Emerson Lake & Palmer – Toccata (Screamer-05048/49)


Toccata (Screamer-05048/49)

Civic Center, Providence, RI – July 29th, 1974

Disc 1: Hoedown, Jerusalem, Toccata, Tarkus, Take A Pebble, Still…You Turn Me On, Lucky Man, piano improvisations

Disc 2: Take A Pebble, Karn Evil 9 (1st Impression), Karn Evil 9 (2nd Impression), Karn Evil 9 (3rd Impression), Pictures At An Exhibition

Recording Emerson Lake and Palmer on their Brain Salad Surgery tour was a challange to anyone because, after the opening numbers, their set basically consisted of four very long set pieces (“Tarkus”, “Take A Pebble”, “Karn Evil 9”, and “Pictures”). Any taper had to be prepared before hand so he took along the appropriate tapes. Thankfully the one who did Toccata did. The tape is free from any distracting flips or omissions. However he was very far from the stage and produced a tape that is at best fair to good. It is enjoyable and listenable and as good as many releases from this era (Aquatarkus #9 on Highland comes to mind). But it is a distant mono and would appeal only to ELP fans.

Once past the sonic limitations this show is ELP sounding road weary, aggressive and wired. Emerson especially takes any opportunity to thrown in his weird moog sounds and Palmer sounds like he’s thrashing the hell out of the venue. “Tarkus” is more than a half hour and the highlight is Lake’s surreal guitar arpeggios leading into the standard “Epitaph” interlude. (I’ve always wondered if there is any show where Lake sings the complete line: “but I fear tomorrow we’ll be crying”.) The drum solo in “Karn Evil 9” is very long. Previous appearances of this tape missed the “Pictures At An Exhibition” encore. Screamer for the first time has issued the complete show and the encore is as insane as other versions with “The Great Gates Of Kiev” being the means of all sorts of distorted fun for Emerson.

Anytime a title is released from ELP’s classic era is great and worth having. The label use several rare photos for the artwork and the overall presentation is real nice. Many people don’t like the band for their pretentiousness. Granted they can be self indulgent (what prog rock band wasn’t?) but they put on an exciting show. Keith Emerson, aside from being an inventive keyboardist, also remembered that the bedrock of good progressive rock wasn’t the mellotron but the Hammond organ. But it is his moog improvs which are the most fascinating and the ability for three musicians to create such intense, complex music is almost mind boggling. (GS)

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