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3.96 | 15 ratings | 3 reviews
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Album · 1972


A1 The Endless Enigma (Part 1) 6:37
A2 The Fugue 1:57
A3 The Endless Enigma (Part 2) 2:00
A4 From The Beginning 4:14
A5 The Sherriff 3:22
A6 Hoedown 3:48
B1 Trilogy 8:54
B2 Living Sin 3:11
B3 Abaddon's Bolero 8:13


Drums – Carl Palmer
Organ [Hammond], Piano [Steinway], Synthesizer [Moog] – Keith Emerson
Vocals, Bass, Guitar, Producer, Lyrics By – Greg Lake

About this release

Island Records – ILPS 9186(UK)

Recorded at Advision

Thanks to snobb for the addition


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- The Venus de Milo attempts the music of Emerson, Lake and Palmer -

'The Endless Enigma' - Of all the large scale pieces produced by ELP, this Dali inspired triumvirate is perhaps the least satisfying. The bass drum as 'heartbeat' metaphor steals a march on Floyd and there are some eerie Moog atmospheres shattered violently with 'hamster steeplechase over the piano keys' glissandos so beloved of Emerson. After some strident pedal point bass and a few (much sampled) bongo rolls, the engine finally fires up and kicks into a wicked shuffle groove over which the Hammond spits out a suitably aggressive statement of intent. Regrettably all this tantalising foreplay is in anticipation of a main sung theme that when it appears, renders the foregoing as a bit of a 'kiss on the porch tease'.

The melody is decent enough but the stilted and halting feel of the verses is nowhere near close to that of 'majestically' as instructed on the published manuscript.

The piano interlude is a very accomplished (and finger blisteringly difficult) piece of writing by Keith, which displays to full effect his commanding grasp of a variety of compositional forms, moving through a gentle and wistful opening towards a complex fugue with some mind boggling counterpoint under which Lake adds some inspired and memorable 'singing' bass.

ELP appear to be double parked in a cul de sac with an expired license at this point so adopt some clever 'call and response' dialogue between Palmer's tubular bells and Emerson's Moog as a preface to reprising the opening sung section albeit at a slower tempo. I'm not entirely convinced that the song either warrants such repetition or that the fugue section belongs at its centre.

The individual sections are certainly effective but the overarching structure is somewhat strained.

'From the Beginning' - Another generous helping of a considerably slimmer Greg Lake on this fatalistically inclined paean to the vagaries of love. He deploys 9th chords here quite unusually and buttresses his tightly wound creation with a memorable bass line and tasteful electric guitar solo. Emerson's Moog solo on the outro is an unbridled joy.

'The Sheriff' - Palmer's commitment of the drummer's cardinal sin (banging your sticks together by mistake) is captured for posterity on the intro before we gallop off into the sunset on a very enjoyable and light hearted cowboy pastiche featuring some clippety-clop organ. The instrumental section is rather unusual in contrast to what frames it, by being almost akin to jazz rock in places. The final verse is ended by a hilarious gunshot ricochet and a brilliant piece of saloon bar piano from Emerson.

Who says ELP are miserable bastards?

'Hoedown' - Became something of a live staple for many years to come and Copland's jaunty rodeo music is for the most part preserved in Emerson's adaptation save the classic whooping synthesizer glides that introduce the piece. You can have great fun trying to identify all the north american folk tunes he manages to quote from. (or don't and take up knitting instead, the choice is yours)

'Trilogy' - A rare instance in ELP of a large scale work being seeded from just a single theme as stated by the unadorned Moog 'violin' on the intro. Thereafter we move into a very beautiful and haunting piano setting of this motif sung dreamily by Lake to what is presumably a jilted lover ? Emerson, obviously heedless to the risks of a dotage crippled by arthritis, regales us with yet more knuckle busting flourishes at the piano before the tempo changes to 5/4 for a bombastic transposition of the phrase to the Moog. The lead sound used is definitively 'heroic' and would have brought a flush of pleasure to even Dr Robert I am sure.

Next up, a slightly 'swung' 6/4 groove which betrays a jazzier and more chromatic feel than what went before. I can't help but detect the influence of Miles Davis on this section, particularly the extended solo passage that centres around a B7#9 chord. The band really kick some proverbial backside here with Palmer laying down one of the 'funkiest' beats in his locker and Lake anchoring this maelstrom with an infectious ostinato. Numerous leads are layered and overdubbed as the improvisation develops before culminating in the squealing protestations of the synths subject to this unbridled fury. (Blimey Guv'nor)

To round things off there is another sung section featuring Lake with what sounds like his tongue firmly in the region of his cheek:

- You'll love again I don't know when but if you do I know that you'll be happy in the end -

The original melody does seem rather 'forced' in this rhythmic setting and I suspect that Greg's delivery betrays as much. ELP close the track with an ironic blues tagline that was even considered passée in the bronze age, but our three heroes may possibly have reversed themselves momentarily into that same cul de sac as on 'Enigma'

The many transitions that this track goes through are very skilfully and seamlessly negotiated and 'Trilogy' certainly represents one of ELP's finest recorded moments.

'Living Sin' - A relatively simple heavy rocker but Emerson's inspired synth brass work and a striking and sinister 'baritone' vocal from Lake transcends the meagre harmonic material on offer. The main riff is deceptively simple but the band exploit its quasi 'eastern' qualities to achieve an exotic feel. Perhaps the best song that Deep Purple never wrote.

Abaddon's Bolero' - If one track on this record can be a microcosm of the problems 'Trilogy' presented for ELP then it must be this one.

Yes, it's a thrilling and innovative arrangement of a climactic composition that reaches a magnificent 'orgasmic' ending. (Not 'af you saucy devil)

No, it cannot possibly be replicated on stage armed with but the mere two that Keith has.

Much of the 'Trilogy' material suffered the same fate as 'Bolero' and as far as I am aware, the title track was seldom performed live in concert. It must have been frustrating for a musician as accomplished and ambitious as Keith Emerson to realize, that as unlimited a playground as the studio was, he had to leave behind many of his favourite toys when stepping out in front of an audience.
Right up front I have to confess to possessing a considerable amount of favorable bias towards this album through no intentional fault of my own. You see, as an adventurous young buck on the NTSU campus in the autumn of '72, I surreptitiously snuck (with her consent, of course) into Cathy O's dorm room via her window one night in quest of hands-on, advanced research concerning the carnal arts (if you know what I mean and I think you do). On her stereo's auto-repeating turntable this admirable and desirable lady had her brand new copy of the "Trilogy" LP. Throughout the course of an intense, study-filled evening neither of us had any interest in changing the record so I heard side 2 of this exemplary album over and over for... Well, let's refrain from bragging, shall we? Suffice it to say that life doesn't get much better than that particular scenario (music & passion) and even now when I listen to ELP's "Trilogy" it summons pleasant memories so it's hard to be critical and/or objective in that state of mind. Happy thoughts aside, however, it would more than hold its own as a stellar example of progressive jazz/rock, regardless.

With "The Endless Enigma, Pt. 1" a quiet heartbeat accompanied by some eerie synthesizer notes starts things off in a mysterious mood before the space is interrupted by startling piano spasms and wild bongos. Soon the splendid, driving triad of organ, bass and drums intrude, leading you through a very dynamic song structure that climbs to Greg Lake's commanding "Please, please open their eyes!" exclamation that is breathtaking in its massive scope. Things then calm down with Emerson's lone, delicate piano and just let me say here that no one records acoustic piano any better than engineering whiz kid Eddie Offord. It's like you're sitting in the room with a Steinway. "Fugue" reminds me very much of Keith's stellar work on their debut album but this time Lake ably joins in on bass to create a fantastic duet. "The Endless Enigma, Pt. 2" is an obvious continuation of the basic theme but here they employ a deep, cavernous sound that includes clanging mission bells, culminating in a grand ending. Let me tell you, this is one marvelous piece of music.

"From the Beginning" is one of the more unusual hit songs ever in that it climbed to #39 on the singles chart due more to its alluring atmosphere than to some kind of catchy hook. The smooth guitar lead and curious synthesizer tone also contributed to the tune's popularity, as well as Greg's soothing, radio-friendly voice. These boys loved to throw in some levity on their albums (with mixed results) but "The Sheriff" is one of their better whimsical ditties. Featuring a surprisingly syncopated and complex structure beneath the frivolous "cowboy western" lyrics, this song distinguishes itself by incorporating a growling Hammond B3 organ sound layered with an odd piano effect to produce a unique aura. The manic honky-tonk, saloon-style piano work in the coda is a hoot.

What better way to honor one of the 20th century's greatest composers than to perform a bang-up version of Aaron Copland's "Hoedown" segment from his incredible "Rodeo." It's an amazing rendition where Emerson displays his mastery of the virtues of the B3 organ as he employs the many variations of the settings it has to offer. No wonder it was such a concert staple for them. It rocks.

As I explained earlier, side 2 of the LP is branded on my brain forevermore but that's a good thing because it begins with the album's namesake song. (Hey, Cathy could have been heavily into Engelbert Humperdink. Imagine having THAT dude's crooning tattooed on your subconscious!) "Trilogy" features a beautiful opening with Lake singing brilliantly over Keith's piano as they deliver a modern jazz chord progression and an intricate melody. Emerson gracefully segues into a heavy 5/4 riff where his spirited synthesizer ride blows you away. They return to a harder take on the original melody before Keith assaults your senses with another sizzling synth solo as Greg and Carl lay down a remarkably tight rhythm section underneath. When these guys played like this no one could top them. Period.

If there's a lull in the proceedings it comes in the form of "Living Sin." Composed somewhat along the lines of "Knife Edge," it's a riff-based rocker with an odd structure and stabbing accents at the close. It's not a bad number by any means but when compared to the rest of the album it's less than memorable. Synthesizer technology was evolving by leaps and bounds in those days and, on "Abaddon's Bolero," Emerson expertly showcased the state-of-the-art in that division of modern rock music. By adopting the steady layer-by-layer construction technique of Ravel, Keith tastefully introduces a myriad of sounds and textures as the number builds inexorably to its inevitable and definitive CLIMAX. (I know, I know) And don't overlook Lake's inventive bass work despite the implied restrictions he and Palmer are stuck with due to the format. Also keep in mind that in 1972 this was groundbreaking, awe-inspiring stuff that made every keyboard player on the planet yearn to acquire a Moog.

I still consider their stunning debut and the unbelievable "Brain Salad Surgery" to be their masterpieces but this one ain't far behind. While "Tarkus" seemed a bit bogged down and forced at times, "Trilogy" showed that Emerson, Lake & Palmer were not going to be fading away or evolve into some kind of "cult" group anytime soon. Their appeal was widening to include more than just progheads. Even blonde seductresses with gorgeous, waist-length hair like Cathy O were digging on their music and that acceptance flung the marketplace doors open for this talented trio. They had arrived at the shores of the Promise land.

Members reviews

Vastly more consistent than Tarkus, but lacking a song that quite reaches the height of that album's famed epic of war and space armadillos, Trilogy is I think my favourite of the two simply because, like the debut, it's an Emerson Lake and Palmer album I can listen to from beginning to end. The novelty track on here, The Sheriff, isn't quite as goofy as Jeremy Bender or Benny the Bouncer - not only does it not irritate me like the other two do, I even find myself quite liking it. And as for the more serious material, From the Beginning is one of Greg Lake's better ballads, the opening Endless Enigma/Fugue/Endless Enigma triple-whammy is wonderful, and Trilogy itself is a great workout for all the band members.

The one downside to this album is Emerson's keyboard sound. We all know Keith loved to incorporate as many new and innovative synthesisers onto ELP albums as possible, and I suspect most prog fans wouldn't have it any other way; however, I think a few of the synths and keys deployed on here were not quite ready for primetime - either in terms of the hardware, or simply in terms of people figuring out how to make them sound good. There's points where the synthesiser sound on the album has aged badly - this is most notable in some sections of Abbadon's Bolero, where some of the synths sound like cheesy 80s Casio keyboards mimicing old Dr Who incidental music. Of course, at the time it must have sounded revolutionary... but listening to it 40 years after the fact, it gets pretty cheesy.

Still, like I said this is the most consistent album ELP managed to do after their debut, so four stars.

Ratings only

  • lunarston
  • Phrank
  • Fant0mas
  • MoogHead
  • Ponker
  • Unitron
  • KK58
  • aglasshouse
  • Lynx33
  • historian9
  • Vano
  • chrijom

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