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Review of 'Warts & All' - January 2004

by Duncan Geddes

You might think that an album from a tribute band is a bit pointless. After all, a tribute band is supposed to be a carbon copy of the original band being paid “tribute” to. However, as you will almost certainly know if you are reading this, Noddy’s Puncture are not a carbon copy band of this type. While the source material is mainly from ELP or related bands, the music is not played note for note as the originals. To be fair, this would be virtually impossible, seeing as ELP themselves changed their arrangements many times over the years, and where improvisation was involved it could be different from one performance to the next.

So what’s the album like? Well if you’ve seen them live, then you should have a very good idea. Although this live recording falls short of their live performances in terms of length, there is still a good 50 minutes of musical mayhem (meant in the best possible way!). The track list consists mainly of ELP’s classical adaptations including Mancini’s “Peter Gunn”, Copland’s “Hoedown” and “Fanfare for the Common Man” and “Beethoven’s 9th” (actually based on a Deep Purple adaptation.) Interspersed amongst these are Greg Lake’s “Lucky Man”, Asia’s “The Smile Has Left Your Eyes”, Rare Bird’s “I’m Thinking” and a medley of Fowley’s “Nutrocker” and Meade (Lux) Lewis’s “Honky Tonk Train Blues”..

One of the highlights of the album for me is the excellent rendition of “I’m Thinking” by Rare Bird. This gives a good idea of what the song would have sounded like if it had been played by ELP.

There are numerous improvisational parts to the music, as well as elements of “cut and paste”- slotting recognisable bits of tunes, sometimes ELP derived and sometimes not. An example of the former is the inclusion of “The Old Castle” and “Blues Variation” from Pictures at an Exhibition, incorporated into the middle of “Fanfare for the Common Man”. Also slotted into this piece is a bit of Grieg’s “Hall of the Mountain King”- played first on bass then taken up by the keyboards.

Although Noddy’s Puncture play music that is faithful to the memory of ELP, they put enough of themselves into the music they perform to place themselves well above the usual concept of a tribute band. The music is played with humour and dexterity, and so this CD is a must for anyone with more than a passing interest in ELP, although the album stands up in its own right.

As has been written elsewhere, Noddy’s Puncture are the next best thing to Emerson Lake & Palmer and seeing as it is unlikely that those three will ever reform, then that statement is even more valid.

 

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