Two key figures of the British progressive rock era offer stripped down, acoustic versions of their music on these new releases from Keith Emerson, who passed away in 2016 and John Wetton who left us in 2017.
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By Warren Kurtz
Emerson Plays Emersonis an hour-long piano CD from Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s Keith Emerson, originally released in 2002, and now reissued. “Creole Dance” is reminiscent of hearing piano exclusively on “Fugue” from ELP’s Trilogy album. “Prelude to Candice,” from the film Muderock, recalls a bit of what Keith Emerson brought to the soundtrack of the 1981 Sylvester Stallone thriller Nighthawks. “The Dreamer,” from the film Best Revenge, is melodic, with strings augmenting the performance. While most of the album features solo piano, there is a jazz trio on a unique interpretation of Gershwin’s “Summertime” and “B&W Blues.” The tempo is increased on “Honky Tonk Train Blues,” where Keith Emerson is joined by Oscar Peterson and a big band on a 1976 recording. The album closes with a fast paced three song medley, recorded at the age of 14, sounding like a player piano ragtime backdrop to a silent movie. Keith Emerson passed away in March of 2016.
In 2016 we wrote many musical memorials and hadn’t seen anything like it in one year. By the end of the year we lost 2/3 of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, when Greg Lake passed away in December. Early in the year we were amazed to learn that we lost two members of the Jefferson Airplane in the same day, Paul Kantner and the band’s original female vocalist Signe Anderson. There were big names in our stories including David Bowie, the Eagles’ Glenn Frey, Leon Russell, George Michael of Wham! and Prince. We also covered Jerry Corbetta of Sugarloaf, Dale “Buffin” Griffin of Mott the Hoople, Dan Hicks of Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks, Gary Loizzo of the American Breed, Pat Upton of the Spiral Starecase, Maurice White of Earth, Wind and Fire, and more. We thought 2016 would set a record year for rock and roll deaths, but then came 2017.
John Wetton's Akustika / Akustika IIis a live 2-CD package with the first disc being a dozen song collection from October 1995 concerts, while the second disc is comprised of 15 songs from a November 2005 show. These are acoustic performances with John Wetton’s vocals shining throughout and accompanying himself on piano or acoustic guitar. Standouts include “Rendezvous 6:02” which originally appeared in the late ‘70s when he was in the band UK, co-written with Eddie Jobson, “Don’t Cry,” from his time with Asia in the early ‘80s and “Arkangel” from a late ‘90s solo album. Acoustic versions of “Heat of the Moment,” “Only Time Will Tell,” “Sole Survivor” and “The Smile Has Left Your Eyes” from his Asia years are also included. The first CD also has the sounds of strings, enriching the songs. Five of the songs from the first CD are repeated within the second CD, offering yet another version for the listener, including the gentle “Book of Saturday” from his years with King Crimson. John Wetton passed away in January of 2017. Ian McDonald from King Crimson, Foreigner and now Honey West told Goldmine, “In less than a year I lost three of my contemporaries, Keith Emerson, Greg Lake and John Wetton.”
2017 not only continued the passing of musical talent, which we saw spike in 2016, but significantly exceeded it. From the early days of rock 'n' roll we lost Chuck Berry and Fats Domino. Greg Allman and Glen Campbell had been battling illnesses when they passed away, but Tom Petty was a big surprise to everyone, right after the conclusion of a Heartbreakers reunion tour. We lost Chris Cornell in the middle of a scheduled Soundgarden tour. With Walter Becker, half of the nucleus of Steely Dan is now gone. We had three tributes from our Goldmine writers on David Cassidy, sharing Partridge Family memories. Band leaders J. Geils and Paul O’Neill of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra left us. Drummers also had a rough year with the loss of Sib Hashian of Boston, Butch Trucks from the Allman Brothers Band, Skip Prokhop of Lighthouse and Ammon Tharp from Bill Deal and the Rhondels along with that group’s producer Jerry Ross. We lost both singers who brought “Time Won’t Let Me” to the radio as singles, Sonny Geraci with the Outsiders and later Climax, and Pat DiNizio of the Smithereens. Half of the musical Young brothers passed away, first George Young of the Easybeats followed by Malcolm Young of AC/DC. We lost the soulful voices of Robert Knight, Warren “Pete” Moore of the Miracles and Joni Sledge of Sister Sledge, and the country voices of Don Williams and Troy Gentry of Montgomery Gentry. We also said goodbye to guitarist Rick Parfitt of the Status Quo, keyboardist Goldy McJohn of Steppenwolf, and Steam’s Gary DeCarlo who sang “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye.”
In addition to coverage in print issues of Goldmine, most of our musical memorials can be found online at www.goldminemag.com.
To win both Keith Emerson and John Wetton CDs, all you have to do is put your email address in the box below by January 31, 2018 11:59 p.m. You will immediately be entered in the Giveaway and as a bonus you will receive Goldmine’s informative weekly eNewsletter (collecting news/tips and exclusive articles and interviews with your favorite classic artists). We will randomly draw winners from the entrants. We have two (2) sets of these CDs to give away, so your chances are doubled.