Monitor Desk Mix “The Set 1986” (Tarantura TCDELP-1-1, 2)
Hammersmith Odeon, London, England – July, 1986
Disc 1 (41:19): Fanfare For The Common Man, The Score, Learning How To Fly, The Miracle, Knife Edge, Tarkus, Promenade 1, The Great Gates Of Kiev
Disc 2 (40:28): interval, Lucky Man, Still…You Turn Me On, Love Blind, Step Aside, The Planets 1: Mars ~ Bringer Of War, Cozy Powell solo, Mars ~ Bringer Of War, Touch And Go, Pirates
The Emerson, Lake And Powell collaboration was good while it lasted. It is a shame that they recorded only one album and had one short US tour before folding. One of the few professional recordings to circulate is this eighty minute tape of a rehearsal recorded in July in London. An edited version from Greg Lake’s archives was released as an “official bootleg” in 2003 as The Sprocket Sessions (Manticore CD3008) with the claim that the rehearsal was recorded at Sprocket Studio.
Monitor Desk Mix “The Set 1986” is the same unedited tape but from a source different than Lake. It has some of the same odd cuts (like the one at the beginning of “Touch & Go”) and has “Step Aside,” a song that was omitted from The Sprocket Sessions. There are also a bit more conversation between songs on Tarantura than can be found on the official release and the sound quality, while excellent is a tad fuzzy compared to the official release.
Tarantura include liner notes discussing the origin of this particular tape. Bruce Payne, the manager of ELP, gave it to teh manager of the St. Georges’ Hotel in London where the band were staying during the rehearsals for the US tour. He was told this was recorded at the Hammersmith Odeon, not Sprocket Studio. It’s difficult to come a definitive conclusion since it’s Lake’s word against Payne’s.
I asked Greg Lake himself in a chat session, but unfortunately he wasn’t too helpful: “gsparaco: Hi Greg I was wondering. The ELPowell 1986 rehearsal that was released on Sprocket Sessions. I got a new copy of that tape but it says it was taped at Hammersmith Ode Greg Lake: I HONESTLY HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THE SPROCKET SESSIONS WERE? THE WERE PROBABLY THE INVENTION OF SOME HOPEFUL MARKETING MOGUL.”
What can be said is this is an excellent recording, taped in London, of what was supposed to be the setlist for the upcoming tour which differs from the set actually employed. It starts off with a brief reference to “Fanfare For The Common Man” before “The Score,” their new epic which quotes liberally from past material. This segues into the catchy “Learning To Fly.” This was the arrangement they used.
It is followed by “The Miracle” from the new album. This wouldn’t last and the song’s only performance would be at the Lakefront Arena in New Orleans on August 19th. It is a great song but the band probably wanted to include more classic ELP tunes at the expense of new material. The rest of the first disc contains truncated versions of the classics. The ten minute “Tarkus” places most emphasis upon the opening movements and a nod to Aquatarkus, and the “Pictures At An Exhibition” suite consists of one “Promenade” and the ending of the “Great Gates Of Kiev.”
Disc two starts off with an eight second “interval” which is basically a moment of silence before the same forty-seven second fragment of “Lucky Man” that can be heard on The Sprocket Sessions. “Still…You Turn Me On” is followed by two songs from the ELPowell album that were rehearsed but weren’t included in the set. The first is the very eighties sounding “Love Blind.” Afterwards Lake says, “and now for a bit of jazz.” They run through “Step Aside,” also from the new album. Both of these songs were played only once at the same New Orleans show when they played “The Miracle.” It sometimes seems the band were too hasty in jettisoning the new songs from the set so fast and relying upon the well known songs.
“Mars Bringer Of War” is their arrangement of the Holst piece on the album and is played complete with Powell’s drum solo followed by the hit from the album “Touch & Go” and a run through of the Works epic “Pirates.” When they would start touring in a month “Pirates” would be moved up to third in the set and several Emerson solo pieces “Dream Runner” and “Creole Dance” would replace the newer songs rehearsed. The encore would be the medley of “Karn Evil 9 1st Impression Part 2,” Bernstein’s “America” and “Rondo.”
It is unfortunate they recorded only one album and one short US tour before ending. Since they never toured the UK, Europe or Japan so this rehearsal is as close as we can get to a UK performance. This is packaged in a gorgeous cardboard gatefold sleeve with several live shots of the band on the front cover and extensive liner notes in the middle. This release along with Fabulous Show (Virtuoso-073/074) are two very welcome surprises. There hadn’t been any Emerson, Lake & Powell silvers released in ages until these two came out in the past several months. With Emerson, Lake & Palmer getting ready for yet another comeback these releases serve as a reassessment of their career in general and this period in particular.