3 (sometimes called Emerson, Palmer & Berry) were a short lived Anglo-American prog rock supergroup who confused the world with one album (To the Power of Three) before departing as quickly as they arrived. Although that album was critically-panned, on stage they still packed a hefty punch, and that’s where Live: Rockin’ The Ritz New York 1988 steps in. Originally broadcast on FM radio, this double disc set presents the band in all their pomp and glory, and gets a long overdue vinyl issue.
3 had an embargo on performing any Emerson, Lake & Palmer songs, they did however play tracks they covered, and it is an Aaron Copeland composition that kick this set off. Still sounding futuristic and space age, ‘Fanfare For The Common Man’ makes the perfect opener; those glacial walls of Keith Emerson’s synths stand impressively and tower over the listener before Carl Palmer’s drums come charging through the middle to get the blood pumping, and you can almost feel that beat electrifying the crowd and calling them to action. In fact, it’s Palmer’s drumming which fuels this gig and he throws his sticks around like some Nordic god of thunder, and no more so than on the following ‘Desde La Vida’. His playing reverberates around the Ritz and he handles all the time changes impeccably, guiding the band through three suites of prog rock heaven.
As with the first Tin Machine album, you get the feeling that To the Power of Three won’t be fully appreciated for many years hence and on the strength of this recording, that’s a strange anomaly. Granted, the songs are given added oomph when played live (and almost all that album is in the set list), yet they don’t sound out of place when sitting amongst the covers which pepper the performance. ‘Hoedown’ (previously played by ELP and another Copeland cover) finds Emerson all over the keys like a mouse on amphetamine and the vitality with which it’s played pours scorn on all those hipsters who write progressive rock off as prehistorically antiquated. Also appearing with 3 are guitarist Paul Keller and backing vocalist Jennifer Steele who largely blend into the background, although the latter comes to the fore on a unique version of The Four Tops’ ‘Standing In The Shadow Of Love’.
Despite To the Power of Three stalling at number 93 in the Billboard Chart, the album’s sole single ‘Talkin’ ‘Bout’ did better business and inhabits the same sonic space as Asia’s ‘Heat Of The Moment’. Sure, it’s rooted firmly in the 1980’s, but considering the quality of music that came out of that decade, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Actually, 3 had a sound that was in perfect sync with the times and cuts such as ‘On My Way Home’ and ‘Runaway’ hit the highs in an AOR/hard rock way. However, it’s the covers that are most warmly welcomed and the coupling of ‘America’ and ‘Blue Rondo’ allow bassist Bobby Berry to strut his stuff whilst another pairing, The Byrds’ ‘Eight Miles High’ and Mancini’s ‘Peter Gunn’, are radically reworked and cap an enjoyable set.
Throughout musical history the trio has been rock’s best combination (think Cream, Budgie, Motörhead), and as Emerson, Berry & Palmer proved whilst Rockin’ The Ritz, “3” is indeed the magic number.
- Fanfare For The Common Man
- Desde La Vida
- Band Introductions
- You Do Or You Don’t
- Talkin’ ‘Bout
- Dream Runner
- Creole Dance
- On My Way Home
- Standing In The Shadow Of Love
- America / Blue Rondo / Drum Solo / Fugue in D Minor BMV 565
- Eight Miles High / Peter Gunn