (1978). The one track I did not like was the ragtime/honky tonk of Honky Tonk Train Blues, which showcases Keith's fondness for that particular style - although not quite a clunker, it is not as good as the other material.

The 2-CD package is pretty nice and includes loads of liner notes and photos of the group performing live along with a few posed photos. The photos were taken during the 1970s. The remastered sound quality is excellent and sounds a little better than the remastered Rhino albums that I have. It sounds warm and natural, no bumped loudness or compression is evident.

Tracks Listing

Disc 1 (74:19)
1. Knife-Edge (5:04)
2. Take A Pebble (12:32)
3. Lucky Man (4:37)
4. Tank (6:47)
5. Tarkus (20:39)
 a) Eruption {Emerson}
 b) Stones Of Years {Emerson / Lake}
 c) Iconoclast {Emerson}
 d) Mass {Emerson / Lake}
 e) Manticore {Emerson}
 f) Battlefield {Lake}
 g) Aquatarkus {Emerson}
6. Excerpts From "Pictures At An Exhibition" (14:03)
a) Promenade {Mussorgsky}
b) The Hut Of Baba Yaga {Mussorgsky}
c) The Curse Of Baba Yaga
d) The Hut Of Baba Yaga {Mussorgsky}
e) The Great Gates Of Kiev {Mussorgsky / Lake}
f) The End
7. The Endless Enigma (Part One) (6:41)
8. Fugue (1:54)
9. The Endless Enigma (Part Two) (2:00)

Disc 2 (77:02)
1. From The Beginning (4:14)
2. Karn Evil 9 (1st Impression - Part 1) (8:40)
3. Karn Evil 9 (1st Impression - Part 2) (4:42)
4. Karn Evil 9 (2nd Impression) (7:07)
5. Karn Evil 9 (3rd Impression) (9:07)
6. Jerusalem {Parry / Blake, arranged by Emerson / Lake / Palmer} (2:44)
7. Still... You Turn Me On (2:54)
8. Toccata (An adaptation of Ginastera's 1st Piano Concerto, 4th Movement) {Ginastera, arranged by Emerson; percussion movement - Carl Palmer} (7:19)
9. Fanfare For The Common Man (special edit) {Aaron Copland, arranged by Emerson} (5:40)
10. Pirates (13:17)
11. I Believe In Father Christmas (original single version) (3:32)
12. Honky Tonk Train Blues {Meade (Lux) Lewis} (3:11)
13. Canario (Taken from Fantasia Para Un Gentilhombre) {J. Rodrigo} (3:57)

Total Time: 151:21

Line-up / Musicians

- Keith Emerson / keyboards, vocals on "Karn Evil 9 (1st Impression - Part 1)"
- Greg Lake / vocals, bass, electric & acoustic guitar
- Carl Palmer / drums, percussion 



  2. Not a bad compilation but it would be substantially better had they put "From The Beginning" on the first disc making Disc 1 78:33. They could then have fitted the whole of "Fanfare for the Common Man which at 9:43 in all its glory pisses on the edited version found here. (Disc 2 would then be 76:51).

  3. Thanks, thanks a lot.