This double-CD set raises a lot of questions and red flags, though most of the doubts will be resolved by the music itself. For starters, the first disc, credited to Emerson, Lake & Palmer in terms of its focus, is a tiny bit of a cheat, since it's not a truly comprehensive look at Palmer's contribution to the latter group -- it consists largely of Palmer's solo work within the context of the group name, all dating from 1977's Works (which was essentially three solo albums and a group side) or later, some as late as 2001, and that material only tells part of the story of Palmer's work with the group. Additionally, the structure of the set is a little odd -- on an intellectual level, it is understandable why this double CD was arranged the way it was, with the ELP tracks on disc one, while disc two covers the periods before and after; the ELP stuff is qualitatively different from the rest, as music, in terms of its goals and what Palmer was doing. It's also probably the main selling point to lots of fans -- it's just a pity that the set is arranged this way, because it relegates a pair of supremely attractive mod-era tracks by Palmer's first band to record, the Craig, to a secondary position, and it leaves "Love Light" by the Liverpool group the Chants -- for whom Palmer played drums on that song -- in a similarly neglected spot, and does a similar disservice to Atomic Rooster's "Decline and Fall."
In fairness, however, the set does encompass virtually the entirety of Palmer's career and art, or at least the accessible high points; from his beginnings as a potentially top-ranked session drummer (he could have been the percussionist's answer to Jimmy Page) to his emergence as a member of Atomic Rooster, listeners get a sketchy but satisfying view of his developing ambition. Asia is represented by "Heat of the Moment," and the material by Palmer's more pop-oriented group P.M. is eminently accessible. The 3 project material shows a mix of pop and progressive sensibilities that should have proved more popular than it did (their version of "Eight Miles High" is fun). And the disc ends on a deeply personal note, with a live performance by Palmer with the Buddy Rich Orchestra -- an acknowledgment of Palmer's debt to the legendary jazz drummer (whom he got to know in the later years of his life) -- playing "Shawnee." The ELP material is all on disc one, and it is also sketchy -- the more developed 1977 version of "Tank" is present, and it is the earliest composition represented, but obviously Palmer's contributions to the trio go deeper than a track such as that; the opening section of "Tarkus" could just as easily have been included. In Palmer's case, as opposed to that of his bandmate Keith Emerson, at least his reach doesn't exceed his grasp -- "Concerto for Percussion" by Joseph Horovitz is well within his abilities as a player and does, indeed, give him an opportunity to say something with his playing in a classical context. The sound is excellent apart from the latter track, and the annotation is very thorough, if a bit disjointed.