Hyperbole is nothing new in the world of rock’n’roll, especially when it comes to repackaging someone’s musical history and sending it back out into the world. You’d be forgiven, then, for a raising an eyebrow when Greg Lake says this about 1972’s landmark Trilogy album: “If I were forced to choose just one album from the catalogue, then it would probably have to be Trilogy. This record was made at a time when the band’s inspiration and motivation was absolutely on fire…”
Believe the hype. The year 1972 was the high-water mark for ELP. They might have gone on to sell-out stadium shows, a tax exile lifestyle in the Bahamas and the kind of animosity towards each other that you usually associate with a celebrity divorce (even if they did reunite briefly in 2010), but Trilogy, as the co-joined cover artwork suggests, was all three members working as one.
More than 40 years later and the bravura, pomposity and daring experimentation remain resoundingly intact. From the faintly ridiculous (The Sheriff, Hoedown) to the sublime (the ageless From The Beginning, the epically built The Endless Enigma Pt. One), ELP’s Trilogy record is the kind of album you broker legends from.
That said, how many times can ELP reinvent one of their own wheels? What makes this latest three-disc edition of Trilogy the definitive, must-have version? Technology may have subsumed the world of the reissue, but does it truly enhance the original or is it just so many bells and whistles? A little of both, truth be told, though if there’s one musical form that truly benefits from a digital makeover it’s prog and its lyrical nooks and crannies.
The new stereo mix of the original album makes everything ring bright and true (not least the previously unheard version of From The Beginning, even it doesn’t stray too far from the original), but it’s disc three and its immaculate 5.1 mix (by King Crimson’s Jakko Jakszyk) that will have audiophiles and ELP fans alike sagely stroking their chins and rifling through their wallets.
Sit in just the right spot and you’d be forgiven for thinking that Keith Emerson and his Hammond organ had taken up residency next to your coffee table while Carl Palmer rattled around in the kitchen./o:p