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Palmer, Carl : Working Live - Vol 1

For all his brilliance when stickmeister for ELP, this live set has me scratching for an answer as to why this project hasn't hit the right buttons for me. I was a huge fan of E.L.P. back in the 70's and thought their earlier music was perfectly enhanced thanks to Keith Emerson's fantastic keyboard skills and song writing ability. What worked beautifully for the original band does not work so well here however, as the sound is generally very linear with just guitars, bass and drums and with a relentless pummelling from all quarters. The lack of any keys is all too obvious and makes it sound too much like a long hard jam with incessant lead breaks featuring the guitar and no-one else. Apart from the obligatory drum solo at the end of the show, Carl's playing is often relatively subdued or at least often overshadowed by the angry sound of the guitar.

The songs here are predominantly a rehash of the older classic E.L.P. favourites along with some newer material from the band but don't expect too much variety from the overall sound. Recorded live in Bilston, England on 19th July 2001, the inescapable and sadly detrimental annoyance to the songs is that the guitars sound so awfully brash, loud and in many sections, totally cacophonous. There is no escaping the reality that young guitarist, Shawn Baxter is a very adept and fast player but his penchant for leaving out some emotion and playing with very little finesse had me hitting the skip button all too often. It was really becoming too painful to persevere with the remainder of the album. To be fair, I did replay the CD several more times later in the comfort of my study with the Sennheisers adjusted to a more comfortable level but at the end of the day the same disappointment was hard to ignore. This one is sure gonna hurt your ears if you crank up the volume.

The bass player, Dave Marks, on the other hand, has a lot of control and plays with perfect timing and unity with Carl and without overshadowing the core music. It will be interesting to see how his career progresses as he has a wonderful style of playing and punctuates his work so convincingly.

While I have a lot of respect for what Carl is trying to achieve with this project and who wouldn't with such an amazing talent, there is a sadly lost opportunity here just waiting to be improved upon. The reality is that we are witnessing a much different approach to what a lot of us take for granted. If you are hankering for some classic old E.L.P. magic, then you probably won't be too excited about this offering. There can be no escaping the impact one enjoys from Keith's keys or Greg Lake's signature voice. While I accept this project is not trying to emulate that original sound, I just can't help feeling some of the other, equally important ingredients are missing.

Track Details:

1. The Barbarian
2. The Enemy God Dances with the Black Spirits
3. L.A. Nights
4. Tank
5. Bullfrog
6. Toccata
7. Canario
8. Drum Solo

Added: May 11th 2006
Reviewer: Greg Cummins
Related Link: Carl Palmer's Web Site
Hits: 2251
Language: english

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Palmer, Carl : Working Live - Vol 1
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-05-12 06:49:28
My Score:

Carl Palmer's two-part Working Live series is a totally about-face experience from what most fans would expect from him. Gone are the over-the-top keyboard excursions that fans were subjected to during his days with ELP, and you can forget about the lush pop vocals and symphonic arrangements from his days with Asia. Here on Vol. 1 the drum legend joins up with guitarist Shaun Baxter and bassist Dave Marks for a blistering power trio barrage of hard rock, metal, and fusion, as they adapt their loud and aggressive style to a batch of classical and ELP pieces. I found this set to be refreshing and a nice alternate take on these songs, as the trio rampages through eight complex tracks jet-propelled with enough guitar firepower and intricate rhythms to keep any fan of heavy instrumental fusion happy.

Listen to the trio rip it up on the intricate "The Enemy God Dances with the Black Spirits", with Palmer and Marks offering up some wild interplay while Baxter's crunchy riffage and wild solos provides the color. The ELP favorite "The Barbarian" is given an almost heavy metal-like presentation, as is "LA Nights", which features a busy Palmer adding his gymnastic touch underneath the beefy riffs and whammy bar mania from Baxter. While every track on here is damn impressive, it's the trio's take on "Toccata" that will truly drop your jaw on the floor. Baxter plays the Emerson parts wonderfully, and his tone is just dripping with distortion, while Palmer and Marks rhythms's are simply mind boggling. "Bullfrog" is another highlight, a tight & complex piece where all three players work in perfect synergy with each other. In addition, you get an incredible 6-minute drum solo from Palmer to close the set.

I think with Working Live-Vol 1, one has to just have an open mind and accept these songs in a different format that what we have come to know them as. Fans of instrumental fusion, especially guitar fusion, and lovers of Carl Palmer's legendary drum work, should fall in love with this immediately. Carl proves that he still has the gusto after all these years.

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