From Benny To Baton Rouge (Siréne-101)
Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA – March 1st, 1974
Disc 1: Hoedown, Jerusalem, Toccata, Tarkus, Aquatarkus, Take A Pebble, Still You Turn Me On, Lucky Man, piano improvisation, Take A Pebble (Reprise)
Disc 2: Benny The Bouncer, Karn Evil 9 1st Impression Part 1, 1st Impression Part 2, 2nd Impression, 3rd Impression, Pictures At An Exhibition
ELP were a well-oiled machine by the spring of 1974 on their Brain Salad Surgery tour. Both the live set Welcome Back My Friends (recorded about a month before this show) and their appearance at the California Jam are officially released documents from this period. From Benny To Baton Rouge occurs right between these two and contains, in general, another fantastic performance by the band. It is a mono audience recording that is much better than most ELP audience tapes in circulation. It is a bit distant and has some audience noise present but does have a great live sound and sounds very nice, but the tape is incomplete. There is a more complete master in existence which contains “The Sheriff” and should be released someday on silver disc.
There are some cuts in the tape. “Aquatarkus” fades out after 11:29 with no return to the main “Tarkus” theme, giving the total time of about 29 minutes for the entire track. “Karn Evil 9 1st Impression part 2” is cut after three minutes during the guitar solo. The tape resumes in the middle of an energetic Carl Palmer drum solo and this lasts for another three minutes before a cut which leads right into the jazzy beginning of “Karn Evil 9 2nd Impression”. The final verse to the 1st impression is thus omitted. The other tape flips occur between tracks so no other music is lost.
The performance itself is great if undermined by the “energy crisis” as Emerson puts it before the encore. “Tarkus” is introduced as something that changes every night (which is why they play it) and lasts over a half hour long. “Aquatarkus” is again tracked separately by Siréne and contains references to Violin Sonata #3 in E by J.S. Bach and “Norwegian Wood” by the Beatles. The piano improvisations contain a reference to the French national anthem La Marseillaise and “Benny The Bouncer” is announced as “the fun song of the evening” (the other songs aren’t meant to be fun, prog rock is serious business). It’s the “Karn Evil 9” suite that suffers from mixing problems where the organ and guitar are often times drowned out by the accompanying synth lines.
The encore, the “Pictures At An Exhibition” suite, is thankfully caught in full and is yet another wired version with “The Great Gates Of Kiev” being the source for much moog wanking! There are also some very strange audience comments throughout the show. After “Lucky Man” someone by the tape complains, “They play their best song and they don’t even use all the instruments”. After “Karn Evil 9 3rd Impression” the same guy isn’t convinced they will play an encore since they blew up their instruments. But the sight of seeing the moog explode in mid air (as ELP ended their shows during this tour) was “amazing”. He also wants the house lights turned on before he leaves so he wouldn’t miss an encore were it to occur. Sometimes listening to the audience is just as fun as listening to the music. It’s great that Siréne issued this and the Liverpool tape on silver discs with the glossy inserts, it’s a real classy presentation and is worth having. (GS)