Wednesday, 29 March 2017

"Tarkus: Deluxe Edition" by EMERSON, LAKE & PALMER (2016 Mastered BMG 2CD Set Reissue - With 2012 Steve Wilson/Andy Pearce & Matt Wortham Remixes/Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...






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"...A Time And A Place..."

Some fans have noticed that this reissue malarkey has gone a bit Donald Trump on ELP - spend, spend, spend – then blame someone else.

'Deluxe Edition' 2CD sets of Emerson, Lake & Palmer's Island Records catalogue appeared in 2012 with Steve Wilson and Andy Pearce Remasters and Remixes galore. Those supposed 'definitive' issues were going to put out to pasture numerous reissues on Sanctuary that went before in the 80s through to the 00's.

Yet here we are again in July 2016 (itself reissued March 2017 too). But there's a subtle difference that I feel should be pointed out - the 2016 mastering fro both discs is new and just that bit sweeter in my less than humble opinion. These reissues sound utterly amazing – but let's get to the gun-totting armadillo details first...

UK released 27 July 2016 (reissued 1 March 2017) - "Tarkus: Deluxe Edition" by EMERSON, LAKE & PALMER on BMG/Leadclass BMGCAT2CD2 (Barcode 4050538179996) is a 2CD Reissue containing both 2012 Versions by Steve Wilson and Andy Pearce with new 2016 Andy Pearce mastering and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 - "The Original 1971 Album (2012 Remaster)" - 38:42 minutes:
1. Tarkus [Side 1]
(i) Eruption
(ii) Stones Of Years
(iii) Iconoclast
(iv) Mass
(v) Manticore
(vi) Battlefield
(vii) Aquatarkus
2. Jeremy Bender [Side 2]
3. Bitches Crystal
4. The Only Way (Hymn)
5. Infinite Space (Conclusion)
6. A Time And A Place
7. Are You Ready Eddy?
Tracks 1 to 7 are their second studio album "Tarkus" - released June 1971 in the UK on Island Records ILPS 9155 and June 1971 in the USA on Cotillion SD 9900. Produced by Greg Lake and Engineered by Eddy Offord - it peaked at No. 1 in the UK and No. 9 in the USA. 

Disc 2 - "The Alternate Album (2012 Steven Wilson Stereo Mixes)" - 50:47 minutes:
1. Tarkus [Side 1]
(i) Eruption
(ii) Stones Of Years
(iii) Iconoclast
(iv) Mass
(v) Manticore
(vi) Battlefield
(vii) Aquatarkus
2. Jeremy Bender [Side 2]
3. Bitches Crystal
4. The Only Way (Hymn)
5. Infinite Space (Conclusion)
6. A Time And A Place
7. Are You Ready Eddy?
8. Oh, My Father
9. Unknown Ballad
10. Mass (Alternate Take)

The 16-page booklet includes new 2016 interviews with all three musical prodigies – and just before Keith Emerson passed in March 2016 and then tragically – Greg Lake in December 2016. Well-known writer and musicologist CHRIS WELCH fills in the rest of the details – William Neal's amazing drawings of flying pterodactyls with guns, missile-bearing lizards and a scorpion-tailed Manticore (they'd adopt their record-label name from this track) - all of which are complimented by the Armadillo Tank with Propulsion Tracks out front. With the album's title 'Tarkus' spelt out in parched animal bones – the three musician names didn't even appear on original album covers. There's witty anecdotes about the no English Greek sandwich lady who kept interrupting sessions no matter what – so much so that her cries of 'am or cheese' to the band was left on the record ("Are You Ready Eddy?"). There's discussion on the organ at St. Mark's Church in Finchley that's featured on "The Only Way (Hymn)", the influence of Jazz Musicians Lenny Tristano and Dave Brubeck on Keith's playing and style - Greg coming up with the name (a possibly more vengeful Tarka The Otter). The inner gatefold artwork of the 1971 album is reproduced in the centre pages - but it's sloppily a Manticore reissue version and not the 1971 Island Records original.

The audio was done by Andy Pearce fro Disc 1 and Porcupine Tree's Steve Wilson for the Alternate Album on Disc 2 - but hey key here is that both have been mastered in 2016 by ANDY PEARCE for this reissue and I'd swear that his tweaking has made the transfers more substantial, clearer and given them less of a clinical sheen. I've never heard this Progressive Rock LP sound so good. Let's get to the music...

Side 1's 21-minute 7-part "Tarkus" Suite opens with a real dawn-of-man lead in - before exploding into wild keyboard stabs in 5/4 time. It soon settles into a prolonged solo - and when those staccato Moog and Drum jabs kick in at about eleven minutes - the remaster is huge. Lake gets his guitar parts towards the end and his 'let there be no sorrow...be no pain' lyrics. "Jeremy Bender" is a fictional London Spiv brought to life my Keith's barrelhouse piano and Greg's witty lyrics. Inspired by Dave Brubeck's "Count Down" - "Bitches Crystal" races along in 6/4 time - Lake singing of tortured spirits and ghostly images while Keith lashes into more alehouse piano. Bach's "Toccata In F Major" provides the inspiration for the churchy "The Only Way (Hymn)" which in itself segues into the funky Prog swing of "Infinite Space" - a piece of Piano Jazz inspired by Lennie Tristano. ELP get King Crimson heavy with the buttermilk cream of "A Time And A Place" before they bring it all to a finish with the rather silly and out-of-place cod Rock 'n' Roll of "Are You Ready Eddie?" (turn those faders down).

I wasn't expecting the "Oh, My Father" Bonus Track to be so good - four minutes of Greg Lake examining his relationship with his Dad - the words never spoken - no more time left to speak them. It's an Acoustic/Electric Guitar ballad - sad and beautiful and moving. Both it and the equally melodic "Maybe It's Just A Dream" simply don't fit in with the Pure Prog of the LP - but that doesn't step from being alarmingly pretty given the harsh iconoclast music that's preceded them. The harmony vocals and pretty piano playing will thrill ELP fans. There's a count-in to the Alternate of "Mass"  - section four of the seven-part "Tarkus" suite. It's really good - especially Keith's virtuoso playing and Palmer's skin-tight drumming - but you can also hear why the more lively finished version was chosen. 

"Tarkus" will not be everyone's favourite ELP album for damn sure (I prefer the first and "Trilogy") - and there are those who will dismiss it as very much of its 1971 Progressive Rock time. But it was a Number 1 for a reason. And fans are going to need this superb sounding version of it on CD. Another reissue I know – but this is the one worth buying...

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