Emerson, Lake & Palmer

The Original Bootleg Series from the Manticore Vaults, Vol. 3

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No less than five discs serve up four phenomenal ELP concerts in the final installment of a series that remains one of the most audaciously brilliant in any band's catalog. We begin with excerpts from shows recorded at the Anaheim Stadium in 1974 as the band toured Brain Salad Surgery and Wheeling Colosseum in 1977 on the Works tour -- a longer look at both would have been preferable, of course, but we're dealing with original bootleg releases here, the source of every recording in this series, so what you see is what you get. Besides, all misgivings are put to one side as the second and third discs transport us to the Royal Albert Hall in 1992 for a show that might be a little late in the day for longtime aficionados, but is nevertheless as dramatic as ELP ought to be. Much of this same repertoire is then repeated across discs four and five, recorded a mere five months later in Los Angeles, although as always with ELP, there are sufficient surprises to ensure that your attention never wanders: a career-best "Pirates," for example, and a mighty "Fanfare for the Common Man." Earlier in the set, the Anaheim version of "Karn Evil 9" suffers only from the excision of the Third Impression (since re-incorporated on 2010's A Time and a Place box set), while the 1977 rendition of "Tarkus" is likewise an invigorating listen. Casual fans, of course, will have realized long ago that the Manticore Vaults sets are probably not for them. Converts, however, should seek them out whatever the cost.

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