Emerson, Lake and Palmer had a really good decade together and then ran out of steam in 1979. Their album, Love Beach, was the nadir of their time together, recorded to fulfill their recording contract, it was absent of the creativity and energy that made them a trendsetting and popular band.
For the next thirty years, ELP would come back together for periods of time, then spin off in other directions. Their reunions were high anticipated by fans, punctuated by new albums and tours, attempting to create some of the magic that made chart and tour favorites during the 1970’s.
Each reunion, for me, seemed to lower the bar in terms of quality and memorable moments. For hardcore fans, this is blasphemy, but through the lens of time and some objectivity, reunion are never as good as the original. Granted, we want our musical groups to continue, and the anticipation replaces objectivity; we relive the past through the present. I’m guilty of it.
Even members of ELP knew they were offering a lesser product, not that they wanted to, but knew that time and other factors had diminished their ability and their passion.
After the 40th Anniversary Reunion Tour, band members reflected on the live recordings.
“We rehearsed for five weeks, which I could never understand why we needed to rehearse that long,” said drummer Carl Palmer. ” “Upon hearing the recordings, maybe five weeks was not long enough,” Palmer added. “It wasn’t to the standard that I liked, and I didn’t think it sounded that good.”
“Working with the band was a little difficult because everybody’s a bit old in the tooth now,” said bassist Greg Lake.
ELP would not get another chance to play their music in concert. Both Lake and Emerson died in 2016.
Longtime bands like the Rolling Stones, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Moody Blues, the Who, Yes, Chicago, Fleetwood Mac all struggled to keep their sound and performance up to snuff. Granted, most of these bands replaced members and supplemented the band with additional musicians and singers on tour. ELP did not, it was just the three of them, good or bad, they stayed with the original members, for as long as they could.
The 40th Anniversary Reunion tour wasn’t bad, the recorded concert from that tour had a lot to like. If you expected 20-something performers recreating the albums, that was an impossibility. However, if you were okay with 60-something men with less dexterity, weight issues, lower vocal range and less energy – what you got was pretty good.
Each band member continued working after 2010, mostly with their own bands or solo. Emerson and Lake did a tour together, which could have been titled “life in the slow land” because of the intimate nature of their tour. Emerson worked with his band and did a number of solo projects. Palmer had his band and played with Asia, his other group, as they recorded and toured. Lake also did solo work, including a solo tour, with just his guitar and his stories. He wrote a book, Lucky Man, that was released after he died from cancer. Emerson took his own life, reportedly depressed over neurological problems with his hands that affected with playing keyboards. Carl Palmer keeps the ELP legacy alive with his own band, playing the ELP hits.
I go see a lot of these bands and performers as they celebrate these milestone anniversaries and in some cases, bring their careers into dock. Sometimes you see them at their best, other times they struggle to pull it off. No matter, I just appreciate the time we had along the way and the memories.
“Whether it’s the best of times or the worst of times, it’s the only time we’ve got.” – Art Buchwald