Preacher Man (Siréne-277)
Limmathaus, Zürich, Switzerland – December 4th, 1970
Disc 1: Promenade, The Gnome, Promenade, The Sage, The Old Castle, blues variation, Promenade, The Hut Of Baba Yaga, The Curse Of Baba Yaga, The Hut Of Baba Yaga, The Great Gates Of Kiev, The Barbarian
Disc 2: Take A Pebble (incl. Eruption & Tank), Knife Edge, Rondo, drum solo, Rondo (reprise), Nutrocker, Preacher Man / Nutrocker (reprise)
Preacher Man is the final Siréne title and contains a brand new audience recording for Emerson, Lake, And Palmer’s December 4th, 1970 gig at the Limmathaus in Zürich, Switzerland. An older tape source exists although has never been issued on a commercial release. This new tape source, for being taped in 1970, comes from the reel-to-reel master and is one of the greatest audience recordings ever made in that year.
The stereo separation, depth, detail, balance and mix are as close to perfection as one can hope for. The only complaint that can be made is the hint of high-level distortion during the very loud passages and the sound quality drops for the encores “Nutrocker” and “Preacher’s Blues.” There are cuts between the drum solo and the reprise of “Rondo” and before the encore section.
This concert is one of the earliest ELP shows on tape and occurs during their first trip to Europe after their formation the previous summer. The first appearance is in Breman, Germany on November 26th for a “Beat Club” filming (a twenty minute set featuring “Take A Pebble” and “Knife Edge” broadcast on New Year’s Eve).
The first appearance before a paid audience is two nights later at the Kongresshalle in Frankfurt on November 28th followed by the Circus Krone in Munich on November 29th and Nürnberg on November 30th. In December the band played on December 1st in Vienna (of which an eighty minute tape circulates) and December 2nd in Stuttgart. Two tapes exist for the final night in Germany on December 6th at the Festhalle in Boblingen. The Zürich tape is so good that someone working at the venue that night must have produced it.
The band take the stage after a short introduction which is cut off in this recording and the first half of the show is devoted to the long, forty-minute “Pictures At An Exhibition.” They played this at the Isle Of Wright festival several months before and by this time has taken on its definitive arrangement. The first twenty minutes of the piece is a bit loose with Emerson in particular missing some of the breaks. And since Carl Palmer follows Emerson, he in turn misses some of them too.
“The Gnome” in particular gets off to a rocky start but the band hit the tricky rhythms and time signatures and deliver a good performance. “The Sage,” which is simply Lake and acoustic guitar, sounds great in this recording. The blues variation, which follows the cacophony of “The Old Castle,” is one of the highlights of the early performances of the piece and lasts for almost eight minutes on this recording.
Again Emerson seems to lose his place and misses his cues early on and the early synthesizer melodies don’t sound as fluid as on the version to be recorded for the official live album. The Hammond organ section sounds like a hurricane, however, and the band really cook. It is great to have such a good recording of the fist half of the piece because in later performances they would drop this altogether and play only the second half, focusing upon expanding the “Baba Yagas” and “Great Gates Of Kiev.”
The second half beginning with the third “Promenade” sounds much tighter and better rehearsed than the first half. The biggest variation to the final version is Emerson’s use of the organ sound two minutes into “The Great Gates Of Kiev.”
There is a long pause before “The Barbarian” as Emerson introduces the band and the next number. His discussion sounds distant and the balance is off, but comes back again for and excellent performance of the song. It is the latter half of the show that holds many of the surprises. “Take A Pebble” has at this stage already been expanded into a twenty-minute medley and improvisation piece.
This performance begins with the first verse and moves into a cover of the traditional folk tune “Old Dog Blue,” a song recently covered and released by The Byrds on Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde. Emerson’s piano solo follows and includes the earliest reference to their epic “Tarkus.”
The distinctive melody of the opening section “Eruption” can be heard with Emerson playing the rhythm with the left hand and melody with the right. It even has the emphatic cadences too and this would of course be expanded greatly when they began to record it the following month at Advision Studios. The keyboardist switches to electric piano and the band play “Tank” from the first LP.
“Rondo,” including an eight minute drum solo closes the set. The encore is a distinct arrangement of “Nutrocker” with the rarity “Preacher’s Blues” thrown in the middle. The music for “Preacher’s Blues” would be used later by the band for “Tiger In The Spotlight,” but a professionally recorded live version surfaced on the Greg Lake archive release From The Underground Vol II – Deeper Into The Mine (GL-CD 0117), released in 2003.
For Siréne’s final release, Preacher Man is an excellent title.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)