Artist: Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Album: Once Upon a Time in South America
Label: S’More Entertainment/Rockbeat Records
Release Date: 4.7.17
As grunge-rock was being hyped to death in the 1990s, seminal ‘70s progressive-rock institutions such as Emerson, Lake & Palmer were hardly given a chance to reclaim their former glory. In a climate that was openly hostile toward them, and other artists of their ilk, ELP did the unthinkable and reunited, even as trendsetters and tastemakers laughed at prog’s pretentiousness and ridiculous bombast.
The new zeitgeist had no place for them, as 1992’s acquiescence to the mainstream Black Moon and its uninspired 1994 follow-up In the Hot Seat fizzled commercially and creatively. Their vitality as a live act hadn’t dimmed, though. A four-CD set of concert recordings drawn from concerts in Chile, Brazil and Argentina in 1993 and 1997, Once Upon a Time in South America documents – in convincing fashion – their undiminished instrumental prowess, their spectacular flair for the dramatic and whimsical flights of fancy, as dynamic versions of ELP favorites like the utterly theatrical “Fanfare for the Common Man” and wildly exuberant “Hoedown” soar.
Picking up the appreciative responses of enthusiastic audiences, the full, rich sound captures the frenetic pace and schizophrenic quality of “Tarkus” and the creeping menace of “Knife Edge,” as their studious classical nature comes through in the various shape-shifting permutations of “Pictures at an Exhibition.” And what ELP live collection would be complete without the band artfully mining the melodic depths of “Lucky Man.” Maybe we’re the fortunate ones, with this material existing in such a pristine state.