Emerson, Lake & Palmer – The Dust Of Time (Highland HL361/362)

 The Dust Of Time (Highland HL361/362)

Charlotte Motor Speedway, Charlotte, NC – August 10th, 1974

Disc 1 (68:09):  Jerusalem, Toccata, Tarkus, Take A Pebble, Still…You Turn Me On, Lucky Man, piano improvisations (incl. Fugue, Maple Leaf Rag, Little Rock Getaway, The Stripper), Take A Pebble (conclusion)

Disc 2 (55:28):  Karn Evil 9 (1st Impression including drum solo), 2nd Impression, 3rd Impression, 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

The Dust Of Time is a 1999 release on the seminal and once prolific Highland label.  Despite some questions and issues regarding their mastering and use of tapes, Highland were normally impressive with the choice of tapes they released.  This ELP title, issued in the middle of the label’s run and among a whole slew of releases is easily overlooked in their catalogue.  The sound quality of the tape is good but very thin and brittle sounding with some drop outs.  The opening song “Hoedown” is missing so the tape begins in the first verse of “Jerusalem.”  There is a cut after “Toccata,”  “Tarkus” fades after twenty-nine minutes cutting out the end, and between the other songs. 

However, despite its limitations, this one of the essential ELP concerts.  There is some confusion about the actually date of the show.  Some sources claim it is from October 10th, but the real date is August 8th.  Highland say on the artwork this is from New York, but it is from North Carolina and is one of the final Brain Salad Surgery concerts to be taped before ELP would enter a three year hiatus.

ELP were touring with the new material for more than a year at this point and after traveling the world several times, and headlining some massive shows like the California Jam in April, they reached a point of elasticity with the performances and arrangements that is impressive.  What is striking on first listen in the first part of the show is how Greg Lake makes the guitar a more prominent part of the sound.  In the keyboard and synthesized drum piece “Toccata,” Lake plays an inventive guitar that threatens to obscure the other instruments. 

The same is true for “Tarkus.”  Always the main vehicle for Lake’s guitar playing, he applies more varied colors and melodies to the sections of the piece.  The highlight are the airy arpeggios he plays before the “Epitaph” section in the middle.  Lake’s solo section following the epic is standard enough although the audience by the recorder beg for “Lucky Man.”  The long piano solo includes references to “Maple Leaf Rag,” “Little Rock Getaway” and most interestingly the well known stripper melody.

The second half of the show is dominated by the new Karn Evil epic in three parts and like most audience tapes form the tour the taper makes cuts between the sections.  But again the band play fast and loose with the melodies bring out further nuances only hinted at in past performances.  Carl Palmer’s drum solo in the 2nd Impression slows down the pace of the piece and show and is really a mistake.  The encore is a wired, twenty minute version of the “Pictures At An Exhibition” suite with Emerson’s moog melodies and Hammond violence on full display.  The packaging is standard for the label, very tasteful with period photographs.  And overall, even though this is a less than perfect recording it is one of the more important ELP releases to have. 

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