Posts Tagged ‘moog synthesizer’

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WHAT A LUCKY MAN I WAS-EMERSON AND LAKE ON TOUR

May 22, 2010

 The original Moog Synth

Many moons ago when vinyl reigned and concerts cost $6.50 for a ticket that included at least one opening act, a complex fusion of classical, jazz, rock, and modern mash-ups emerged that sold out stadiums and arenas. Emerson, Lake, and Palmer were back there in the late sixties merging Bartok, Bernstein, Brubeck, and Beethoven into a style of rock that few could come close to duplicating. They were considered one of the ultimate “supergroups” selling over 40 million albums.

The concert at the Las Vegas Hilton tonight was in an intimate setting of less than 800 seats and billed as Emerson and Lake-no Palmer would be present. As many know Greg Lake was also a member of King Crimson in its heyday with Robert Fripp and Bill Bruford, but that’s another story. The monstrous nine foot stack of oscillators complete with old rotary potentiometers from the “Apollo 8” era stood tall beside a Hammond B-3 with hundreds of 1/4 phone patch cords to audio adaptations such as now defunct terms as envelopes, sawtooth waveforms, graphic filters, porting and expansion controls, and others too obscure to mention. Unlike the relics usually brought onstage just for show by other bands, this monstrosity was fully functional and used to palpitate your aorta and buzz your sphincter as Keith Emerson dialed his way to the sounds of yesteryear that encompassed the lowest lows and the highest highs.

The stage setting was at “Manticore” recording studio with just the two of them playing to tracks already laid down, talking about each piece, how it was conceived and the little bits of trivia surrounding each. With the “unplugged” atmosphere the talents of these men became more than apparent as each note could be heard precisely without the echoing of a vast stadium turning magnificent runs into a dopplerish muck of indistinguishable muddiness.

“From the Beginning,” was the first song. It was clear Lake (62 years-old) was up to the task. Emerson’s different arrangements kept it all fresh. They wasted no time going into King Crimson’s “I Talk To The Wind,” which was a beautiful rendition. After a chat about Lake throwing stones across a lake drawing inspiration for the next song “Take A Pebble” began and morphed into what amounted to the first side of Tarkus. There was one point in the show when Emerson (65 years-old) paid tribute to Brubeck’s Rondo from his old group “The Nice” years but changed the 9/8 time signature to 4/4 and included “America” from West Side Story, The Phantom of the Opera theme-played backwards from the other side of his keyboards, Rondo of course, and then slid into a the sound of the legendary organist Jimmy Smith’s B-3 groove.

They opened up the concert for questions from the audience and there were more than a few chuckles about their breakups and egos. For the record, Lake declared, “to be passionate about one’s music requires strength of conviction and the band never argued about anything but the music, which if we all are passionate is a healthy thing. Don’t forget we were together constantly over ten years and needed to take a break from the touring and recording together. There was no ill will, ever.”

The “studio engineer” mixed the drum, bass, percussion, and layered tracks from a “recording booth” behind them and all in all it was a magical evening. Would Carl Palmer have made a big difference? Yes, but then the entire show would have been louder, less intimate, and the showcasing of these incredible musicians would not have been in the forefront.

They ended the show and came back for an encore with “What A Lucky Man He Was.” I was the lucky one to be there to hear their top ten hit that blared through the radio speakers of my car while driving through the youthful nights. The backstory on that song was that Lake had written it when he was 13 years-old and when they recorded their first album they needed one last song to finish it. Lake played it for Emerson who wasn’t impressed with it but told Lake to go ahead a lay some tracks down. When Emerson returned, the brand new monstrous Moog had been setup in the studio and Emerson began to improvise to “Lucky Man” not knowing that Lake had the recording button on….hence the infamous solo captured on the first take and forever associated with that old folksy song electrifying it and propelling it into the top ten.

The most amazing thing is that they have yet to be included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “When I look at some of the other people who’ve been inducted, there should be a place for the contribution that ELP and King Crimson made to the world of modern music,” Lake said. “Why ignore that absolutely stark reality, you know?”