Fabulous Show (Virtuoso-073/074)
Greatwoods Center For The Performing Arts, Mansfield, MA – September 16th, 1986
Disc 1 (77:02): The Score, Learning To Fly, Pirates, Knife Edge, Tarkus, Pictures At An Exhibition, Still…You Turn Me On, Dream Runner, Creole Dance, From The Beginning, Lucky Man, Fanfare For The Common Man
Disc 2 (60:03): Touch And Go, Mars The Bringer Of War, Medley: Karn Evil 9/America/Rondo, Ending SE. Studio demos from the original master cassette tape belonged to Cozy Powell: Back On The Road #1, Hooligan #1, Space Gospel (Intro only), Space Gospel, Hooligan #2, Serious Pursuit #1, Bites The Bullet (Vacant Possession), Serious Pursuit #2, Back On The Road #2
The Emerson, Lake & Powell project was one of the more interesting ones in the eighties. It was great to see ELP wanting to reform and record new music together, but with Carl Palmer still in Asia they recruited Cozy Powell. And the album was a modest success despite expectations in the press that it would be a failure.
The single “Touch & Go” reached number two on the Billboard rock chart and they had a successful forty date tour in late 1986. ELPowell even had some mainstream media coverage by serving as guest VJs on MTV and appearing on David Letterman (where Emerson impressed Paul Shaffer).
The Cleveland and Lakeland, Florida shows are the more popular tapes from this tour. (Cleveland appeared on a 2LP set and is the first Highland ELPowell release, and Lakeland has been released officially by ELP). But the best show is arguable their Boston appearance on September 23rd. Powell, who kept a diary of the trip, wrote simply “Great Woods … 9.5 out of 10, My personal best.” T
he sound quality of this tape is excellent. It was released before on Passion & Warfare but Fabulous Show is an upgrade in quality. It is complete except for a small cut at the beginning of “Pictures At An Exhibition.”
The setlist is a mix of songs from the new album, some solo numbers and ELP classics. The nine minute epic “The Score” opens the show with a definitive statement of intent. Powell provides a heavier, more rock oriented beat than Palmer’s jazz mentality, but Emerson’s keyboard and Lake’s vocals soar.
“Pirates,” the latter day ELP classic epic is played as it was on the Works tour a decade before. Emerson introduces “Knife Edge” as being from their first album. The baroque interlude in the middle sounds more pronounced than before, providing an interesting contrast.
“Tarkus” is played only up to the “Manticore” part before it segues into “Pictures At An Exhibition.” Their Mussorgsky suite is truncated to five minutes, consisting of “Promenade” and “Great Gates Of Kiev.” Greg Lake’s spot follows and he sings “Still…You Turn Me On.” In other shows he sings “Watching Over You” afterwards, but that is dropped on this night.
“Dream Runner” is from Keith Emerson’s soundtrack for the obscure film Best Revenge, released in 1982. Emerson speaks about the next song, describing it as another adaptation of a piece by Alberto Ginastera which he calls “Creole Dance.” They play “Lucky Man” as an ensemble piece in its entirety, something they never did before and which someone by the audience comments.
“Touch & Go” sounds wonderfully tight in this performance, even better than the studio recording. The final song of the night is the fifteen minute arrangement of Holst’s “Mars, Bringer Of War.” This long piece includes Powell’s drum solo. The only encore is a medley starting with a brief snippet of “Karn Evil 9 (1st Impression, Part 2),” Leonard Bernstein’s “America” and their own “Rondo,” the classic ELP closer.
Virtuoso fill out the rest of disc two with the “Space Gospel” demo. This was found among Cozy Powell’s belongings and had a limited released on a mail-order vinyl LP available to members of the Emerson Lake & Powell fan club. Relatively few copies of this obscure collector’s item have survived because the distribution company went bankrupt.
Sound quality is good, but this album was not mastered so it is not as polished as most commercially available releases. There are some tape dropouts, but they do not detract from enjoyment of the album. “Back On The Road” is an early version of “The Score.” The first version is instrumental but the second take has Greg Lake vocals. “Space Gospel” is a gorgeous number with an ethereal sound. “Bites The Bullet” is an early version of “Vacant Possession” which would be included on the CD version of the album.
Fabulous Show is the first Emerson Lake & Powell release in over a decade and presents a great sounding show plus a very rare tape in excellent sound quality. Listening to this is a good reason to reassess the merits of this almost forgotten project.
As always, this is a great and thorough review by Mr. Sparaco. I’ve also been enjoying this surprising release as I’m a fan of ELP-proper and always raised my eyebrows about Powell trying to pull-off Palmer. Well, after listening to this recording, he didn’t, but what he did was fantastic nonetheless. The litmus test for me was “Tarkus”, a brutal workout by Palmer in the studio and on-stage. Powell performed this, in this recording, in a manner I did not expect. His drumming was powerful, confident, and fully in-line with Emerson and Lake’s chops. The remaining material on these discs has equally pleased me, and the pictures of the group on the inserts was very tasteful. This is truly a release worth having if you like this group and/or ELP’s music.