Greg Lake

From the Beginning: Retrospective

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Let's face it -- no matter how far he gets stylistically from his work with Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and he has gotten very far afield from it at times, Greg Lake's fandom is always going to be rooted in his work with the prog rock trio during the 1970s and its various incarnations since. So it's no surprise that the entire first half of this two-and-a-half-hour double-CD set is devoted to his music with King Crimson and ELP in one form or another. The down side for fans is that most people who would buy this double-CD set will already have many of the tracks on the first disc -- the only exceptions are the live 1972 version of "Take a Pebble" from the Mar y Sol Festival, which was a better showcase for Lake than for Emerson or Palmer, and "Still," the title track from Pete Sinfield's 1973 solo album, on which Lake shared the lead vocals with Sinfield; the producers were also obviously limited in what they could license of Lake's King Crimson work, or else they might well have included "Epitaph," but "Catfood" is a good substitute, as an unusually hard-rocking track off of the second Crimson album, which they're less likely to own. That all might be enough to lure ELP fans to buy this set -- if it isn't, however, then the second disc comes into play in terms of interest, devoted to Lake's harder-rocking solo material, as well as his forays with Emerson, Lake & Powell and the latter-day, re-formed Emerson, Lake & Palmer into the 1990s. His 1981 solo reinterpretation of Crimson's "Schizoid Man," which closes out the first disc, lacks the urgency of the 1969 Crimson original -- in those days, Robert Fripp would even jape at Lake for performing the song. But the solo tracks on disc two successfully show off Lake's heavier guitar-oriented sound, featuring Thin Lizzy alumnus Gary Moore, and could be a revelation for casual ELP fans who know Lake best as a romantic balladeer. The whole package works through its contrasts, the first disc covering the familiar with a few rarities while the second offers the highlights of what most casual ELP fans will likely not own, including one very beautiful previously unreleased solo track, "Love Under Fire." In the end, the distillation of the later material pays off for fans whose interest is centered on Lake's classic sides, and there are just enough rarities from that period to put the set over as essential for fans (it's not as though the Mar y Sol album is going to be reissued anytime soon). In 2005, the 32-song set was reissued in the U.K. by Castle Music with updated notes and CD-ROM enhancement for the first disc.

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