Beyond The Beginning Emerson Lake & Palmer
DVD Review by Scott "Dr. Music" Itter



Keith Emerson:

Greg Lake:
guitars, bass

Carl Palmer:
drums, assorted

Studio: BMG Music
DVD Release Date:
August 16, 2005
Number of discs: 2
Runtime: 250 minutes
Rating: NR



It was a blazing hot day, June 4th of 1977 to be exact, and I was standing on the turf of Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears. I was a young boy of only eight years and this was all a little overwhelming. They called it the "Super Bowl Of Rock;" an all day festival of sweat, smoke, and 70's rock and roll. Being only eight years of age at the time, I can only recall a few details of the day. I remember seeing the teenage girl on the stretcher, either passed out from the heat or she just had a little too much smoke. I remember Foghat doing "Slow Ride," which was one of my favorites at the time. And, I remember seeing my first real life monster that day, and he was mutilating a monstrous keyboard.

Since that June day in 1977 I have always held Keith Emerson in the highest regard. I have always thought of Emerson as one of the best keyboard players in all of rock and roll. Well, upon watching this DVD, I have altered that thought just slightly. Emerson is not one of the best, he is the best. He is filmed numerous times throughout this insightful set of over four hours doing things that are beyond humanly possible. Emerson was a monster on that day in Chicago, and every day before and after apparently.

The first disc of the set appropriately starts with early video clips of the groups each band member was in prior to forming ELP. We get to see "Fire" from The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, complete with a masked Carl Palmer on drums. We get "America" from The Nice, with Emerson supplying his signature keyboard sound. And we get Greg Lake playing bass and singing with King Crimson on their classic, "21st Century Schizoid Man." Understanding the spirit of ELP begins with hearing where these high caliber musicians came from, and this is a nice way of doing that.

As we move to the ELP In Pictures section of the disc, we see all phases of the band's existence. There is some rare footage of the band played out in chronological order, beginning with a Beat Club clip from 1970. "Take A Pebble," with its blinding blocks of vivid color, shows a young Greg Lake taking on bass and guitar duties and Emerson showing his usual brilliance. Watching Emerson reach into the strings of the piano and strum the them like a harp, you get the feeling that this guy was playing complete Bach and Mozart pieces at the age of three or four. Watching him play from the back of his keyboard in the next clip of the haunting "Knife Edge," you get a Hendrix vibe from him. When he starts violently rocking his instrument and goes into the guts of it from the back to create some interesting effects, while on his knees of course, you almost expect him to set it ablaze. Watch this clip to see the monster that is Keith Emerson.

Clips of the ELP epic "Tarkus" follows, along with some excellent concert footage of the band doing classics like "Hoedown," "Lucky Man," "Karn Evil 9," and "Touch and Go." Mixed in with the live footage we get treated to things like the MTV-inspired video for Greg Lake's hit "I Believe In Father Christmas." An unusual performance of "Tiger in the Spotlight" has the band sharing the stage with a full-size tiger! The video clip of "Fanfare for the Common Man" is also an interesting one. It has the band performing the tune in an empty, snow covered stadium while donning oversized winter garb. There is an extended jam here that is a real delight also. One of the best clips included in this section of the disc though is from Oscar Peterson's Piano Party from 1976. The clip has Emerson and Peterson trading piano licks while performing "Honky Tonk Train Blues." This is one of those "un-human" times for Emerson. This performance is sure to blow anyone with any appreciation for musical talent away. The footage of Emerson taking his modular keyboard "stick" into the audience, after shooting an explosive from one end of it in the clip for "Tarkus" from Royal Albert Hall in 1992, isn't half bad either.

There is all this talk of Emerson, but you also realize with this set that he has bookends that not only keep pace with him, but run in stride. With Greg Lake featured in clips like "Lucky Man" and Watching Over You," you fully realize the man's amazing talent. Aside from being a gifted singer, Lake shows his prowess as a guitar player here as well. And Carl Palmer . . . well, he's just an Emerson with a drum kit. Another monster, and a pure talent of the progressive genre. The short but effective "Tank" drum solo clip shows just how talented Palmer is, and what an asset he was to the ELP sound.

The Bonus Footage portion of this first disc is nothing to look at, but more of a hardcore fan novelty. It shows the band in a rehearsal from 1973, and if it only does one thing it shows us that they are human. You see the band a bit apprehensive and unsteady while developing a piece of a song, a state of mind that is just plain uncharacteristic for this band. I just expected these guys to wake up in the morning and simply play everything perfectly together, but I guess they really are human. The Story of the Covers portion gives us an inside look at the origins of the artwork, and some spooky facts about the demise of the artists after delivering their work to the band. And the ELP at Brands Hatch 1973 portion shows the band in their leisure time competing in a road race where Lake takes second place. The Interview with Bob Moog is a special moment really. His relationship with Emerson in particular was extraordinary. You could almost call Moog a fourth member of the band. He developed much of his technology exclusively for Emerson and ELP, and you can hear the adoration here.

This disc gives us some nice footage from the California Jam concert of 1974. The quality of the tape isn't the greatest there are some dropouts, and the audio is sometimes out of synch; but the chance to see this band perform at such a monumental concert is a treat. You get much of the same things here that you get with disc one, performance wise the beauty of Lake's voice, the precision of Palmer's drum work, and of course the brilliance of Emerson's alien-like finger work. Seeing Palmer play what he does, while holding his sticks in the traditional fashion (with the left stick held between the middle and ring fingers) is a genuine thrill. But the highlight for many on this disc is the "spinning piano" piece. Emerson plays a grand piano while it is lifted off the ground and spun vertically through the air. Yeah . . . very cool.

The Beyond the Beginning portion of this second disc is something to please the die hard ELP fan. It features clips of the guys talking about every phase of the band's existence. We hear about how "Lucky Man" created tension between Emerson and his mates. We find out how the band was forced into making their "Love Beach" record. And, most meaningful to me, we find out how the "Works" tour was eventually the cause of the band's demise. You see, it was the "Works" tour that I saw that hot day, back in '77. I just find it strange that the one thing that brought the monster down, is the same thing that brought the musical monster inside of me to life.

For those that have not experienced ELP and the power of music that they wield, this is a great place to start. For those that thought ELP was a good band, you will discover with this set that they were much more than just "good." Emerson, Lake & Palmer were three of the greatest musicians to ever venture into the realm of progressive rock, and that fact is illustrated beautifully here.


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