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Vinyl Corner : Greg Lake ‘The Anthology – A Musical Journey’

Vinyl Corner is a feature where we take a look at vinyl pressings of various albums and weigh them up to see just how good they sound, how well they’re pressed and what sort of packaging to expect – as well as giving a brief overview of the music itself. We’re taking a look back at one of progressive rock’s key figures for today’s instalment – one which focuses upon an upcoming career-spanning collection of work from Greg Lake.

The Music:

Regular readers of Vinyl Corner may well recall that the late progressive rock innovator Greg Lake was last covered as part of this series when – back in May of last year – we reviewed ‘The Anthology (1970 – 1998)’, an expansive, four LP overview of genre titans Emerson, Lake And Palmer. As difficult as it may be to think back to a time before COVID-19 and all its uncertainties and anxieties, the latest release from Lake – who passed in 2016 – invites the prospective listener to look back not just a few years but instead a few decades, offering a compendium of the man’s work over various projects and musical eras. A double LP overview of a career which began in the political upheaval and sonic innovation of the late 1960s and which ended in the comparatively sane days of the early 2010s, the somewhat prosaically-titled ‘Greg Lake: The Anthology – A Musical Journey’ certainly lives up to its moniker in the sense that it delivers a coherent and compelling musical narrative across its roughly linear selection of tracks from its author’s lengthy discography. Those whose familiarity with progressive rock is more than passing – which realistically, would likely describe a large percentage of this release’s prospective buyer base – will need no reminding of Lake’s importance to the genre at large but this anthology does do its best to recontextualise his talents, shedding fresh light on his skills in the process. Damn-near every prog-head worth their salt will immediately recognise King Crimson’s titular ‘The Court Of The Crimson King’ when it appears only a few tracks into this selection but, rather than offering the studio version which has at this point been so widely heard as to be ubiquitous, the compilers instead present a spirited live version of the song from shortly after its release. Although it admittedly isn’t quite as good as the take which appears on the album of (almost) the same name, its inclusion represents a refreshing desire to offer something to all of Lake’s fans, rather than simply to those more casual listeners who may lack extensive knowledge of his work. Such an attitude is prevalent across this compendium’s generous runtime, making it of value to both established fans and newcomers.

The Pressing:

Spread over two black vinyl LPs, ‘Greg Lake: The Anthology – A Musical Journey’ has been pressed by the Czech Republic’s ever-popular GZ Media, a pressing plant whose status as one of the largest in the world means that you’ll almost certainly own at least something manufactured by them, whether you realise it or not. That ever-present demand upon their services has, at times, been known to negatively affect the quality of their produce; it isn’t altogether uncommon for their releases to suffer from surface noise and warping. Fortunately, initial signs are promising for this particular release; both records sit flat on the platter in the case of our copy and surfaces are lustrous and impressively glossy, being free of the signs of handling from the factory process which all-too-often appear on brand-new records. There are, admittedly, a few strands of debris from the printed paper inner sleeves which are included with this release (more on those later) but they are easily removed with a carbon-fibre brush, which is an essential accessory for any discerning record-head. Playback is similarly impressive by and large, although there are a few moments where we heard some minor background noise – primarily during the album’s quieter sections. We certainly didn’t find any intrusive flaws however and, indeed, the release’s dynamic mastering was enough in itself to make this a pleasurable listen throughout.

The Packaging:

As is befitting of its essentially eulogic nature, ‘Greg Lake: The Anthology – A Musical Journey’ places images of the artist at various points in his career at the forefront of its visual presentation. A very stout, thick-spined gatefold cover is used as the canvas over which numerous striking images of Lake are placed and the printed paper inner sleeve in which the records are found likewise offers high-quality images of the artist in the midst of performance. Although befitting of the release’s visual aesthetic and therefore a welcome inclusion, they are also manufactured from the kind of glossy paperstock which tends to stick to records as they are accessed, meaning that caution should be taken when removing the LPs. We would, as in the case of any release that includes such inner sleeves, also suggest storing the records in polylined inners for superior protection. As attractive as ‘Greg Lake: The Anthology – A Musical Journey’s presentation will doubtless be for long-term aficionados, it’s the fantastic twenty seven page booklet which raises the standard of this collection’s presentation to one of truly noteworthy proportions. The liner notes included in it are extensive, offering an enlightening account of Lake’s career, as well as boasting a collection of numerous shorter memories and insights from those who knew and worked with the man, in addition to a generous selection of images.

Final Thoughts:

Few artists receive a tribute as thorough and respectful as ‘Greg Lake: The Anthology – A Musical Journey’; those looking to acquaint themselves with the work of a singular figure in his era’s music could do far worse than adding this one to their Christmas wish list and long-term fans will find as much to enjoy in the excellent booklet which is included in this tastefully presented title as in the musical content itself.

Enjoyed this feature? We’re always looking for further albums to highlight on Vinyl Corner – and if you have a vinyl release that you’d love to see written about here, please get in touch at martin.leitch@gigsoupmusic.com – it would be great to hear from you!

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