There are creative purple patches and then there are the three scant years in which ELP wrote and released Trilogy, Brain Salad Surgery and brought new meaning to the term ostentatious when they unveiled the triple vinyl live album, Welcome Back…. It says something about their place in the world at the time that a three-disc live album would land them the Number Four spot on the Billboard chart in the US. Commercially and creatively speaking, ELP were at an all-time high.
It’s hard to fault this kind of source material, but there are only so many times you can reinvent the ELP wheel in commercial terms. Fans and purists alike will be delighted to find that this series of reissues comes as 140gsm vinyl packs (at Greg Lake’s behest, apparently), as a HD digital download and lavishly packaged CD sets. King Crimson’s Jakko Jakszyk’s familiarly sterling if not entirely new work (he’s almost become their aural archivist) is pleasingly evident on Surgery and Trilogy’s extra discs with his stereo mixes from 2014 and 2015, respectively. Sad to say though, that his dazzling 5:1 mix, included on the last reissue of Trilogy, is missing here. Surgery’s extras also include the curio that was the NME Flexi Disc Version of Excerpts From Brain Salad Surgery.
This new remastering of the original material has given it a warm, emboldened edge, while Chris Welch’s liner notes, plus interviews, vintage artwork and unreleased pictures make for a robust release. Though there’s no getting away from the ghost of Keith Emerson (to whom these albums are dedicated), that lingers here, ushering these albums on from catalogue and legacy recordings to something akin to a testament to his legend.