EMERSON LAKE AND PALMER
Jazz Related Rock / Third Stream / DJ/Electronica Jazz • United Kingdom

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Emerson, Lake & Palmer were progressive rock's first supergroup. Greeted by the rock press and the public as something akin to conquering heroes, they succeeded in broadening the audience for progressive rock from hundreds of thousands into tens of millions of listeners, creating a major radio phenomenon as well. Their flamboyance on record and in the studio echoed the best work of the heavy metal bands of the era, proving that classical rockers could compete for that arena-scale audience. Over and above their own commercial success, the trio also paved the way for the success of such bands as Yes, who would become their chief rivals for much of the 1970s.

Keyboardist Keith Emerson planted the seeds of the group in late 1969 when his band the Nice shared a bill at the Fillmore West with King Crimson, and the two first spoke of the possibility of working together. After
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EMERSON LAKE AND PALMER Discography

EMERSON LAKE AND PALMER albums / top albums

.. Album Cover 3.98 | 7 ratings
Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Jazz Related Rock 1970
.. Album Cover 3.44 | 7 ratings
Tarkus
Jazz Related Rock 1971
.. Album Cover 4.17 | 7 ratings
Trilogy
Jazz Related Rock 1972
.. Album Cover 3.72 | 7 ratings
Brain Salad Surgery
Jazz Related Rock 1973
.. Album Cover 2.30 | 5 ratings
Works Volume 1
Third Stream 1977
.. Album Cover 2.98 | 4 ratings
Works Volume 2
Jazz Related Rock 1977
.. Album Cover 2.00 | 2 ratings
Love Beach
Jazz Related Rock 1978
.. Album Cover 3.39 | 3 ratings
Emerson, Lake & Powell
Jazz Related Rock 1986
.. Album Cover 2.48 | 2 ratings
To The Power Of Three (as 3)
Jazz Related Rock 1988
.. Album Cover 3.93 | 2 ratings
Black Moon
Jazz Related Rock 1992
.. Album Cover 1.55 | 2 ratings
In The Hot Seat
Jazz Related Rock 1994
.. Album Cover 2.00 | 1 ratings
Re-works
DJ/Electronica Jazz 2003

EMERSON LAKE AND PALMER EPs & splits

EMERSON LAKE AND PALMER live albums

.. Album Cover 4.37 | 4 ratings
Pictures At An Exhibition
Jazz Related Rock 1971
.. Album Cover 3.05 | 3 ratings
Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends - Ladies And Gentlemen
Jazz Related Rock 1974
.. Album Cover 2.98 | 2 ratings
In Concert
Jazz Related Rock 1979
.. Album Cover 3.43 | 2 ratings
Live At The Royal Albert Hall
Jazz Related Rock 1993
.. Album Cover 2.98 | 2 ratings
Works Live
Jazz Related Rock 1996
.. Album Cover 3.25 | 2 ratings
Live At The Isle Of Wight Festival 1970
Jazz Related Rock 1997
.. Album Cover 2.98 | 2 ratings
King Biscuit Flower Hour
Jazz Related Rock 1997
.. Album Cover 3.43 | 2 ratings
Then & Now
Jazz Related Rock 1998
.. Album Cover 2.98 | 2 ratings
Live In Poland
Jazz Related Rock 1998
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Original Bootleg Series From The Manticore Vaults Vol. 3
Jazz Related Rock 2002
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Fanfare The 1997 World Tour
Jazz Related Rock 2002
.. Album Cover 2.00 | 1 ratings
High Voltage Festival
Jazz Related Rock 2010
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
A Time And A Place
Jazz Related Rock 2010
.. Album Cover 3.50 | 2 ratings
Live At The Mar Y Sol Festival
Jazz Related Rock 2011
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Live At Nassau Coliseum '78
Jazz Related Rock 2011

EMERSON LAKE AND PALMER demos, promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)

.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
On Tour
Jazz Related Rock 1977

EMERSON LAKE AND PALMER boxset & compilations

.. Album Cover 4.00 | 1 ratings
The Best Of Emerson Lake & Palmer
Jazz Related Rock 1980
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Atlantic Years
Jazz Related Rock 1992
.. Album Cover 3.50 | 2 ratings
The Return Of The Manticore
Jazz Related Rock 1993
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Best Of Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Jazz Related Rock 1994
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Fanfare For The Common Man
Jazz Related Rock 2001
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Best Of The Bootlegs
Jazz Related Rock 2002
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Ultimate Collection
Jazz Related Rock 2004
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Live In Concert & More...
Jazz Related Rock 2012
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Live In California 1974
Jazz Related Rock 2012

EMERSON LAKE AND PALMER singles (0)

EMERSON LAKE AND PALMER movies (DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS)

.. Album Cover
0.00 | 0 ratings
40th Anniversary Reunion Concert
Jazz Related Rock 2011

EMERSON LAKE AND PALMER Reviews

EMERSON LAKE AND PALMER High Voltage Festival

Live album · 2010 · Jazz Related Rock
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
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"We rehearsed for five weeks, which I could never understand why we needed to rehearse that long, Upon hearing the recordings, maybe five weeks was not long enough. It wasn't to the standard that I liked and I didn't think it sounded that good" (Carl Palmer)

They sound like a hungover pub band bluffing it under the delusion that only friends and family are in attendance. On the evidence of this superannuated bumper pay day that the trio repaid with their greatest hits karaoke, it saddens me to report that ELP are no longer even the best ELP tribute band around. Many of their missed entries and cues conspire to sound rushed and tardy, too early and too late which makes for a very nervy listening experience for this self-confessed ELP fanboy. Bum notes proliferate throughout making parts of Take a Pebble and Fanfare for the Common Man stray perilously close to self-parody. (I could swear Emerson is wearing mittens during Karn Evil 9 1st Impression Part 2) Musicians of this calibre however, cannot be uniformly abject for 90 minutes (which is exactly how long a soccer match lasts but it probably feels longer seeing as how we're watching Chelsea's pensioners, one of whom is certainly worthy of a red card or failing that, a red face Greg...) The FOH mixing boffins were clearly unable to tame the sonic gremlins that spoil much of this performance: the drums at the outset sound alternately like Tupperware surdos or timpanic watering cans. The Barbarian they portray here would probably break into your apartment, dust the place, tidy up the rooms and leave behind some baked fruit scones. Similarly, the extant Tarkus critter has been lobotomised into some sort of de-fanged proggie moggie who answers to the name of 'Frisky'. Lake's bass on Knife Edge approaches 'twangy brittle' rather than the required 'guttural brooding' although in mitigation, the aforementioned knob twiddlers have managed to perform some much needed running repairs to the appalling sound quality in the interim. On the up side, there appears a genuinely innovative moment re the unconventional piano intro to Lake's habitually guitar led From the Beginning which explores the implied jazz flavour of his 9th chord vamp quite beautifully. The synth patch used on Keith's outro solo is alas, a disaster, coming across like a busking Rolf Harris armed with Casio's flagship stylophone. Touch and Go lives up to it's associations with a completely fumbled/dropped ball intro from Keith that seems plain vanilla senile (How does this one go again lads? high dotage/dosage?) but settles down thereafter into a reasonably robust reading of what is probably the only classic post 80's ELP number by any permutation of those initials. I'm trying hard to accentuate what few positives there are but why is everything on here just so damn half-baked, wimpy and soulless?

"For me, it's just a pride thing Unless it's as good as what it can be, then I can't do it. I would have carried on if it had been as good as it was. I don't believe it was and I don't believe it would have ever gotten back to that standard". (Carl Palmer)

The piano improvisation through which Emerson negotiates from Take a Pebble to the Tarkus medley is brilliantly realised and the resultant Stones of Years is spared the indignity of degenerating into any anticipated 'Gallstones of Tears'. Things have perked up considerably hereabouts and Keith's organ solo is a veritable highlight of the set. Rather bizarrely, Greg deems it prudent to attenuate the feedback present on this number by erm, shouting 'feedback x 3' into the microphone as if this will somehow make it less noticeable? Worse than that, the now spherical blimp has the chutzpah to regale us with Mass without a trace of knowing irony. Although it's hardly a stand-out in their songbook, it's refreshing to hear a live version of Farewell to Arms from the criminally neglected Black Moon album. This has a quiet and understated dignity about it that survives Lake's habitually treacly 'spoken tag-line' bathos and the odd lapse into poorly digested Elgar betrayed by the arrangement. The grazing anti-warhorse that is Lucky Man benefits from a slyly ingenious piano intro which seems rather wasted on what has always been for me, a very insubstantial ballad. What weight it might possess is further undermined by it's author forgetting the lyrics to the first verse. Keith's gritty and ballsy organ certainly beefs things up considerably but once again, this is a brownie with delusions of being a three tiered wedding cake. To be fair to Prog's favourite law firm, (Emerson, Lake & Palmer est 1970 prop G. Lake esq) they offer a very spirited and in places, moving retread of Pictures at an Exhibition which follows the latter day truncated versions as contained on the likes of the Return of the Manticore. Here the band at least exemplify the hard won lesson that despite the stubborn excesses of their Prog lineage, 'less' is finally acknowledged as begetting a more satisfying and economic 'more'.

Much of the raggedness and inaccuracies that crept into Emerson's playing circa the early 90's were attributable to a trapped nerve condition that eventually required corrective surgery. Although the operation was considered a complete success it did have a debilitating effect on Keith's pianistic abilities thereafter. He had to pare down and relax his playing style somewhat compared to the shredding pyrotechnics of his 'gun-slinger' years. However, based on the evidence of the subsequent Keith Emerson Band studio album and Live in Moscow recordings with Marc Bonilla, his playing is unfailingly top notch on both so I'm at a loss as to why there are so many clinkers on High Voltage

By this point ELP didn't even have either 'Ham or Cheese' to offer their famished but faithful fanbase but we can at the very least finally answer that nagging question first posed in 1971: Are You Ready Eddy to pull those faders down? Yep, and turn out the lights when you leave the building thanks, this show ended 30 years ago.

EMERSON LAKE AND PALMER Works Live

Live album · 1996 · Jazz Related Rock
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EntertheLemming
- Synchronised Drowning Becomes an Olympic Event -

Although this suffers from the stigma of 'contractual obligation' album notoriety in most quarters, there is plenty on 'Works Live' that is unjustly overlooked by many ELP afficiandos and perhaps deserving of some re-appraisal. The album started life as a single only release called 'In Concert' but was later expanded by the inclusion of more material from the Montreal Olympic Stadium concert with the hand picked (and ruinously expensive) ELP Orchestra. Keith Emerson has stated that the band did not consider this additional material to be of a sufficiently high sound quality to be included on the original record. He even just mailed the finished album to the record company on completion of his production duties, and this will give you some idea what sort of ebb ELP had sunk to at this time.

Their paymasters at the time, Atlantic Records, had no such qualms about these shortcomings and cobbled together this 'bigger/faster/brighter/louder/more expensive' version with which to empty our threadbare pockets and swell their already bulging coffers.

'Introductory Fanfare' - Rather a stilted and cheesy little curtain raiser penned by Palmer and Emerson to get us on our way which is pleasant enough until an MC who makes Ashley Holt seem comparatively 'urban' intones the 'ladies & gentlemen' tagline. Reach for the bucket....

'Peter Gunn' - ELP do a great job with Henry Mancini's 60's spy music which is all the more remarkable without the obligatory twangy electric guitar of the original. Keith's brass sounds are suitably tacky via the Yamaha GX1 and although hardly a grand musical opus, it is great fun and played with just the right amount of tongue in cheek bravura. For those of you with sufficiently strong stomachs, there is a 'dance/house' version of this track by someone/thing called Bassment Jaxx which proves if nothing else, that even God has a slops tray.

'Tiger in a Spotlight' - A much leaner and earthier version of this tune which I much prefer to the rather boggy studio version that continually crops up on 'best of(s)' and compilations (Dunno?) Keith dials up a hybrid organ/piano timbre here on the GX1 which I have always loved to bits and the bass and drum dialogue between Lake and Palmer has a sinewy tautness that lends this simple shuffle blues a real excitement and energy. Both of Emerson's solos are a thrilling treat and display his continuing ability to assimilate the vocabulary and techniques of boogie piano into the electronic realm of rock.

'C'est la Vie' - I have never been a keen advocate of this gushingly wet Lake song but can report that this live rendition is at least a damn sight more robust that its studio equivalent on Works Volume 1. Keith displays his impressive versatility by playing a note perfect version of the session player's accordion solo (but No, he does not stab the squeezebox with knives in case you're wondering, or the author alas)

'Watching Over You' - This really should have been included on Greg's side of Works Vol 1 and although it's a very lightweight solo lullaby it still completely dwarfs most of the songs he did include on that record. Mr L was always at his most enjoyable when tackling simple acoustic songs like this.

'Maple Leaf Rag' - apart from the purpose of ingratiating themselves to a Canadian audience (Pourquoi?)

'The Enemy God Dances With The Black Spirits' - This is a sparkling little jewel in a rather sombre tiara, a band only version of the Orchestral adaptation of Prokofiev's music that appeared on Carl's slice of Works Vol 1. I certainly loved the latter but this is possibly even better and Emerson has done a fantastic job of arranging the very complex orchestral parts for just his two hands on Hammond and synth. There is some great playing by all the trio here on what is a fiendishly difficult piece to replicate. The organ sound throughout this album is mouth wateringly yummy and combines a real ballsy grunt with some crystalline detail.

'Fanfare for the Common Man' - This reeks of some clumsy tape splicing methinks, as there appears to be a very discernible tuning 'lurch' where one version mutates very clumsily into another? Given that the GX1 synth was an analogue creature prone to 'tuning drift' from temperature and humidity, there may have been instances when it suffered some 'excitable temperament' effects and you can hear evidence of this on this track. The playing as ever, is top notch and the inclusion of Freddie King's 'Hideaway' during the lengthy synth improvisation is a nice touch. There are however, far superior versions of this live ELP staple available elsewhere.

'Knife Edge' - ELP's perennial warhorse pulls up lame here due in no small measure to Greg's impossibly tinny and twangy bass line on this track. Why you would embark on a tune that relies on a deep and guttural bass tone by instead employing the timbre of an eight string soprano ukulele is beyond me. What was Lake thinking about? Shame really as the remainder is very good and the inclusion of the orchestra on the Bach Italian Concerto quotation towards the end is very powerful and effective.

'Show Me The Way to Go Home' - Certainly a fitting standard to cover on ELP's swansong, this is again good fun and the live version is considerably more gutsy and rockier that that on Works Volume 2. As you would expect, they usually closed the shows with this one which makes the next track's running order all the more galling.....

'Abaddon's Bolero' - I think they usually opened with this on the concerts with the orchestra during that ill fated tour. Can't say that either of the orchestrated versions from Keith or ELP even come close to matching the brio and excitement of the 'Trilogy' incarnation. Despite the multitude of gradually building layers of counterpoint (which Keith couldn't hope to replicate on his own), maybe this wasn't ever meant to be played by an orchestra in the first place? Keith listen, I know you're a stubborn bugger, but enough already. It ain't never gonna work....

'Pictures at an Exhibition' - Or 'Polaroids of Hemorrhoids' Comes across as a 7 course meal we are supposed to gulp down as it it were a microwaved TV dinner. Indigestion and/or diarrhoea invariably result from such fast foods and there is audible and pungent evidence of this to suggest band and orchestra were embroiled in an indecent scramble to see who would get to the toilet first during this sprint through 'Pictures'. Once again we encounter Lake's wretched 6 string bass tone which makes his parts sound like they are being performed by George Formby via a small transistor radio. Imagine Shakespear's 'Hamlet' played by Sylvester Stallone and condensed down to 'To be or what...?'

'Closer to Believing' - Similarly to 'C'est la Vie' this is a much better version than that heard on Works Volume 1 and we do get to hear what is a very good song once the overwrought arrangement has been suitably deflated to illuminate some of the finer detail. I just wish that Lake had given us a band only version of this tune, as it certainly has a melodic strength to warrant a much more sympathetic and robust accompaniment without the sentimental treacle.

'Piano Concerto #1 3rd Movement' - A real highlight of the set where Emerson's piano and the orchestra lock horns in an unflinching battle to see who is the last man standing. Although all the orchestral players are amplified, it was done by fixing a specially designed pickup to the acoustic instruments that would preserve the rich sonic palette and subtle nuances of timbre obtained from these sources at the much higher volumes they needed to be heard along with the electronic band. The results here are very authentic indeed and this is perhaps one of the few instances where orchestral sources sound 'untarnished' by amplification. It's just a pity that they didn't include the 1st and 2nd movements also and dispensed with some of the weaker material on 'Works Live' instead.

'Tank' - I know a lot of ELP fans who wax lyrical about this version of 'Tank' but I can't say I share their unreserved passion for this rather perfunctory lope through an overripe chestnut. Again, this might be another instance of an Emerson composition that is insufficiently malleable to withstand being shoehorned into these jazzy slippers. (You shall NOT go to the ball)

Yep, it's very patchy with some really brilliant moments followed by large swathes of mediocrity and the odd lurking pile of poo. The track listing might lure some ELP newbies into buying this first, but they would be better to purchase either one of the many fine compilations that are around or start at the 1970 debut, reach Brain Salad Surgery then STOP. GO BACK. DETOUR AHEAD. GIVE WAY TO INFIRM DINOSAURS.

EMERSON LAKE AND PALMER Pictures At An Exhibition

Live album · 1971 · Jazz Related Rock
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EntertheLemming
- Unravelling the Old Castle in Newcastle -

Live albums as good as this one have something of a 'fluky' element to them i.e. Many of the early 70's concerts given by ELP were at the mercy of the mercurial Moog and it's tuning mood swings. You can hear examples of this on the disappointing video version of this piece (recorded at the Lyceum in London) where there are unscheduled 'atonal' moments which spoil the otherwise magnificent music. Similarly, the 'Mar Y Sol' performance captured finally on the 'From the Beginning' boxed set, is somewhat sullied by Dr Robert's pet beast wilting in the Caribbean humidity.

No such niggles here though, as the band are captured on a great night, mercifully free of the aforementioned technical gremlins (Newcastle can be many things, but certainly not humid in November).

The sound is simply stunning, you are placed right there in the front row (c.f 'Welcome Back', where we appear to be seated in the car park) Emerson's Hammond has never sounded this feral on a live recording, being neither too distorted (the Nice live) or too squeaky clean (Royal Albert Hall) It's just a perfect balance and lets his playing illuminate a detail and depth all too often obscured by prodigious technique funnelled through a fuzzbox.

I read somewhere that the intro to Mussorgsky's work was played on a real pipe organ (did they have one at Newcastle City Hall?)

As we have come to expect, the contributions of both Emerson and Palmer are damn near flawless but perhaps the greatest surprise here is just how much of the creative workload is taken up by Lake, whose contributions over the passing years became less and less significant in the band's output. Perhaps the only real timekeeper in the group, his bass underpins beautifully the technical maelstrom whipped up by E & P, with distortion and wah-wah effects used judiciously to spice up the timbres in this heavily organ dominated piece. Lake's solo spot 'The Sage' is beautiful, and apart from being a lovely Spanish tinged ballad brilliantly sung, displays his highly skilled classical guitar technique. From this point on, there is no similar example of this type of virtuosity from fatboy in ELP's catalogue.

There is a very liberal quote from a Bill Evans tune during the exhilarating 'Blues Variation' but I cannot remember what the song is called ('Interplay' perhaps?) If there is a greater example of jazz/blues organ over a swinging shuffle beat in the history of rock, then I have yet to hear it.

'The Curse of Baba Yaga' represents something almost encroaching heavy metal (without the requisite guitars) and has an intensity and edge that slowly left their subsequent work. Some ELP fans relegate this track to filler and, although I recognise their trepidation about the 'head banging' aspect of it, am puzzled at their dismissal of a ferociously driven heavy rocker containing a spine cracking tritone in the main riff and some real visceral gusto from Lake.

(Ya want jam on it lads?)

Lake's vocal on the climactic ending of 'The Great Gate of Kiev' must be a highpoint in the band's career, a sweening and soaring full stop to a magnificent part of ELP's recorded history.

I have heard other rock artists attempt portions of this work and have to conclude that it is ELP's unfailing grasp of the techniques of symphonic arrangement and interactive counterpoint that gives their version such a huge sound. You can layer 30 synth patches together if you like via MIDI and make the bass and drums sound like they are played in the Taj Mahal, but it will still come nowhere near the sort of power and weight realised here with considerably more modest equipment.

(The whole is greater than the sum of its parts).

If there is a negative aspect to this wonderful record it may be interpretive i.e.

Emerson has often bemoaned the disrespectful nature of pop music's bowdlerization of the classical repertoire and saw himself as respectful to the original composer's intentions. Why then encore with B Bumble and the Stinger's 'Nutrocker?' - unless you want to shoot yourself squarely in the foot?

Notwithstanding the foregoing, ELP's version cooks up a storm and is yet another example of this supposedly cold and po-faced band having a huge amount of fun.

Although they did not deliberately set out to sell classical music to a rock audience, ELP are certainly responsible for millions of people, who would otherwise have baulked at the idea, listening to such works and having their musical horizons widened. Perhaps we really should give them credit for that didactic aspect of their very influential presence in music.

EMERSON LAKE AND PALMER In The Hot Seat

Album · 1994 · Jazz Related Rock
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EntertheLemming
- Vacating the Throne in the Smallest Room in the House -

Most of the tales that surround the making of this grubby and tatty little album carry an uncanny resemblance to the sorts of excuses trotted out by beleaguered soccer franchise owners when their team is on a 10 match losing streak:

'Injuries to key players'

(Emerson had not long undergone arm surgery for nerve entrapment and his pliancy in agreeing to press ahead and overdub his parts individually with his one remaining good hand beggars belief)

'Confidence and morale have taken a dent, the fans need to get behind us and encourage the team'

(Hiring Disney composers and Sony hit writers to contribute to a document featuring three of the most indelible talents to ever grace rock music might just contribute to the faithful streaming towards the exits)

'The coach has my complete trust and he can and will turn this around'

(Producer Keith Olsen forbade any conceptual pieces or classical adaptations and therefore conspired to abort a version of the 'Karelia Suite' by Sibelius with Allan Holdsworth on guitar appearing on the album, although by way of self-serving recompense, we do get to hear his own daughter speaking on one track)

We can't blame Olsen entirely for this debacle, but he has become tantamount to the midwife of choice for the soulless, having delivered to the expectant world the air-brushed platinum blonde diaper burritos of Fleetwood Mac, Whitesnake, the Scorpions, Saga, Starship, Rick Springfield, Pat Benetar and Emmanuel (Who? a Mexican hair-gel counterfeiter, that Interpol are probably still looking for)

Hand of Truth - In contrast to the horrors that lie in wait this is as good as it gets. Even a compound proggy meter is involved for the opening piano motif plus a subsequent tempo change into an impressive slower section but compared to an unimpeachable past, it is distinctly humdrum for ELP. Keith perks things up with some signature squealing Moog and Greg's vocal is at least a damn sight more robust than his prose:

'I hear the cry of freedom, We have the power to change the world'

I doubt if Olsen would have even let the trio change their socks unsupervised.

Daddy - a very attractive chiming guitar arpeggio certainly, but it just never goes anywhere. The treatment of a serious subject (child abduction) just comes across as mawkishly trite due to Greg's bathetic delivery and despite some tasteful piano textures from Emerson, 'Daddy' smacks of an effective intro being stretched into a pseudo song. The aforementioned Olsen 'fille' gabbles the title and I have to confess, such shallow manipulation and emotional bankruptcy means I've never yet made it through to the end of this shameful tear-jerker (pun intended) I could swear Palmer's entire drum part consists of just a sole thwack of the snare on the 4th beat of every bar.

One By One - Don't be deceived by the contrapuntal and fugue like intro as it just degenerates thereafter into stolid US 'rawk' keech*. (*The latter being a Scottish pejorative which the rest of you should not find hard to orient to your own vernacular. Tip: use your sense of smell) Keith presumably was the last person in the navigable universe to be told that orchestral stabs were considered passée at least 10 years prior. The chorus is memorable in the sense that inoculation shots leave an indelible mark on their recipients but Emerson's descent into sub Asia cliche sus 4th chord resolutions on a polysynth patch reeks of desperation.Greg's lyrics alas, just reek:

'Out of the cocoon reaching for the moon'

There 'is' a lovely cathedral organ segment but it's over far too soon and similarly the instrumental section to the fade is entertaining but gets buried beneath those wince inducing orchestral stabs. Enough already.

Every time I listen to this album I cannot help but imagine the beetle-browed Olsen sat in the producer's chair peering through the control room window with that reproachful look on his face that says:

'If just one of you guys tries any of that fancy dan progressive flashy shit with me, I'm nuking the critter'

Heart on Ice - Imagine a collaboration between Elgar and the Scorpions on a '3am in the morning' ballad written specially for those forbidden from staying up beyond 7pm. Lake once again double underlines his credentials to be the undisputed James Joyce of prog:

'We just flicker like a candle in the cathedral of our dreams'

Thin Line - Palmer's shuffle is about as stiff as the inhabitants of a Mosh pit at a Brahms recital while Keith does at least get to contribute some guttural Hammond but the 'faux' jazzy Steely Dan harmonies and female backing vocals in the chorus are but a gentle slap on the bottie off deserving of a firm kick in the backside for all concerned.

Man in the Long Black Coat - Possibly the best/least wretched track on the album and there is finally some mood building atmosphere invoked on this Dylan song. Carl Palmer has claimed that this was the centrepiece of a 20 minute Emerson conceptual piece ditched by producer Olsen, although it's hard to see how even Keith could have expanded such a modest musical seed as this to epic status. If nothing else, it was capable of getting me to seek out the original and all things considered, Dylan has served Emerson well over the years. (see 'My Back Pages, Country Pie, She Belongs to Me')

Change - Borderline endearing but it just doesn't suit an Englishman like Lake's voice. Vaguely redolent of something that might have popped up of the 'To The Power of Three' album with Robert Berry. One of those 'unfinished' songs that most people leave unreleased because they couldn't come up with even a mediocre verse melody for the rather ordinary chorus.

Give Me a Reason To Stay - A royalties cheque? Joking aside, this is decent MOR penned by the aforementioned Disney and Sony hacks Steve Diamond and Sam Lorber respectively (sic). Nice chord progression and a well crafted development but it ain't even remotely an ELP song. Someone like Neil Diamond or (gulp) Tom Jones could make this very good indeed. (Hey I'm trying to accentuate the positives here OK?)

Gone Too Soon - Depending on whose version of events you believe, Emerson and Palmer don't even play on this critter. Yes, there's audible clockwork synth and metronomic drums but these were allegedly provided by session-men. Both certainly sound like stock 'off the shelf' parts without a vestige of personality to betray their origins. Pat Benatar astride a Jefferson Skateboard and never was a track so inappropriately named.

Street War - Like Euro synth pop from the mean streets of Hampshire as if parodied by an English REO Speedwagon tribute band, but possibly even less gritty than that. Keith's inspired chromatic descending organ lick is kinda cool but once again this just ain't right for Greg's limey tonsils and he sounds about as credible as my Dad tackling an Ice-T medley.

It saddened everyone who wasted their ill-gotten gains buying this album that our favourite prog band of all had been reduced to the malleable puppets of their corporate paymasters. There was no tour and precious little marketing that I can recall after its release and in hindsight such a diplomatic withdrawal was probably a blessing. I do however still hold out a strand of hope that the aborted 'Crossing the Rubycon' project will one day be completed and released. By all accounts this shelved album was a fully fledged progressive beastie that even if it were the final 'hurrah', would prove a much more elegant exit than this ignominious whimper.

BTW You can get the utterly fab and groovy bonus Dolby Surround version of 'Pictures At an Exhibition' via other ELP reissues. I'll let you do the maths.

EMERSON LAKE AND PALMER Black Moon

Album · 1992 · Jazz Related Rock
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EntertheLemming
- Emerson v Emerson with Victory Records as the Loser -

I was really surprised at how low people rate this album given that it is probably the strongest ELP studio release since 'Brian Salad Surgery' appeared in 1973.

Given that a reunion was completely unexpected and that our three heroes now found themselves aboard a sinking ship adrift on the choppy high seas of corporate 'rawk'(HMS Victory Records, who went under) they deserve great credit for producing a record as good as this one. Stories abound that Victory originally approached Emerson to compose a soundtrack for a movie and 'suggested' that he get Lake and Palmer on board. The fact that no-one involved can even name the film in question begs some questions. There are many others who view this version of events as apocryphal and would consider more plausible, Emerson's urgent need of huge amounts of cash after a vicious divorce had 'cleaned him out'

Go figure....

Short pieces are the order of the day here, with no extended suites as in days of yore. Some reviewers are convinced that the band were 'under instructions' to write concise, sharp and snappy radio fodder for this but Emerson's version of events is quite different. He has stated that he had 'carte blanche' from the record label to write and record whatever he wanted, irrespective of genre or track length.

OK, this AIN'T 'Trilogy' or 'Tarkus' but neither is it 'Love Beach' or 'In the Hot Seat' either. There is not a bad track on the album and although rather bereft of any obvious ELP instant classics, we have a very fine collection of symphonic prog tunes where a welcome 'modern' economy is evident.

The only real niggles I have are that Carl Palmer appears to have decided that in 1992 there is no place for 'interactive' drumming anymore, so his contributions are no more than a very elaborate 'click track' for Lake and Emerson to keep time. Although this adds considerable weight and power to the rhythm, and is consistent with a desired contemporary feel, much of the previous subtlety and interplay between the trio is lost as a result.

Also, Greg's voice has understandably lost much of its range and tone down the years, but I do miss that unique 'tenor sings rock' texture that only he and say, John Wetton seemed to possess.

BLACK MOON - A real 'grower' this one, as on first hearing I relegated it to 'stadium grunt' due to its use of the 'We Will Rock You' drum beat (are you squirming yet Carl?) but after repeated listens, the overall structure and complexity reveals itself, layer by layer. Check out the closing organ solo over the very inspired 'folky' bridge chord progression. True killer. Why, even fatboy has honed a social conscience for this one with his depiction of the planet ravaged by eco unfriendly nations etc

PAPER BLOOD - a simple 'rocker' but damn fine for all that. Greasy organ open fifths from Emo hammer out the deceptively simple riff over which Lake intones a tale of the futility of the acquisition of wealth (Right on sister! Greg's tits appear to have been firmly in the wringer when they booked the studio?) Rather refreshing 'solo' from Mr E, which consists of some incredible stabbing of an ambiguous 'cluster' chord over the incessant rhythm (You have to hear it)

AFFAIRS OF THE HEART - Greg's first contribution to the album, and a very fine acoustic ballad it is too with Emerson playing a very minimalistic (by his standards) and beautiful accompaniment on ethereal piano and synths. Like so much of his 'background' work on this record, the textures and timbres are exquisite. From memory, a version of this song was recorded by Lake and Geoff Downes?

ROMEO AND JULIET - Prokofiev gets thrust into the ELP blender and comes out screaming. The beat has a real 'Hendrix' vibe and the synth sound used for the main melody is spine-tingling. Emerson has stated in an interview that before arranging this piece for the band he played the original piano score over and over again until he got it down perfectly...then threw the manuscript paper away (Prokofiev might have thrown it back, but who cares?) This track was a particular standout on the subsequent world tour.

FAREWELL TO ARMS - Perhaps the first 'baby clanger' on the album. Quite a decent tune but spoiled by Lake's rather mannered vocal (you know those really irritating instances when he 'speaks' the tagline of a song?) and the feel is not dissimilar to a rather sluggish adaptation of 'Elgar' The closing synth solo almost saves the day however, and there is more than a passing nod in the direction of 'Lucky Man Moog' here.

CHANGING STATES - this is an ELP version of a tune that Emo composed for a solo album (where it was called 'Another Frontier') Not really that different until the slowed down bridge section appears that precedes the ending. I actually prefer the solo album version but the superior organ, bass and drum sounds here make this a real treat. 'Bach' is the obvious inspiration here and Emerson whips up a real storm with his own inimitable appropriation of what the 'fugue' form should sound like.

BURNING BRIDGES - Surprisingly, this was a song written with ELP in mind, by the album's producer Mark Mancina and very fine it is too, replete with a strong melody and memorable chorus to boot. The organ sound and melodic shape employed throughout is redolent of 'Procul Harum' and never fails to summon the hairs on the back of my neck to attention. Exhilarating. (Mr Mancina is now a very successful and prolific composer of movie soundtracks).

CLOSE TO HOME - Emerson's solo piano piece and unfortunately not one of his best. Not a stinker by any stretch of the imagination, but this tune has always struck me as having 'odd' phrasing in the main hook and fails to satisfy despite some masterful playing and an interesting developmental section in the middle. Perhaps 'A Blade of Grass' would have made a better choice. (I think this alternative solo piano track was included as a bonus track on subsequent reissues of the CD?)

BETTER DAYS - Mercy! this is almost funky?, with staccato clavinet and as close as Carl will ever get to approaching an 'urban' vibe on his kit. This type of modernity had been attempted before by ELP, but compared to other (atrocious) efforts on 'In the Hot Seat' and 'Love Beach' it proves they COULD assimilate contemporary developments within the broader context of a progressive style. I am advised that the storyline was inspired by an incident in Emerson's life where he (anonymously) gave a considerable amount of cash to a homeless person in the street.(NOT his ex wife presumably) The ending section to the fade out is magnificent. No pyrotechnics or 200 notes a minute here, just fantastic use of timbre, texture and dynamics to get the job done. Breathtaking (and simple)

FOOT PRINTS IN THE SNOW - Emerson must have loosened the reins to give Greg TWO solo pieces on the one record? Anyway, this is another fine acoustic song with a particularly memorable hook and although very understated, rather surprisingly provides the album with a satisfactory conclusion. (ELP usually started with a hurricane and built up to a climax)

So in summation: This album is NOT even remotely AOR or POP and I am puzzled by the charges of same levelled against it from previous appraisals. Certainly, the tracks are shorter than we have come to expect and there is no overriding 'concept' piece upon which to focus our attention. So what?

I just wish that those anodyne and soulless charlatans like Marillion, IQ, Pallas et al get the chance to hear what their own mutant baby christened 'Neo Progressive' COULD have been if put in the hands of the masters.

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