First Published – 13 September 2014 – Classic Rock Radio (UK)
Uncle G’s FUN Music Reviews
Spotlight: Keith Emerson_Greg Lake – Live From Manticore Hall (2014 Manticore Records)
By Gary “Uncle G” Brown
As soon as I heard a live recording was going to be officially released from the 2010 tour Keith Emerson & Greg Lake did, I could not be more excited. I was so hoping something official would be released, like an audio CD from the tour. I refrained from any of the bootleg recordings one could find of these now historic Keith Emerson and Greg Lake performances. I figured one day a product would fall legally from the sky. Only four years later, and yes frankly it was worth the wait. For in my hands is a factory-pressed CD that is a must-have for every Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, ELP, or King Crimson fan out there and then add modern-day open-minded people who like and appreciate good music. There are LOTS of that found here on this almost 80-minute disc.
The eight hundred pound elephant in the room is…no Carl Palmer found on this CD. With his name not included in the title of this project, then why care? For the record books, this duo consisting of Keith Emerson and Greg Lake is two-thirds of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, a super prog-rock band from the early 1970s. The group rode a wave of popularity that went sky-high especially after the release of their 4th studio release, 1973’s Brain Salad Surgery. Plenty of peaks and valleys since. For the record, the band’s last studio effort was twenty years ago; In The Hot Seat (1994). I’ll man up and admit that I always referred to the record as; “In The Toilet Seat”. Sorry guys. Good news for Greg and Keith…my review of ‘Live From Manticore Hall’ beats the hell out of that. So please…continue reading.
This new CD released by Manticore Records states on the back cover that it’s; “An Intimate Evening With Keith Emerson & Greg Lake. Live From Manticore Hall” – (cool title). There is the sound of drums heard at times throughout the 77-minute recording. More to accent or help the performance. Plenty of times all you hear is Keith or Greg, alone or together. Think of this as a storyteller / unplugged kind of thing. Now you realize what an honor it is to be in the audience. I say that with sincerity. Keith Emerson is hands down one of the best pianists you will hear, or see play in today’s rock n’ roll. Add Mr. Greg Lake, who got his professional start with King Crimson, singing on one of their most beloved albums. When you hear their classic song, 21st Century Schizoid Man, off King Crimson’s debut album, In The Court Of The Crimson King (1969), that is Greg doing vocals. Has went on to become one of the best singers in prog-rock to this day. Plus Mr. Lake’s an excellent bass player and a very proficient songwriter, and a guitar player as well.
The CD starts with an Emerson, Lake, & Palmer classic called, ‘In The Beginning’. Written by Greg Lake. Not exactly the studio version, but sets the tone for the whole CD. The performances are spot on. If not totally blown away and a prog-rock fan besides, then the next song will do it for you. Ever since my first listen to ‘Live From Manticore Hall’, this King Crimson greatest hits has been stuck in my head, ‘I Talk To The Wind’. If a serious music lover, the performance will give you goosebumps.
And then back to ELP, for it’s what the duo have in common. Here we hear Keith Emerson do a wonderful storytelling introduction that leads us to a song off ELP’s 1971 album called Tarkus. The song, an angry one where lyrics suggest the world has gone to shit. A raw rock n’ roll tune with a Little Richard / Jerry Lee Lewis piano twist called ‘Bitches Crystal’.
One excellent song and performance after another leaves us with live concert moments that should forever be preserved, so as not to wash away in the sands of time. After hearing ‘The Barbarian’, a song that according to Keith Emerson, “grows on you”, and ‘Take A Pebble’, both early ELP tunes, perfect for they also always make outstanding acoustic moments. Better to hear Greg’s vocals, I say to myself.
The last four tracks are priceless. Regarding the song ‘Tarkus’, warning…Keith is on fire towards the end. The song itself is a masterpiece. This live version begs repeat listens
‘C’est Le Vie’, again with Pete Sinfield also given writing credits, a song from the Greg Lake solo portion off ELP Works Volume One. One of those songs that Headbangers can still be cool, and get off on. For, after all, it’s a downright beautiful tune. And now stuck in my head, Greg’s introduction in which he tells of a trip from London to Paris in just ninety minutes, flat! By rail. If not forever bound to Texas, I’d love to be able to experience that myself. The seed is now planted. I did manage to make it out of the USA once and hung out some in Mexico. As Greg stated, it can be something as simple as a day trip, forever inspiring good memories, and an unforgettable song.
A piece off ELP Works (1977) called ‘Pirates’ starts with a cool spoken word introduction with Greg giving us a sample…setting the tone, for one of my favorite ELP songs called ‘Pirates’. To this day, a song that could be brought up as an example of what defines prog-rock. The music can go outside the boundaries of traditional rock with more of a classical structure. The words by Pete Sinfield and Greg Lake paint a vivid picture of the deep blue sea and how the pirate life really was. A 13-minute masterpiece. On a side note, I was able to attend a Works concert with a full orchestra at Madison Square Garden. They played Pirates! Phenomenal!
The word ‘intimate’ comes next when the subject for discussion is ELP’s first hit song, ‘Lucky Man’. The last track on the CD starts with what is officially called in the credits ‘Moog Solo’ – another goosebump moment. Is super cool to the tenth power! Closing with the traditional version of ‘Lucky Man’. So special the evening, it is over in a flash. Worth putting the breaks on, and analyzing some. With every listen you hear something new. You know…the first ten or twenty times. After that, if you turn up the volume even louder, it can still happen. All this is good by the way. Music CDs are meant to be listened to. Keith Emerson & Greg Lake – Live From Manticore Hall, I have not stopped listening to since receiving. I’ve been an ELP fan since 1973. I know it’s not a CD of newly recorded studio music, but I’m cool with this. Because of the way the songs are presented, a stench of dried-up oldies isn’t prevalent. No re-hash feeling. The first listen is especially a treat, so make sure the environment you are in is good for that. Coming out of a decent home stereo, while in the living room, where others should not be allowed to distract (clothing optional). Just the listener and the entertainment. Capable for at least 77 minutes of making one forget about life’s problems. Part of the reason as to why we like being entertained, to begin with. And Mr. Emerson and Mr. Lake do a fine job at it, as one can hear right here on this disc.
Rating: Uncle G’s very happy with this official Keith Emerson_Greg Lake live release. Using the one to a five-star rating system, I rate Keith Emerson & Greg Lake – Live From Manticore Hall (prerecorded drum roll please) – 5 STARS !! Available on either Greg or Keith’s official website or where all fine music CDs are sold.
Promotion: Glass Onyon PR – www.glassonyonpr.com (ask for Billy and say “Uncle G” sent you)
Update November 2021 – In the year 2016, we lost the lives of both Keith Emerson who died on March 11th, and Greg Lake who passed away on the 7th of December.