Greg Lake

From the Underground, Vol. 2

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Like the first volume of this series, this gathers rare recordings from throughout the bulk of Greg Lake's career, spanning the late '60s to the mid-'90s. Lake might be one of the most famous musicians associated with progressive rock, but you'd have a hard time taking that impression away from this CD if it was the first or only sampling of his music you heard. Rarities collections can't serve as a fair career retrospective, of course. But this does score low on the desirability meter, or at the very least is an item that only collectors might have want to hear, for several reasons. First, the inclusion of work from several of the contexts in which he's played -- King Crimson, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Emerson, Lake & Powell, the Greg Lake Band, Greg Lake's Ride the Tiger, and just plain Greg Lake (the last in the form of some unreleased solo studio recordings from the early '80s) -- works against either thematic coherence or listenability. Also, the post-'70s material -- that is, the majority of this disc -- reflects a time in which Lake drifted from genuinely progressive, if sometimes bombastic, rock to a slick AOR-pop sound that hasn't dated well, and that relatively few of his fans would consider to be his peak era. Finally, two of the more interesting, earlier recordings -- a live "Epitaph" from King Crimson's set at the famed July 5, 1969 concert at London's Hyde Park in which they preceded the Rolling Stones, and "Preacher Blues" from a 1971 ELP concert -- are disappointing, the first owing to not-so-hot fidelity, the second as it's an uncharacteristic ragged blues jam. Emerson, Lake & Powell's live 1986 recording of "Step Aside" is a relative standout, if only because its 1940s pop feel is different from so much of what Lake has done.

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