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Image Entertainment presents
Emerson Lake and Palmer: Live At The Royal Albert Hall (1996)

"Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends."
- Greg Lake - Karn Evil 9: First Impression - Part 2

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: November 12, 2001

Stars: Kieth Emerson, Greg Lake, Carl Palmer
Director: Graham Holloway

Manufacturer: IFPI
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:28m:20s
Release Date: November 20, 2001
UPC: 014381969924
Genre: rock

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ AA-B- D

DVD Review

Emerson Lake and Palmer became one of the world's first musical supergroups, after coming together from successful bands The Nice, King Crimson and Atomic Rooster. This began to conspire in 1969, but would not fully gel until 1970, when Emerson and Lake, now departed from their previous bands, were looking for a drummer to round out a trio. Prospects included Ginger Baker (Cream), Jon Hiseman (Colloseum) and Mitch Mitchell (The Jimi Hendrix Experience), but the final pieces came together when Atomic Rooster percussionist Carl Palmer came on board at the suggestion of Cream manager, Robert Stigwood, and ELP was born.

Even before their self-titled LP had been released, ELP performed their second gig in front of the thousands attending the legendary Isle Of Wight Festival, alongside The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Free and Sly and the Family Stone. Produced by Greg Lake, the first album showcased a mostly instrumental fusion of jazz, classical and contemporary rock elements, but it was the acoustic final track Lucky Man, with its haunting lyricism and fiery Moog solo that caught public attention and cinched their success.

They would record a live album, Pictures At An Exhibition, that December, though its release was delayed until after their second studio album, Tarkus, recorded in just six days, was released. It debuted at number 1 in England, but failed to chart in the U.S. Only after imports of the live album sold over 50,000 copies did their U.S. label agree to its stateside release. The third studio album, Trilogy (1972), broke the top ten on both sides of the Atlantic, but it would be their fourth, released on their newly formed Manticore label, that would cement ELP into the forefront of 1970s' progressive rock superstardom. Brain Salad Surgery, featuring the eerie artwork of H.R. Giger (Alien) debuted several ELP classics, including Jerusalem, the ballad Still, You Turn Me On, and the opening cut Karn Evil 9. would be accompanied by a tour that would demonstrate ELP's passion for live spectacle, including quadrophonic sound, Palmer's revolving drum kit and Emerson's keyboard rig, amongst which were two Hammond organs, a mammoth modular Moog setup, and the piece de resistance, a 9-foot grand piano, that cartwheeled end over end after rising 30 or more feet into the air.

Their first ever TV appearance was playing to over 350,000 people at the California Jam. A triple live album, Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends...Ladies and Gentlemen, Emerson, Lake & Palmer followed, after which the band took two years off to pursue solo projects, which would culminate in Works I and II. The Works tour was mounted with a 75-piece orchestra and choir, which quickly caused financial and logistical nightmares. The 1979 Love Beach album evidenced the rapidly disintegrating nature of the group, and preceded the groups official disbanding.

With a single album in the interim with drummer Cozy Powell (thereby keeping the ELP moniker), and many solo projects including Emerson's score on Dario Argento's Inferno, Emerson Lake and Palmer would reunite for Black Moon in 1991.

"Come inside/the show's about to start/guaranteed/to blow your head apart." - Karn Evil 9: First Impression - Part 2

Filmed as their 25th anniversary concert at the Royal Albert Hall, this video brings an hour-and-a-half of classic and newer ELP to the stage. Visually, the show is what you'd expect from a professionally videotaped performance in terms of a multitude of camera angles. Though not as elaborate as shows from their heyday, we still are presented with a few of the standards of an ELP performance. Stage left features Kieth Emerson's monstrous keyboard shrine, repleat with an impressive—but seemingly unused—wall of Modular Moog, and a pair of Hammonds, one of which takes a ritualistic beating. Stage right houses Carl Palmer's rotating drum riser, and not to be outdone, Greg Lake fronts a wall of speaker cabinets. The band is as tight as ever, performing Welcome Back (excerpt from Karn Evil 9), Tarkus, Knife Edge, Paper Blood, Creole Dance, From the Beginning, Lucky Man (Greg Lake's spotlight), Honky Tonk Train Blues, Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet, Pirates, Pictures at an Exhibition, and a medly of Fanfare for the Common Man, America and Rhondo. No ELP concert would be complete without a tasteful drum solo, or Kieth Emerson's keyboard gymnastics from behind, above and beneath the instruments. The performances are flawless, exhibiting the band's commanding musicianship through their catalog of complex arrangements. I'm sure ELP fans will enjoy this outing, though I do have some reservations about the way the mix is presented. A quarter of a century after their formation, this trio still delivers the goods.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Shot on video, this looks about as good as one can hope for. Colors are vibrant, black levels are solid. There are no major anomalies to speak of, with a clean, clear image at all times. I can't complain about the appearance.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: I can, however, complain about the audio. This disc is presented with two audio options, a Dolby Stereo mix and a new 5.1 mix. Technically both are fine, however neither are that stellar. To start with, both are markedly low in level. The 5.1 mix is, as expected, much more enveloping, but is somewhat gimmicky with ambience added in the rear channels, and is somewhat hollow sounding. I found the mix slightly annoying, though I'll admit I have a similar criticism of the studio albums. The center channel is almost nonexistent, which tends to make instruments seem less defined, most noteably Greg Lake's vocals, which are very laden with ambience. Kieth Emerson's piano has a similar problem as room ambience muddies up what he is playing. The Hammonds and synthesizers stand out well enough, but there is a murkiness that obscures many of the complexities of the performance. I also find the drum mix ungratifying, with the acoustic snare being too quiet, and the bass drums lacking depth and presence. When watching a group like this I like to be able to easily correlate what I see to what I hear, and in far too many circumstances I was struggling to pick out the parts. There are also some annoying perspective changes on instruments which suddenly pan into either front speaker.

The Stereo mix actually works better, though it is extremely compact in the stereo field. There is still not enough definition on some things, but with less ambience at least the vocals sound more up front. Both mixes also needed more low end on the bass guitar in my opinion, as Kieth's keyboard bass was fine. I will cut this disc some slack in the ratings as it is an older live performance and has no real technical flaws, but do feel a less ambient mix would have been far more enjoyable, though may not have been possible given the circumstances.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Music/Song Access with 14 cues and remote access
Packaging: other
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: As this was a check disc, I don't have the complete packaging other than the cover, but aside from chapter and sound selection menus there is nothing extra included on the disc. I would very much liked to have seen a decent overview of the events around this performance, and an equipment list or discography would also have been welcomed.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

"You gotta see the show/it's a dynamo/you gotta see the show/it's rock 'n' roll. - Karn Evil 9: First Impression - Part 2

Emerson Lake and Palmer put on a terrific show at London's Royal Albert Hall. The set comprises a number of their greatest hits, performed with the precision and theatrics that made the group famous. While I wasn't quite as happy with the audio as I would have liked to be, this nonetheless represents a great example of classic progressive rock, performed by three accomplished artists. Guaranteed to impress fellow musicians.


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