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Classically influenced pre-punk rock period offerings from EL&P and Jethro Tull

Jethro Tull
Jethro Tull

This final April Sound Check features classically influenced pieces from beloved pre-punk period artists. First, new string quartet re-imaginings of many Jethro Tull classics; then, a voluminous documentation of Emerson Lake & Palmer’s South American shows in the 1990s. Enjoy!

‘Jethro Tull: The String Quartets,’ Ian Anderson and The Carducci Quartet (BMG Rights Management-UK-Ltd, )

Lately, Jethro Tull performances and recordings have been credited as “Ian Anderson’s Jethro Tull”; this recording features collaborative performances by Ian and The Carducci Quartet in various formats, with arrangements and additional material composed/orchestrated by keyboard wizard John O’Hara.

Jethro Tull’s songs have always been in tune with orchestration, and now many of the songs have been tailored that way. Thus, it’s hard to pick favorite songs; this is a list of favorite moments from a very tuneful whole. “In The Past (Living In The Past),” “Bungle (In The Jungle),” “Only The Giving (Wond’ring Aloud),” “Loco (Locomotive Breath)” and others led to my overall enjoyment.

This is rewarding, mostly restful listening, even for this old punk rocker.

‘Once Upon a Time in South America,’ Emerson Lake & Palmer (Rock Beat Records/MVDaudio, 1/2)

This March 31 four-CD release features live versions of catalog highlights from this progressive-rock trio (“Lucky Man,” “Tarkus,” “Hoedown” and more) recorded in Chile, Brazil and Argentina in 1993 and 1997. There are repeated takes included of many songs, some beyond 10 minutes in length.

Keyboard wizard Keith Emerson and bassist/guitarist/vocalist Greg Lake both passed away in 2016, leaving drummer/percussionist Carl Palmer as the only surviving member of the supergroup.

Disc one favorites from 1993 include the cinematic “Tarkus,” Emerson’s piano solo “Close To Home,” Lake’s showcases “Lucky Man” and “Still You Turn Me On” plus the unfamiliar-to-me “Pirates.”

Disc two 1993 favorites (from Chile and Argentina shows) are the nearly 23-minute “Pictures At An Exhibition,” featuring a drum solo that was more entertaining at the concert and “Fanfare For The Common Man/America/Rondo.”

The April 5, 1993, Buenos Aires concert continues on disc three, with these favorites: Lake’s solo version of “From The Beginning,” followed by Lake and Emerson (accordion) on “C’est La Vie,” and a lively “Honky Tonk Train Blues.”

Disc four contains one more 1993 song before heading to Rio for 10 more songs from ELPs 1997 Metropolitan Theater show. Highlights: a more studio-like “From The Beginning” with keys and percussion, “Lucky Man” with an organ solo midway, two more takes on “Tarkus” and “Pictures” and a two-verse tease on King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man.”

This collection presents the most successful progressive rock band ever in top form, which is especially valuable for ELP fans who lack the studio albums, where sound quality matters over theatrics.

Ricky Flake, a former punk rocker and current music fan, lives in Biloxi. Reach him at flakericky@gmail.com.

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