Works On The Road (Vintage Masters Premium VM003A/B)
Mid-South Coliseum, Memphis, TN – November 20th, 1977
Disc 1: Peter Gunn Theme, Hoedown, Tarkus, Take A Pebble (incl. Piano Concerto, Maple Leaf Rag), Take A Pebble (conclusion), C’est La Vie, Lucky Man, Pictures At An Exhibition
Disc 2: Karn Evil #9, Tiger In The Spotlight, Watching Over You, Medley: Tank / Enemy God, Nut Rocker, Pirates, Fanfare For The Common Man (incl. Rondo), Show Me The Way To Go Home
Emerson Lake And Palmer’s autumn tour in 1977 was the first of two trips meant to recoup their loss from the financial difficulties of their orchestral Works tour in the summer. (The second was a three month long tour in early 1978.) There are not many good recordings in circulation from this era pressed onto cd. The King Biscuit Flower Hour some concerts during the final week of the tour including the November 25th show in Wheeling, West Virginia and the last show on November 30th in New Haven Coliseum in New Haven, Connecticut. King Biscuit has released parts of the Wheeling show officially and the New Haven soundboard appears in The Original Bootleg Series From Manticore Vaults, Vol. 2 on Sanctuary records titled Strangely Beneficent.
The merger between the King Biscuit Flower Hour archives and Wolfgang’s Vault resulted in the biggest collection of live material in the world and lead to King Biscuit recorded concerts appearing on the Wolfgang’s Vault website. Works On The Road presents the complete tape from ELP’s show at the Mid South Coliseum in Memphis on November 20th which was posted on the site recently.
The sound quality is identical to the New Haven tape being a very clear, professionally mixed recording that has a nice percussive quality to the drums and is a phenomenal tape to listen to. The Wheeling tape has only been released in parts and the New Haven tape is cut in “Peter Gunn Theme”, “Lucky Man” and is missing the encore “Show Me The Way To Go Home”.
Memphis, on the other hand, is complete giving it an advantage over the others and is now the definitive statement from this tour. A forty-five minute very good audience tape circulates from this show that runs from “Peter Gunn Theme” to “C’est La Vie”, but this is the first time the entire show has been available in soundboard quality.
Since Works, Vol. 2 was released two weeks before this performance there is emphasis in the set upon the new album. Henry Mancini’s “Peter Gunn Theme” is the opener followed by their most effective show opener “Hoedown”. “Tarkus” is introduced as a fantasy about a creature that looks like an armadillo except with guns. Unlike the half hour extravaganzas from the Brain Salad Surgery days, this version lasts for seventeen minutes and omits the “Battlefield” section. Emerson plays the theme from Star Wars in place of “Norwegian Wood.”
“Take A Pebble” includes selections from the first movement from Emerson’s Piano Concerto and Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag”, which was covered by the band on the latest album. Greg Lake has is acoustic solo set with the cynical “C’est La Vie” and “Lucky Man” which is followed by a fifteen minute version of the Pictures At An Exhibition suite. Compared to older versions this is very subdued with none of the moog histrionics but does strangely include the finale from “Karn Evil 9 (3rd Impression)” in the middle of “Great Gates Of Kiev”.
“Karn Evil 9 (1st Impression part 2)”, lasting four minutes, opens the second set. “Tiger In The Spotlight” is another from the latest album and is the band’s silly meditation upon rock and roll fame. Any seriousness in the song is undermined by the melody which sounds too similar to Sesame Street, but it is a fun and catchy song.
After Lake’s tender ballad “Watching Over You” Emerson introduces the Carl Palmer segment of the show with, “and now at great expense we present Carl ‘Priven Kendall I Got The Mojo’ Palmer playing a medley of numbers ‘She Sits Among The Cabbages And Peas’. No seriously folks, this is a medley of numbers one of which is called ‘Tank’ and then one by Fred Prokoviev called ‘The Enemy God’. Take it away Carl!” In a tape of this quality the drum solo has an amazing sound and is one of the highlights.
The set closes with their big single from that year “Pirates” which sounds better with the band only without the orchestra. Aaron Copeland’s “Fanfare For The Common Man” is the first encore and is segued with “Rondo”. The tape ends with their cover of the well known drinking song “Show Me The Way To Go Home” which they recorded for Works, Vol. 2 and is one of the few times they play a blues on stage. Overall is a great performance from the latter day Works era.
Vintage Masters is a new silver label project by the people behind the Highland/Blue Cafe and associated labels. The art design is a dead give away. Their initial clutch includes five releases including Jon Anderson Classic Yessongs, two David Bowie titles The Return Of The Thin White Duke and Moonlight Serenade and Elton John Give Peace A Chance. The label is continuing the tradition of using radio broadcasts for excellent quality releases and Works On The Road is essential for every ELP collector.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)