Orchestra Works Live (Blue Café -121A/B)
Veterans Memorial Auditorium, Des Moines, IA – June 12th, 1977
Disc 1: Karn Evil 9 (1st Impression – part 2), The Enemy God, From The Beginning, C’est La Vie, Pictures At An Exhibition, Piano Concerto #1 1st Movement, Piano Concerto #1 3rd Movement, Closer To Believing, Lucky Man
Disc 2: Tank, Knife Edge, Pirates, Fanfare For The Common Man (includ. Rondo), outroduction
For a tour as notorious as the Works there are far too few tape sources and even fewer commercially available titles from the opening dates. It began on May 24th in Louisville, Kentucky and the first twelve dates were with the full orchestra. After the June 12th show in Des Moines, Iowa the original plan was halted and the band had to adjust and play as a three piece. Shows in Terre Haute and Evansville, Indiana were dropped as the band took a week to rehearse in Fort Wayne for the first non-orchestral shows beginning in Philadelphia. For these early shows tape sources circulate only for the May 31st Detroit, June 5th Milwaukee, June 9th Madison, WI and June 11th Minneapolis concerts. Four other shows with the full orchestra, three in New York and the final date on August 28th in Montreal, also exist on tape.
On Orchestra Works Live, Blue Café has released a newly found source for the Iowa show on CDR, a show that has no other tape sources. It is a fantastic three-dimensional stereo audience recording with very minimal audience interference. Since the band spared no expense for their million-dollar state of the art sound system, the taper was able to produce a very clear and powerful document. The Vet was not sold out but it is impossible to tell from the loud ovations the band receives. Unfortunately the tape isn’t complete.
The show opened usually with a medley of “Abbadon’s Bolero”, “Hoedown” and “Karn Evil 9 (1st Impression – part 2)” but the taper misses the very beginning with the tape recording the drum interlude of the third number. There are several other minor cuts in the tape: at the very end of “ Pictures At An Exhibition” and before “Knife Edge” being the most noticeable. The set list differs from the majority of the tour. The main numbers from Works were the centerpieces. “Tarkus” was dropped and replaced by a new arrangement of “In The Beginning” which was only performed on these dates. “C’est La Vie” is played without the French sounding accordion and the “Pictures At An Exhibition” suite is shortened without the moog frenzy at the end so common in its 1974 incarnation. Emerson’s “Piano Concerto” is the anchor of the first half of the show lasting almost twenty minutes.
It is a challenging piece to follow, a cross between Rachmoninov and John Williams, but has its effective moments in the live environment. Greg Lake has his section with “Closer To Believing” (a song that would be dropped after this show) and the obligatory “Lucky Man”, and Palmer has his drum solo piece with “Tank”. “Knife Edge” is a piece of nostalgia before the two band pieces from Works “Pirates” and “Fanfare For The Common Man” which morphs into “Rondo” played as the encore. This is an important tape which is fascinating to hear. Blue Café unfortunately packaged Orchestra Works Live with only one-sided inserts with a picture of a ticket from the show on the front and blurry photos of the band members on the back making it appear very cheap. For such an interesting tape it should have been handled much better. But the tape sounds great which is what matters and is essential to own.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)