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Emerson, Lake, and Palmer: The Birth of a Band-The Isle of Wight Festival (DVD/CD)

ELP's historic first live performance at the August 29, 1970 Isle of Wight Festival in front of nearly a half million people (the UK version of Woodstock) has been talked about for many many years. Eagle Rock Entertainment has released this fun dualdisc package containing a DVD of the show, plus a CD of the audio. Well, sort of. You see, the DVD is a 60 minute documentary of the birth of the band, and ELP's set at the Isle of Wight Festival was 67 minutes, so I'm sure you see the problem here. This is not the complete show by any means. Instead you get edited footage of the four songs the band played that day, interspered with recent interviews from Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, and Carl Palmer. Whether the complete set footage was available or not I don't know, and I'm sure ELP fanatics will be bashing this release to no end, but honestly, if this is all that is available, it makes for a fun watch nevertheless. Much like the Jethro Tull release where Ian Anderson talks a bit about the festival, it's great to hear ELP's take on the goings on at this massive gathering, as well as talk about the early days when the band formed. They go into detail about the bands they came from (The Nice, Crazy World of Arthur Brown, King Crimson) and even talk about how the press blasted them from the beginning. Emerson's section where he talks about and demonstrates on the Moog synthesizer and Hammond organ is pretty interesting, and honestly, the footage from the festival where he is knocking over the Hammond and walking on top of it is a hoot. Drum fans also get to witness Palmer's drum solo from the festival, as he showcased his soon to be legendary skills.

All in all, despite the many misgivings that folks are going to have with this release, it's still great to see what little might be left of this historic event in the history of ELP. The documentary is very well put together (although all the footage of people walking on the beach is rather tiresome) and what footage is there looks and sounds good. Seeing the bombastic nature of an ELP set back in 1970, complete with fire and cannons, made me miss the over-the-top level that many rock concerts were all about in that era. In addition, you get the CD to crank in your stereo or take with you in the car.

Track Listing
1) Pictures At An Exhibition
2) Take a Pebble
3) Rondo
4) Nutrocker
Birth of a Band
Pictures at an Exhibition
The Moog Synthesizer-A Landmark in Music
Augmenting the Music
Pictures at an Exhibition-Live
Take a Pebble-Live

Added: May 30th 2006
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Eagle Rock Entertainment
Hits: 3428
Language: english

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Emerson, Lake, and Palmer: The Birth of a Band-The Isle of Wight Festival (DVD/CD)
Posted by Michael Popke, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-05-30 09:43:47
My Score:

Carl Palmer's current solo tour and Asia's upcoming reunion tour may spark renewed interest in Emerson, Lake & Palmer, one of prog rock's most bombastic groups nay, supergroups. The Birth of a Band-Isle of Wight 1970 proves that ELP's pretentiousness was present from the beginning. This release, originally issued in CD format in 1997 under the title Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970 and now available as a CD/DVD DualDisc, captures the Aug. 29, 1970, gig in all its sloppy splendor. Although ELP played a much smaller show a week earlier, this is widely considered its debut performance, and that combined with captivating footage from England's final Isle of Wight festival before it was unexpectedly resurrected in 2002 makes this a powerful historical document.

Of course, opening with the rambling 24-minute "Pictures At An Exhibition" didn't do the band any favors, but by the time they fired real cannons into the crowd of 600,000 at the conclusion of that song, the members of ELP had become rock gods. Bassist Greg Lake's vocals sound a bit shaky early on, but the nerves appear to be gone by the time he sings "Take A Pebble." The performances of Emerson and Palmer are best enjoyed on the accompanying documentary/concert film DVD, which provides context for the controversial festival but only contains highlights from the show not the entire set. Keyboardist Keith Emerson alternately massages and wrestles with his gear, while Carl Palmer demonstrates the blinding technique that would establish him as one of the world's greatest rock drummers. Both men candidly discuss their performance intricacies in 2005 interviews for the DVD, but perhaps the most telling quote comes from Lake at the film's conclusion: "You didn't break down barriers without doing some damage."

The damage began right here.

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