Eagle Rock Entertainment // 1997 // 91 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Adam Arseneau (Retired) // July 19th, 2010
Prog rock at its finest.
The latest in a long, impossibly long series of releases by Eagle Rock recorded at the legendary Montreaux Jazz Festival, Emerson, Lake & Palmer: Live at Montreaux 1997 (Blu-Ray) is a solid performance from the eponymous prog rock trio with a strong technical presentation.
In the Seventies, ELP reigned supreme, a multi-million album selling progressive rock tour-de-force that combined complex technical musicianship with ostentatious live performances. Spinning stages, full orchestral accompaniments and flying pianos, hacking apart your keyboard with a knife -- anything was game. Now a solid two decades after their heyday, the band featured in Emerson, Lake & Palmer: Live at Montreaux 1997 (Blu-Ray) is a little more subdued and reserved -- no Persian rug -- but in all other aspects in superb form, both musically and in showmanship. A shirtless Palmer pounding on his gongs with two gigantic mallets, his feet flying over the double bass petals at breakneck speed; a euphoric Emerson dragging out his beaten and worn Hammond organ, molesting it with a knife and kicking it around stage like a rented mule -- yep, it's an ELP concert. Don't let their podgy figures and wrinkled faces fool you: these guys have not missed a beat.
Emerson, Lake & Palmer: Live at Montreaux 1997 (Blu-Ray) contains the following tracks:
* "Introduction by Claude Nobs"
* "Karnevil 9 -- 1st. Impression Part. 2"
* "Tiger In The Spotlight"
* "Touch And Go"
* "From The Beginning"
* "Knife Edge"
* "Bitches Crystal"
* "Creole Dance"
* "Honky Tonk Train Blues"
* "Take A Pebble"
* "Lucky Man"
* "Tarkus/Pictures At An Exhibition"
* "Medley (Fanfare For The Common Man/Rondo/Carmina Burana/Carl Palmer's Drum Solo/Toccata in D Minor) "
As musicians go, no one can top ELP. A supergroup of sorts, ELP's members each claim pedigree in other successful progressive rock bands, The Nice, Atomic Rooster, and King Crimson. These guys are musical demigods, freaks of nature who have no doubt made Faustian deals with spirits below to secure their dominance in the industry. A mere Blu-Ray review cannot possibly articulate to the uninitiated exactly how talented these blokes are, or how influential their progressive musicianship became in the music industry.
This is not the most energetic ELP performance ever put to film, but solid all-around. Each track here is a flourishing spiral of notes, a syncopated assault on the senses, fusing rock, jazz, and classical music sensibilities into complicated, drawn-out jam sessions. For a mere trio act, you will be amazed at how many complex textures ELP can throw at you. Keith Emmerson has a minimum of six keyboards on the go at any given time (including an amazing vintage synthesizer with patch cords draped all over) pounding on keys with furious aplomb. Greg Lake on bass effortlessly keeps up with the synthesizers, fingers easily flying across frets, and the drum work of Carl Palmer is a site to behold -- wait until the drum solo at the end of the performance.
Eagle Rock has been pumping out endless Montreaux Jazz Festival DVDs and Blu-Rays for years now, each virtually identical to the last. Recorded in 1997, the footage looks impressive; clean, free from blemish and reproduced with high attention to detail. White levels are strong, colors are natural. Black levels lack the depth expected of more recent recordings, but there is no grain or noticeable defects in the 1080i/MPEG-4 transfer; you can see the sweat glisten and the quite alarming amount of hair on the arms of Keith Emerson.
Audio comes in three flavors; a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, and simple LPCM stereo track. Truth be told, there isn't a lot of difference between them. Bass response on all three is strong, trebles are vibrant and balance is, well, balanced (natch). There are only three players on any given song, and ELP fans should feel at home at how the mixes have been assembled -- chaotic synthesizers and frenetic piano of Emerson all up in your face, the walking bass lines of Lake rumbling in the middle, and somewhere in the background the pounding drums of Palmer. At times the drums are mixed a bit too thin, but that's just a personal preference. Clear and clean, all three tracks deliver strong sonic performance. The DTS-HD track is particularly crisp, and would be my go-to selection if I had to choose.
No extras included, unfortunately -- just the concert, and that's it.
Emerson, Lake & Palmer: Live at Montreaux 1997 (Blu-Ray) is another solid release by Eagle Rock. Despite being a bit long in the tooth, ELP can still rock with a technical proficiency few bands can even hope to achieve. Their unique progressive rock styling may be an acquired taste, but this Blu-Ray does it justice for the fans.
No spinning piano, but not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080i)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* PCM 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Not Rated