Live At The Mar Y Sol Festival (Shout! Factory 826663-12894)
Mar Y Sol Festival, Manati, Puerto Rico – April 2nd, 1972
(78:55): Hoedown, Tarkus, Take A Pebble, Lucky Man, piano improvisation, Pictures At An Exhibition, Rondo
Emerson, Lake & Palmer made their name at large scale festivals. Their second ever performance was at the massive Isle Of Wight Festival in 1970, thrusting them into the public consciousness as one of the “new guard” of rock groups, and they reached the height of their popularity in 1974 by headlining the California Jam, reaching millions on television.
Even their most recent comeback was at the High Voltage Festival in London in the summer of 2010.
Another of their legendary performances was during the Mar Y Sol Festival in Puerto Rico in April 1972. Held over three days, the line up featured performances by Alice Cooper, The Faces and the Mahavishnu Orchestra.
ELP were in the middle of some of their longest and most intense schedule of touring since their inception off of the popularity of Tarkus and Pictures At An Exhibition, both released the previous year. (Trilogy wouldn’t be released until June).
Like many festivals, Mar Y Sol was plagued with ill weather and scheduling problems. The band came onstage at 1am and played a scorching 80 minute set. It was slightly scaled back from their routine set, dropping “Abaddon’s Bolero” and much of the new songs (“Trilogy” was played the previous week in Long Beach and “Endless Enigma” in subsequent dates).
An official 2LP set was released in 1972 called Mar Y Sol Festival with highlights from the event including two songs, “Take A Pebble” and “Lucky Man,” from ELP’s set. These two tracks were included as bonus tracks on Promenade Gates (Highland HL053/54 #EL1) in 1996.
In 2006 Greg Lake found the 16-track tapes of their whole performance and was released for the first time complete in the boxed set From The Beginning. In 2011, as part of the Record Store Day, a limited LP version (1,500 copies) was released while the regular CD version was being prepared to be released on December 6, 2011.
The sound quality is excellent, capturing the nuances of the performances perfectly.
After a short introduction, they begin the set with a spirited “Hoedown,” their first rearrangement of an Aaron Copeland piece. Keith Emerson introduces the next song, mentioning the armadillo on the front cover of the Tarkus LP as a point of reference.
They play a tight and compact (22 minutes) version with little elaboration or improvisation in the “Aquatarkus” section of the fantasy. Lake in particular sounds a bit grumpy as he mumbles the words.
“Take A Pebble” segues into “Lucky Man.” Lake misses a cue for the first verse and waits for the melody to come around again before singing the song. It builds nicely into the Moog extravaganza, applauded loudly by the audience.
ELP end the set with the fifteen minute edit of “Pictures At An Exhibition,” which was their latest LP at that time. Edited out were the fantastic blues melodies. The piece builds to a great “Great Gates Of Kiev,” punctuated by Emerson’s madness. “Rondo” is the only encore. Emerson throws in some familiar Bach melodies (Fugue In D Minor) before a furious Carl Palmer drum solo.
Live At The Mar Y Sol Festival is the second essential-to-own archive release from Shout! Factory this year. A decade ago, when ELP were releasing the bootleg box sets, they received criticism from long time fans, wondering why they are not releasing all those supposed soundboard recordings they possess and instead were reissuing well known audience tapes. Not that we had that complaint, but it was valid and it seems they are taking the criticism to heart.
Hopefully 2012 will see new professionally recorded archive releases on Shout! Factory.