GREG LAKE -- In Concert on the King Biscuit Flower Hour (King Biscuit Flower Hour)

I remember, probably around 1982, hearing this show from the Hammersmith Odeon in London on the radio. I taped it as it was being broadcast, and enjoyed it for quite a few years. Unfortunately, due to extreme overplaying on my part, the tape finally died. I scoured the collector's circles for years afterwards, looking for a copy. Everywhere I searched, the results were the same--nothing. A few years ago, King Biscuit announced plans to start releasing things from their archives. Although there were no definite plans to release this particular show, I kept my fingers crossed that I'd soon be able to replace my worn out tape. In 1995, they released the concert on CD, adding two songs from the show that weren't in the original broadcast.

Now there is a new collector's version that contains everything from the original CD, plus two bonus tracks. More on those later. First, let's talk about the concert itself. This was Lake's first solo tour. He played material from his entire career--King Crimson, ELP, and a handful of songs from his solo debut. Lake was in fine form on vocals and guitar, and his band was superb. Ex-Thin Lizzy guitarist, Gary Moore handled the lead guitar chores. Ted McKenna, from the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, played drums. Tommy Eyre did a respectable job on the keyboards (considering the shoes he had to fill), and Tristam Margetts played bass.

The show kicked off with a stellar "Fanfare for the Common Man" and never looked back. Moore turned in an excellent performance on the song, and managed to sneak in a tease from "Killer" (a Moore original written for the Cozy Powell album, Over the Top) during one of the solos. Moore adds a much harder edge to Lake's music, and his considerable talents shine throughout the CD. There is one minor problem with the CD. The indexing on the first two tracks doesn't correspond with the listing on the back of the jewel box. It doesn't affect the music, of course, but if you go to track two expecting to hear "Nuclear Attack," you'll have to sit through the first part of "Karn Evil 9." Life's tough, eh?

Following "Nuclear Attack," there are two more tracks from Lake's first solo album--"The Lie," and the excellent "Retribution Drive." "The Lie" is much more powerful than the studio version, and "Retribution Drive" features some great guitar work from Moore. Up next is what could easily be considered the definitive "Lucky Man." The arrangement is slightly different, yet stays true enough to the original to keep it recognizable. ELP never came close to this version of the song in concert. Lake's strong, passionate vocals on the track sound better than ever.

Lake and his band played a couple covers on the tour, too--"Parisienne Walkways" (a smoldering blues workout from Moore's 1978 album, Back on the Streets) and the Smokey Robinson/Beatles classic, "You Really Got a Hold On Me." The latter is interesting the first time you hear it, but after that, you'll end up skipping it. After another track from Lake's solo debut, the band launches into the CD's creme de la creme, "21st Century Schizoid Man." King Crimson fans won't want to miss this one. Wrapping things up on the original disc was an excellent version of the Crimson namesake, "In the Court of the Crimson King." At 5:30, it's only about half the length of the studio version, but they still do a great job on it.

What if you're not satisfied with the stellar performances on this disc and want more? Well, you're in luck. The new limited edition version of this CD contains two bonus tracks--a short interview with Lake where he talks about the tour, and an exclusive live version of "C'est La Vie." The original 24-track master tapes for the London show were lost in a fire at the King Biscuit offices, so the song wasn't included on the original disc. Luckily for us, they located a bootleg version of the song, and decided to include it here as a bonus track. Recorded about a month later in New York, this rendition of the song is unlike any you've heard before. It's almost a metal song now, with a screaming solo from Moore.

The liner notes are almost identical between the two CDs. The booklet in the collector's edition has an updated paragraph at the end, plus all the liner notes duplicated in French. There are also two photos that do not appear in the original booklet. All the limited edition CDs are numbered, and autographed by Lake. The only catch is that the limited edition discs are not available in stores. You can order the CD by calling 1-800-820-4068, or through the official Greg Lake website. No self-respecting Greg Lake fan should be without this CD.

© 1997 Steve Marshall