Carl Palmer Band - Working Live - Vol. 2

Year of Release: 2004
Label: Sanctuary
Catalog Number: 06076-86356-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 41:42:00

Somewhere around the age of thirteen or so I decided that the only thing wrong with Tarkus was its almost total lack of guitar playing. In the ensuing years I have heard a few versions of "Tarkus" with wall to wall guitar playing, yet still, when I saw that this latest release from the Carl Palmer Band (a guitar, bass and drums power trio) included an adaptation of "Tarkus," I had to have it.

Palmer's new trio, which includes guitarist Shaun Baxter and bassist Dave Marks, perform a set of familiar Emerson, Lake & Palmer tunes along with one other familiar composition, "Carmina Burana" by the German composer Carl Orff, and one effort, "J Section," penned by all the members of the trio. The band favors an aggressive, muscular, heavy metal sound with just a pinch of jazz expressionism, and brings a power to the ELP classics that will thrill old progressive traditionalists as well as today's progressive metal heads. Baxter is a demon on the electric guitar and is sure to please most listeners. His two handed tapping technique is the equal of any other guitarist's that I can think of offhand, and his lead work is generally pretty impressive, though he brings nothing really new to the instrument, sounding to me much like the Joe Satriani of yore.

This live set begins with Copland's "Hoedown," long an ELP concert opener, and though presented here with substantially the same arrangement as that used by ELP, the piece fails to catch fire, perhaps because the predominant melodic line of it's theme requires some awkward picking on a guitar. Also a factor, Baxter's tone is derived from the use of his bridge pickup and a ton of mid-range from his amps, and the main theme of a tune like "Hoedown," with a predominance of roots and fifths, just sounds mushy to me with this type of timbre.

The next number the band cranks out is an immensely, hugely successful version of "Trilogy." This tune was written for the guitar, umm? ok, not really, but one might think so after hearing the stirring arrangement of this 1972 masterpiece. The piece becomes a platform for Baxter's tapping technique and glissando lines which he uses to great effect, playing way, way out of the envelope on the work's opening theme, and for bassist Dave Marks and his six string bass. Marks has the considerable portfolio, not only of filling the shoes and bass lines of Greg Lake, but to comp some of Emerson's rhythm work as well, which he does in "Trilogy" by playing bass chords beneath Baxter's fluid, legato lead lines. This, I think, is the best transformation of ELP material on this release and the whole group is at their best on this track.

"J. Section" is a jazz guitar workout, similar to a lot of the music of guitarist Alan Holdsworth. Baxter abandons his molten overdrive for a while and cops a tone that sounds like a buzzing electric piano as he displays some nice chromatic licks that will certainly grab the attention of any jazz aficionados. Palmer's drumming is heavy, yet loose, expressive and free, and his playing has never been better than with this new trio.

Next is "Tarkus & Aquatarkus" which unfortunately yields mixed results. Emerson's complex chord inversions and dissonant progressions, especially in the first movement of "Tarkus," do not lend themselves to transposition to the guitar, and I find some of Baxter's interpretation of this classic brittle and annoying. His attempt to duplicate some of the more rapid fire diatonic chord changes results in an avalanche of screeching triads, though Emerson's single note lines, which constitute a large part of the first movement, are more suitable for guitar, and are played with a fiery abandon that does this cannon of keyboard wizardry proud. All in all, it is a noble effort and I'm glad they tried it.

"Carmina Burana" should sound familiar if you've ever seen the movie The Omen or any of about a hundred other films and television shows that have used this piece in their soundtracks. The band's arrangement is sleek and raw, and this rivals "Trilogy" as the album's high point. Dave Marks' bass playing dominate the early proceedings, and as a soloist he is a wonder to behold, playing Hendrix like double stops and spitting out ripping triplets. Shaun Baxter lays out another jaw dropping solo, and he throws in everything including the kitchen sink, with slick sweep picking, glissando slides and more tapping than a performance of "Riverdance."

The set ends with "Fanfare & Drum Solo," Palmer's adaptation of ELP's adaptation of Copeland's heroic work. Again, the band begins with a fairly faithful reading of ELP's arrangement before Baxter indulges in another slippery, anything goes guitar solo, and by this time I sadly realize that I've had my fill of blazing, wrenchingly emotive sixty fourth notes. Palmer's drum solo comes to the rescue, filling up a good six or eight minutes that would otherwise be devoted to yet another guitar solo. Palmer is now the brutal master of an impressively large double bass kit and leaves no doubt as to his percussive intentions. A large chunk of his solo consists of a mad cacophony of cymbals, bells and wood blocks before the obligatory bass pedal insanity. His playing is as tight as ever and even more energetic, if that is possible, than thirty years ago. Carl Palmer is still the man, and the man still has a thing or two to show the youngsters.

This is an unrelentingly ferocious release from the band, and that may wear thin on some listeners, but for those looking for unabashed displays of shameless virtuosity, look no further.

Hoedown / Trilogy / J. Section / Tarkus & Aquatarkus / Carmina Burana / Fanfare & Drum Solo

Carl Palmer - drums
Shaun Baxter - lead guitar
Dave Marks - bass guitar

1 PM - 1998 Working Live-Vol. 1 (2004)
Working Live - Vol. 2 (2004)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: May 16th 2005
Reviewer: Tom Karr
Artist website:
Hits: 845
Language: english


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