Sound — 7
There were a lot of symphonic rock patrons who tended to dismiss Emerson, Lake & Palmer as after-the-fact wanna be's, the prog-lodytes of the genre. King Crimson, Yes, and Genesis were typically recognized as the heavyweights of the progressive style, the prognosticators of the milieu. But in A Time and A Place, a 4-CD live set that dates back to the trio's August 29, 1970 debut appearance at the Isle of Wight Festival and runs through a 1998 performance of A Time and a Place, the classic threesome has proven that they deserve more than just a passing nod from the rock community. These four discs 1 through 3 represent never previously released and remastered live performances lifted directly from the soundboard and disc 4 titled This Boot's For You A Fan's View is a collection of bootleg performances culled from audience tapes reveal a band that were much more than just re-animators and interpreters of classical music funneled through keyboards, drums, and guitars. The sound here is quite impressive for a live recording. As the liner notes indicate, three of the four CDs were lifted from the soundboard and went through a remastering process and maybe even some other sweetening treatments. On the first CD The Early 70s there is a very early 1970 recording of Greg Lake's 12-minute Take a Pebble from the Beat Club in Bremen, Germany, and here are captured the subtle qualities of Emerson's piano and Lake's acoustic guitar. On the intro, you can hear Emerson delicately running his fingers over the strings inside the piano to create an almost harpsichord/zither effect [a trick he pulls off on the CD's next track, Ballad of Blue]. The 12-string acoustic is pristine and yet resonates fully as an accompaniment to Lake's haunting vocal.
Lyrics — 9
Greg Lake has always possessed one of the most delicately haunting voices in all of rock. On StillYou Turn Me On and Lucky Man from the abovementioned CD, he performs these signature ELP songs as solo pieces, accompanying himself solely on acoustic guitar. His pitch is flawless and his sense of expression illuminates these self-written lyrics in a way no other singer could. The imagery borders on the flowery but still seems to work. Do you want to be an angel/Do you want to be a star/Do you want to play some magic on my guitar/Do you want to be a poet/Do you want to be my string/You could be anything, the former King Crimson vocalist/bassist sings on the opening verse of StillYou Turn Me On, his voice breathy and plaintive and full of desire.
Overall Impression — 8
The intriguing element of A Time and A Place is hearing how the band and in particular those Greg Lake vocals changed over the years. On The Early 70s disc, the band have muscle and purpose and the arrangements are whip-tight and every fill, flourish, and nuance comes through in heated energy. By the time you listen to The 90s CD, you hear a band that are not quite at the top of their game but still manage to create some ear opening moments with A Time and a Place and Touch and Go. Lake's vocal on From the Beginning is a bit pitchy and has nowhere near the magic and grace of the original from Tarkus. This Boot's For You A Fan's View, the CD composed of miscellaneous bootleg recordings probably has some value for the hardcore fan though there are hundreds of pirated ELP CDs out there but levels and overall sound quality is pretty poor. A snare drum completely obliterates a vocal and acoustic guitar tracks are sometimes non-existent. Still, A Time and a Place is a carefully constructed boxset containing the most important songs from a band that once dominated the prog landscape. And listening to Keith Emerson, Greg Lake and Carl Palmer running through 34:02 of orchestrated madness in Karn Evil 9 (1st, 2nd & 3rd Impressions) alone is worth the price of admission to the show that never ends.