Emerson, Lake and Palmer - "Beyond the Beginning" (Sanctuary 250 min.)

This double DVD with concert footage from every phase of Emerson, Lake and Palmer's career is a treasure for any true progressive rock fan. It opens with a feature called "Before the Beginning" where we're getting one video each with the bands whom the guys were in before Emerson, Lake and Palmer. The Crazy World of Arthur Brown's "Fire" (complete with Brown's legendary, burning headdress) and The Nice' version of "America" are here both in performances from Beat Club. We also get one and a half minute of black and white footage of King Crimson playing in Hyde Park in 1969 with the sound of "21st Century Schizoid Man" dubbed over it. The only members of the band you'll actually see a glimpse of are Ian McDonald and of course Greg Lake. Things get a bit more serious with the next feature called "ELP in Pictures" that consists of over 90 minutes of clips from the band's entire career. The first one is a good version of "Take A Pebble" from Beat Club in 1970 where a part of "Tank" also has been incorporated. Other highlights are "Knife Edge" and "Rondo" in Brussels from 1971 and "Hoedown" in Milan from 1973. There's also a short clip with a performance of "Eruption" from "Tarkus" at an outdoor stadium in Tokyo 1972. That concert would later end in chaos as the audience came out of control and the band had to flee the stage and stadium. It's also interesting to see the promo video for "I Believe in Father Christmas", no matter how awful it looks (and believe me, it really does!). There's also another promo video here, showing the band miming to "Fanfare for the Common Man" at the Montreal Stadium in 1977 (it sure looked cold). More interesting is the full performance of "Pirates" complete with orchestra from one of the concerts that they played there. It's fascinating and surprising to see that such shows still could attract lots of people even in 1977. The extra features on disc one include a film of the band rehearsal material for "Brain Salad Surgery" in 1973. Some of this footage also appeared in "The Manticore Special" documentary from the same year (making the claim on the cover about this film being "previously unseen" not quite true). There's also an interesting interview with Bob Moog where he tells about his relationship with the band (and of course especially Emerson) and his support and help with their equipment. The feature about the album covers is fun and interesting, although a bit brief and messy. The film from the Brands Hatch Celebrity Motor Race is on the other hand just a curio. But the main attraction on this DVD is undoubtedly the 44 minutes from California Jam in 1974 on the second disc. Ever since seeing Deep Purple's superb and downright dangerous performance on the same festival, I've had wet dreams about finally being able to see Emerson, Lake and Palmer's set too. The 44 minutes featured here are obviously the only bits and pieces left of the film, sadly making it a lot less complete and preserved than Deep Purple's concert. Still, what you get here is FAR better than nothing and probably the best-looking Emerson, Lake and Palmer concert footage that exists. It cuts right into Palmer's electronic drum-solo from "Toccata" before we quickly move into some far more quiet minutes with just Lake and his acoustic guitar in "Still, You Turn Me On" and "Lucky Man". These are followed by Emerson's long and breathtaking piano-improvisations in "Take A Pebble". And in the second movement of the first impression from "Karn Evil 9", the incredibly sexy Carl Palmer delivers one of the visually most spectacular drum-solos you'll ever see on his custom-built drum kit of stainless steel. The third impression from the suite also features a "guest appearance" of the computer in the lyrics! But the visual highlight of the show was probably Emerson's spinning piano, a stunt that looks impressive even today, and goes right into the final verse of "The Great Gates of Kiev". It's SO cool to finally having some 70's concert footage with some length from Emerson, Lake and Palmer without any awful effects that weakened the movie of their performance of "Pictures at an Exhibition" from 1970 (reviewed below). And it's fascinating that in 1974, 600.000 people could gather together to watch a band perform songs that lasted for 30 minutes along with 15 minutes long piano-improvisations and rock adaptations of classical music. Can you imagine that in today's musically braindead and culturally perverted world? The rest of the DVD is taken up by the title-feature, an entertaining and interesting documentary about the band's history and career, stuffed with fascinating comments from all members and other people related to the band. Some of the facts revealed here are quite surprising; such as Lake's lukewarm feelings for "Tarkus" and that he nearly quitted the band prior to the recording of that album. "Beyond the Beginning" claims to be the definitive Emerson, Lake and Palmer DVD, and that's true so far.

Emerson, Lake and Palmer - "Pictures at an Exhibition" (Classic Pictures 40. min)

The main feature on this DVD is the band's full performance of Mussorgssky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" that was filmed at the Lyceum Theatre in London in December 1970. The piece is performed nearly as good as on the album released the year after, and actually a few minutes longer too. It's fun to see Emerson constantly tuning and switching the buttons on his equipment to get the sounds he wants, not to mention when he rubs the Moog ribbon controller against his ass or wrenches feedback out of the organ during "The Great Gates of Kiev". Greg Lake sings beautifully and always in tune, although he seems to struggle a bit with the acoustic solo in "The Sage". Carl Palmer proves that he was one of the most talented progressive rock drummers and had a kind of boyish charm here, smiling and giggling behind the drums through the whole concert. The film also features lots of animations and graphic effects (especially during the instrumental parts), revealing that the movie was being filmed in a still transitional phase between the 60's and 70's. The menu of the DVD is also very nice, featuring a very detailed and informative discography, full biography of the band and each member separately, an art/photo gallery and even a profile on Mussorgssky too.

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