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EMERSON LAKE & PALMER: WELCOME BACK

Review by Michael Jacobson

Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Stereo
Video:  Standard 1.33:1
Studio:  Image Entertainment
Features:  None
Length:  80 Minutes
Release Date:  March 27, 2001

Film ***

“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.  Bad decision.

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.

Video **1/2

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.

Audio **1/2

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 DVD’s available.

Features (zero stars)

Nothing.

Summary:

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.