EMERSON LAKE & PALMER: WELCOME BACK
Review by Michael Jacobson
Digital 5.1, Dolby Stereo
Video: Standard 1.33:1
Studio: Image Entertainment
Length: 80 Minutes
Release Date: March 27, 2001
“Welcome back, my friends, to
the show that never ends!”
The progressive rock trio of Keith Emerson, Greg Lake and
Carl Palmer were one of the bands pushing the musical envelopes in the 1970’s.
Like their contemporaries, Yes and King Crimson, this was a group of
musical virtuosos who were interested in exploring uncharted waters, and whose
body of work delighted fans and confounded critics at the same time.
Welcome Back is a DVD that documents the band’s
comeback (of sorts) in 1991, with the release of their studio album Black
Moon. This disc includes the
video for the title track, an ELP first if I’m not mistaken, plus plenty of
concert footage from their earlier heydays to their then most recent live shows,
including a smash sell out performance at the Albert Hall in London.
The disc, like the band’s music, is indicative of everything the fans
love and the critics dismiss about ELP.
Most of the essentials are included here:
performances of the second movement of “Karn Evil 9” (cut painfully
short, though), “Lucky Man” (with interview segments running during the
instrumental section!), “C’est La Vie”, “Tarkus”, “Fanfare for the
Common Man”, “Pictures at an Exhibition”, and a newer favorite, “Paper
Blood”. Seeing these guys on
stage is a remarkable experience: Emerson
is one of the most acrobatic and aggressive keyboard men to come out of rock
music; the flashy Palmer is a drummer who studied under Buddy Rich’s personal
tutelage, and it shows in his expert timekeeping in unusual meters and his
almost melodic approach to his drum kit. And,
of course, front man Lake lays a heavy bottom end with his bass and a lyrical,
uplifting acoustic guitar on quieter numbers that compliment his smooth voice.
The disc is filled with a few unforgettable images—check
out Emerson’s piano that spins in midair while he plays, for example—and
good interview footage, such as where Lake explains the reason behind his
trademark Oriental rug he uses on stage. And,
of course, the music is terrific.
The main fault of the presentation is in its unusual mix.
Plenty of music videos blend concert footage with interview segments, and
that’s fine. This one, however,
tries to do both at the same time. I’m
sorry, but you do NOT cut away in the middle of “Lucky Man” to show a
segment with the inventor of the Moog synthesizer…and that’s just one of the
examples of how this disc breaks away from the songs for other reasons.
But the overall compilation of music and clips is still
worthwhile and entertaining, although it’s a bit interesting to see how these
three musicians have aged since their inception two decades earlier, and then
think on top of that that it’s now been another ten years.
Still, great music is timeless, and ELP’s catalog of tunes both capture
and reflect a certain era of rock music that doesn’t really exist anymore, but
still serves as fertile grounds for newer and younger fans who are willing to go
back in time and explore the richness of that period.
Overall, this DVD presentation from Image is good…a
little inconsistent, naturally, given the varied ages of the included pieces.
The newest footage and the “Black Moon” video are your best bet for
quality: some of the older clips
look their age. The disc isn’t
burdened by compression artifacts or undue grain.
It won’t be the best looking DVD you own, but again, there’s not
likely to be any real complaints from fans of the group.
The 5.1 soundtrack is louder and more dynamic than the
stereo one, but apart from that, I didn’t really notice anything other than
signal duplication from the rear stage. It’s
still a quality listen, but falls a bit short of some of the better music
Features (zero stars)
Emerson Lake & Palmer offer up a mostly satisfying 80 minute argument for their place in rock music history. Their musicianship and innovative compositions, peppered with the band’s own thoughts and musings make Welcome Back a worthwhile experience that should please ELP fans.