The death of the true progressive rock era of the 1970s is often blamed upon two things - the birth of punk and the fact that bands such as Yes and Genesis were simply disappearing up their own backsides with more grandiose works, both on record and the stage.
Of all these bands, none pushed these boundaries more than Emerson, Lake and Palmer. This double DVD set, covering the band's career in what is their 35th anniversary year, shows the crazy levels things got to as we hear about the 1977 tour with a full orchestra which lost them over £2m. That's a lot of money now, but in 1977...!
Disc One of the set is split into three sections, Before The Beginning, ELP In Pictures, and a Bonus Footage Section. The first part features footage of all three members in their bands pre-ELP - Keith Emerson with The Nice, Greg Lake with King Crimson, and Carl Palmer with The Crazy World of Arthur Brown.
All three clips show the various bands in action in glorious black and white and include some very dated on screen graphics, which probably had people wowing in front of their TV sets back then in the late 1960s. The Crimson footage, of a performance of 21st Century Schizoid Man in front of some excitable hippies in Hyde Park, is particularly faulted however. The sound is quite clearly not that of the live show, all apart from the ending where crowd applause is shoddily edited in.
And bad editing and sound quality blight this whole DVD set. No more clearly is this evident than in the main feature of the first disc, ELP In Pictures - 18 of the group's most memorable songs as performed on tour, from TV appearances and promo videos.
Sound and picture quality suffer most on the old live footage and the way some of the tracks are cut short is annoying to say the least. The clip of Tank is nothing short of a disgrace. Less than two minutes long it shows Palmer in the midst of a drum solo but doesn't even get into Tank at all!
In saying this there is still much to enjoy, least not further proof of what great musicians the trio were. Lucky Man, mighty concept piece Tarkus and the band's contribution to festive radio playlists, I Believe In Father Christmas, are all included. Plus there is probably their best known tune, Fanfare For The Common Man, with the famous promo of them freezing their bits off in an empty Montreal Olympic Stadium.
Also on the first disc is a trio of bonus features. An old film of the band in rehearsal is interesting from two standpoints - a) it shows just what perfectionists they were, and b) that Emerson was the driving force to reach that perfection.
Another bonus feature sees the band discussing the band's album cover art and reveals what a poisoned chalice that was with most of the artists either dropping dead or committing suicide!
Meanwhile, the third feature is a short film of ELP taking part in a celebrity motor race at Brands Hatch in 1973, racing around in their Ford Escorts. You wouldn't see Coldplay doing that now would you!
Disc two is split up between an hour long documentary and 44 minutes from the band at the legendary California Jam event in the early 70s. The documentary sees the members reminisce with tales of rock n' roll excess and is interesting as Emerson and Lake reveal just a bit of bitterness towards each other about how things were done.
There is lots more footage from the archives to supplement the interviews, including some of the stage antics they got up to like setting off cannons, Emerson playing a piano whilst spinning 360 degrees in mid-air and how if there was an 'abuse to instruments act' he would have been locked up long ago.
The California Jam footage, an event which they co-headlined with Deep Purple, is like much of the first DVD, poorly edited with songs cutting short in their prime and starting midway through. But as a document of history is a worthwhile addition, and of course there's another chance to see that spinning piano!