Drummer Carl Palmer still hits very hard, very hard indeed. Carl Palmer is
still pushing the limits of his drumming, pushing very hard indeed. Carl Palmer
is not a half bad arranger, not half bad indeed. On Working Live - Volume
3, Palmer treats us to hard playing, pushing the limits, and playing
in and around some classic Emerson, Lake and Palmer chestnuts with a new approach.
This live album comprises Palmer’s own power trio, featuring the blisteringly
fast guitar work of Paul Bielatowicz and the locked-in, simple and effective
bass playing of Stuart Clayton. Opening with Henry Mancini’s “Peter
Gunn,” it’s difficult to tell if it is the recording or the arrangement
that makes this a little weak. Clayton is buried in the mix, lending the song
with little bottom end and Palmer isn’t doing all that much more than
play a hard snare. Fortunately, “Romeo and Juliet” fares better
with the trio sounding much more like a real band.
The centerpiece of the CD — and a very ambitious one at that —
has Palmer and his band working through almost every movement of Mussorgsky’s
Pictures At An Exhibition. With a really spectacular volume
pedal opening from Bielatowicz, the band rolls into one of ELP’s most
recognizable pieces. This is where Palmer’s chops as an arranger take
hold. There are the expected intervals where Bielatowicz and Clayton emulate
Emerson and Lake, and, for the most part, Palmer stays pretty much true to what
we know. But it’s on the quieter Greg Lake pieces where Palmer’s
band mates take over and make it their own.
Pictures At An Exhibition is top-notch; “Bitches Crystal”
is supremely amazing. Somehow the trio manages to get to the meat of what I
consider one of the better tunes on Tarkus and makes it into
a modern jazz-fusion piece. Palmer is on the mark, while Bielatowicz and Clayton
couldn’t be tighter. There’s a fun jam on “The Nutrocker,”
one of the weaker ELP covers as far as I’m concerned. The closing “In
A Moroccan Market” is a pretty awesome eight-minute-plus drum solo that
has Palmer using much of his drum arsenal, toms and cymbals especially. As a
whole, Working Live - Volume 3 is all about Carl Palmer and
his band at the top of their game, playing classic songs with a freshness any
ELP fan will enjoy and appreciate.
~ Ralph Greco, Jr.