Greg Lake – Songs of a Lifetime (Esoteric) review
The voice of ELP & King Crimson revisits his past, and tells some great stories
It’s no longer an option – it’s imperative that every classic rock musician tell his story. While we wait on Greg Lake’s installment (to be titled Lucky Man – out late Summer), here comes Songs of a Lifetime, which acts as an audio accompaniment to the upcoming book.
While Lake was researching his autobiography, he realized that he had some rather amusing stories to go along with his best songs. He decided to put together a “one-man show,” where he would play guitar, bass or keyboards to a pre-recorded backing track and go on tour. The curve ball here is that not only would he tell stories, he would also put microphones in the audience, and allow his fans to share their memories of particular songs as well. Songs of a Lifetime is a document of that intimate tour.
Just because you’re a great musician, doesn’t always mean you’re a great story-teller. That’s the big surprise with Songs of a Lifetime – Lake comes off as warm, inviting, and downright hilarious, during parts of the show. While some of his tales can take several minutes, he never comes off as rambling – a true art for sure.
He touches on all aspects of his long career – starting with the early days of King Crimson. He does a truncated version of “In the Court of the Crimson King” before revealing the story behind that band’s infamous debut album cover. He imparts a weariness to another Crimson track, “I Talk to the Wind,” that can only come with the wisdom of old age.
He hits all the high points of his tenure in the mega-successful trio Emerson, Lake & Palmer. From the gorgeous acoustic “From the Beginning,” to the bombastic “Karn Evil #9 1st Impression Pt. 2,” Lake shows the diversity of his former band. He tells a fantastic story about how he wrote their signature song “Lucky Man” at the tender age of twelve, and how the other members hated it at first.
He also touches on a few of his influences – there’s a rather funny recollection of him seeing his hero, Elvis Presley, in Vegas in 1970, and how it negatively affected him. His voice has deepened considerably over the years, but it’s actually quite suited for the cover of “Heartbreak Hotel” – one of biggest surprises of the album. He also recalls a conversation with Ringo Starr while on tour with the All-Starr Band, before launching into “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away,” which turns into an audience sing a long at the end.
These aren’t attempts at spectacular performances. It’s more of a laid-back journey through the past, with Greg Lake as your guide. This excellent live set certainly whets our appetite for his upcoming memoir. –Tony Peters