Emerson, Lake & Palmer Deluxe Editions
ELP fans who also appreciate surround sound music had to either spend a large amount of money for the fabulous (and long out of print) Brain Salad Surgery DVD Audio to hear ELP in surround, or miss out. But, Steve Wilson comes to the rescue with surround mixes of Tarkus and the self titled debut album Emerson, Lake & Palmer.
When it comes to progressive rock, there is no way around Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Keyboarder Keith Emerson, bassist and singer Greg Lake and drummer Carl Palmer were mixing Rock, Jazz, Blues and Classical music and became famous for their theatrical and extravagant live shows that were even giving Pink Floyd a run for their money. From single musical quotations to whole cover versions, they were working with compositions from Bach to Mussorgski and many inbetween, polarising critics and listeners alike. To this day Pictures at an Exhibition remains the only complete classical suite to enter the top 10 in the US and the UK.
Both Deluxe editions come in a digipac holding three discs each. Disc one is the original album as released in 1970 (Emerson, Lake & Palmer) and 1971 (Tarkus). Disc two holds stereo remixes and alternate takes and disc three is a DVD Audio with the remixes in high resolution stereo and 5.1 surround sound, all mixed by Porcupine Tree’s Steve Wilson. Steve Wilson has become an expert when it comes to surround sound mixing, and he does not disappoint here. But more on that later.
Giving the listener the choice of the original mixes in addition to the new remixes is great. I actually prefer some of the older tracks to the new mixes, when it comes to stereo. But this is Surround Sound Music, so let’s skip to the good part 🙂
As he has proven with his mixes for Porcupine Tree, Steve Wilson is not afraid to use the center speaker as prominently as the surrounds. We often find the main guitar and vocals in the center, Organs and pianos in the surrounds alongside pebbles dropped into water, hand claps and so on. It’s save to say that these are very discrete mixes. Thumbs up!
It works great most of the times and not so good in other parts. The quiet section in ‘Take a Pebble’ is very immersive, the surround mix really enhances the spaciousness of it. But when the piano comes in alone at first, the balance clearly tilts to the back until the drums join in. That’s good as an effect (like in the beginning of ‘Blackest Eyes’ on the Porcupine Tree DVD-A In Absentia) but not for longer parts. I guess it’s a matter of taste, but I prefer the main weight to stay in the front.
It definitely was a deliberate choice made by Wilson, but it also shows a problem inherent in other surround remixes of classic rock albums as well. They were originally produced for stereo and when you take them apart for surround, it can sound disconnected at times. When you listen to Steve Wilson’s Porcupine Tree mixes, you won’t find the same problems there, because the music was composed and recorded with surround in mind from the start.
But this is far from a show-stopper. Overall Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Tarkus work great in surround. To finally hear tracks like ‘Tarkus’ and ‘Knife-Edge’ in surround is an experience not to be missed. The occasional panning through the room is used sparingly but effectively. I hope we’ll see a lot more releases like this in the future!
Surround Sound Music Verdict
You’ve got to give Steve Wilson credit for creating great sounding mixes that deserve the name ‘Surround Sound Music’. A rewiever on amazon.com once called him the ‘Master of surround’ and I think this is a title well deserved. The music of Emerson, Lake & Palmer is very well suited for a surround treatment and Steve Wilson really brought out something new from the songs with his 5.1 magic. I would have preferred some instruments to move to the fronts at times, to avoid a tilt of the balance to the back, but that’s a minor nitpick and just personal preference. Overall ELP was way overdue for another 5.1 release after Brain Salad Surgery and the DVD-As presented here are a welcome addition to any surround sound music collection, especially for this price. Highly recommended!
You can get the 2 deluxe editions here: