“There’s no questioning the quality of this collection… but is it truly essential?” Carl Palmer’s Fanfare For The Common Man box set

4-disc Celebration of the drummer’s career includes ‘scrap book’ documentary and 200-page memoir

Carl Palmer - Fanfare For The Common Man box set
(Image: © BMG)

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One of the most influential and innovative drummers of his generation and a founder member of not just Emerson, Lake & Palmer, but of proto-proggers Atomic Rooster and chart-topping 80s AOR powerhouse Asia, Carl Palmer’s long and often extraordinary career is covered here by three CDs of music, a Blu-ray ‘scrapbook’ documentary, and a 200-page autobiography.

The tracklisting of the first two CDs is almost identical to the 2001 anthology Do Ya Wanna Play, Carl? Beyond the iconic Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression, Part 2, the first disc is mostly concerned with ELP’s instrumental output either adapted from or influenced by classical and orchestral music.

It focuses on Palmer’s percussive contributions, including Bullfrog, Tank and the inspired version of Aaron Copland’s Fanfare For The Common Man. There’s the radical interpretation of Alberto Ginastera’s Toccata from Brain Salad Surgery and the 20-minute Concerto For Percussion, co-written by Palmer and composer Joseph Horovitz, bumped from ELP’s Works, Vol 1 due to lack of space.

The second disc fills in gaps around the ELP years with mid-to late-60s psychedelic pop and British blues rock curios from the likes of The Craig, Chris Farlowe and Atomic Rooster. Palmer’s appearance on Mike Oldfield’s Mount Teidi from 1982 gets an airing, as do four tracks representing the slick prog-pop of Asia, with Heat Of The Moment a reminder of quite what a potent force the band was.

Cuts from Palmer’s collaboration with Keith Emerson and Robert Berry (aka 3) mark a rekindling of the spirit of ELP in the late 80s; and Shawnee demonstrates Palmer’s jazz credentials jamming with the Buddy Rich Big Band at Ronnie Scott’s in 1986.

Carl Palmer

(Image credit: BMG)

Disc three brings us almost up to date with live versions of many ELP classics like Trilogy and Hoedown from the Carl Palmer Band and ELP Legacy shows recorded between 2002 and 2016, alongside their interpretations of other familiar compositions, such as a rocking Carmina Burana and channelling The Nice with Bernstein’s America.

It’s exceptional stuff, with Palmer a whirlwind of energy and Emerson and Lake’s parts covered by the stunning virtuosic performances of a guitarist/bassist duo, latterly the youthful pairing of Paul Bielatowicz and Simon Fitzpatrick.

As an overview of more than six decades of music-making and Palmer’s contribution to the art of the drummer, there’s no questioning the quality of this collection. However, given it’s largely a reissue of an earlier release with added video content and Palmer’s autobiography, whether it’s truly essential is a different matter.

Fanfare For The Common Man is on sale now via BMG.