This was originally released in 1997 as a limited-edition CD by Cyclops, and since has been made available by Bill on Bandcamp. Recorded in Tokyo on January 23rd of that year, it was designed solely for people who were seeing the band in concert and might want to have a memento of what they sounded like in a live environment. Here we get nearly seventy minutes of the classic trio sound being produced by Bill Berends (guitar, midi-guitar, vocals), Rich Berends (drums and percussion) with Phil Antolino (bass and midi-pedals). I still count myself incredibly fortunate to have caught this line-up at one of the few UK shows they performed, only a few months after this album was recorded, as here was a prog trio who not only never sounded like a trio there were times when they really were pushing the boundaries of prog. Far heavier than any of the other prog rock acts around, but somehow never falling into metal, here was a bombastic Wagnerian band taking ELP to a logical much heavier conclusion.
I am guessing this was recorded to straight to DAT, as this sounds as if any postproduction was limited at best, and it is the sound which lets this down. Listening to this on its own is incredibly enjoyable, but there is no doubt that the sound is flat and pretty unmixed. One gets the impression that this was exactly what the audience heard that night, warts and all. There are times when it isn’t quite right, when the guitar drops behind the midi, or the vocals waver, but none of this stops the guys from pulling out all the stops. Why they have never become a household name I will never know, and Mark Robotham of Grey Lady Down (later Thieves’ Kitchen) proved he had real balls that night at The Orange when he sat down on the same drum stool recently departed by Rich Berends who makes Bonzo, Keith Moon and Carl Palmer seem quite sedate. Phil shows he is more than happy to prove his worth with some incredible bass playing while Bill cranks it up and rips the place apart with incredible guitar while also somehow keeping everything going on the keyboards as well.
This isn’t the album to start listening to the band with, even though they were on fire that night with yet another incredible 24-minute-long “Brainstorm”, but for any fan this is essential.
8/10 Kev Rowland