From the Beginning: Greg Lake Shines in a Solo Spotlight

Greg Lake | The Anthology: A Musical Journey | (BMG)
Four out of Five Stars

Greg Lake was always the good soldier, a willing participant who added so much of his innate abilities to the various groups that he was involved in. And like so many musicians who were content to contribute to the bigger whole, his tremendous talent was freely given with a suppressed ego and the willingness to give to the greater good. It ought to come as no surprise that the two seminal groups that he was involved in — the initial incarnation of King Crimson, and the band to which he lent his name, Emerson Lake and Palmer (later Emerson, Lake and Powell)— succeeded so effectively largely due to Lake’s efforts and the combination of skills that made them possible.

As a result, this long overdue anthology puts the spotlight squarely where it belongs, on Lake’s expressive singing, songwriting and supple bass playing. It goes without saying that he exceeded at all three and indeed, his rich, resonant vocals still make him one of the greatest singers Britain’s ever produced, a model for so many prog singers that came after as well as those that are influenced by him even today. Likewise, hearing his signature bass playing on ELP’s “From the Beginning,” “Still…You Turn Me On” and “Take a Pebble” offers a reminder of how he was able to imbue tone and texture into the trio’s complex melodies while also fulfilling a rhythmic responsibility.

Ultimately, it’s those qualities that make each of these 33 selections such a cerebral spectacles. Naturally, all his standout tracks are included, but in a nice twist, the producers opted to substitute some live recordings to represent some of the better known offerings. As examples, the listener is treated to a concert performance of “The Court of the Crimson King” from a 1969 Crimson performance the Fillmore West, as well as two other Crimson standbys — “21st Century Schizoid Man” and “I Talk to the Wind” — represented as solo reads from London’s Hammersmith Odeon in 1981, and from a Stateside appearance circa 2012, respectively. Remarkably, all of the live material compares favorably with the original studio renditions.

A few samplings from Lake’s often overlooked solo albums are included, but the his two best pieces are, arguably, “Lucky Man,” said to be one of the first songs he ever wrote, and “I Believe in Father Christmas,” a surprise holiday entry and his first actual individual outing. Each is as impressive sounding now as they were when first released. And while there are few actual rarities, a pair of seminal tracks from his mid ‘60s outfits, The Shame and The Shy Limbs, give collectors enough of an incentive to revisit the better known songs they already own.

Naturally, the prerequisite liner notes are of a high quality as well, given that they offer an overview of Lake’s career up until the time he passed away in 2016 at the age of 69, as well as tributes from various colleagues and some photos that find him in both personal and professional settings. Taken in tandem, The Anthology:A Musical Journey provides a fine career overview, one that effectively underscores Lake’s lasting musical legacy. Indeed, what a lucky man he was, and how lucky we were to have shared the journey.


Leave a Reply

Chris Stapleton Takes His Time ‘Starting Over’

Great Songwriters on Great Songs, Part 7: Suzanne Vega on “I Think It’s Going To Rain Today” by Randy Newman