Emerson Lake & Palmer – Abaddon’s Trilogy (Virtuoso 139/140)

Abaddon’s Trilogy (Virtuoso 139/140)

Long Beach Arena, Long Beach, CA – March 22nd, 1972

Disc 1 (54:30):  Intro, Hoedown, Tarkus, Trilogy, Take A Pebble, Lucky Man, Piano Improvisation, Take A Pebble (reprise)

Disc 2 (35:36):  Abaddon’s Bolero, Pictures At An Exhibition:  Promenade, The Hut Of Baba Yaga, The Curse Of Baba Yaga, The Hut Of Baba Yaga, The Great Gates Of Kiev, Rondo incl. Drum Solo

Emerson Lake & Palmer’s Trilogy, their third studio album and fourth release overall was recorded in early 1972 and released to the public that summer. Their first live appearances that year, a tour of the US, began on March 21st in Denver and ended about a month later in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. For the early dates the Mahavishnu Orchestra opened for them and the earliest tape that had been circulating is the third date, March 23rd in Santa Monica and reveals they already added “Abaddon’s Bolero” from the unreleased album to the set list.

An excellent sounding recording surfaced several years ago and was pressed on Trilogy By Trilogy (Blue Café -126A/B), the CDR successor to Highland.  Abaddon’s Trilogy contains the same exact recording. They claim it’s an upgrade, but only if one like their ELP sounding duller and more quiet.  The Blue Café has a much more lively and crisp sound than the Virtuoso and has some interesting bonus material to boot.  

It sounds as if this tape comes from the same taper who produced the recently released Deep Purple and Yes tapes from San Bernardino. It is very loud and clear and the audience remains attentive to the music. The tapers also include their commentary on the action on stage at various points through the show like “[Emerson] could be a concert pianist.”

The tape is virtually complete. There is a cut in “Tarkus” at 6:29 omitting several minutes of improvisation, a tape flip at 3:13 in “Abaddon’s Bolero” and fades out 11:32 in the encore “Rondo”. The real revelation on this tape is, in addition to playing “Abaddon’s Bolero” from Trilogy, they also play the title track “Trilogy”. This tape is the only aural evidence of it played live.

Emerson introduces the song by saying, “we tried for the first time last night…one of the tracks we want to try is a bit difficult on stage” before explaining the backing tracks they will use because the moog can’t play chords and is a good duplication of the final version. The audience reacts loudly to the middle section and afterwards when Emerson asks what they thought of the piece. Based upon Emerson’s words we can conclude the song was played twice on the first two dates of the tour and then dropped forever which is a shame since it could have been an effective standard.

Having a live “Trilogy” makes this release essential to own but the entire concert is tight.  They play the full band arrangement of “Lucky Man” except Emerson does not duplicate his famous solo at the end.  “Pictures At An Exhibition” is the set closer and is less than fifteen minutes long without the long improvisational passages in “The Great Gates Of Kiev”.  The encore “Rondo” has an energetic Carl Palmer workout. 

It’s great finally to have this show pressed onto silver disc.  1972 was a phenomenal year for Emerson Lake & Palmer and all documents are worth having.  Maybe Abaddon’s Trilogy will grow on me, but my initial reaction is one of disappointment, hoping this would have superseded the CDR title.    

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