EMERSON LAKE AND PALMER — Tarkus (review)

EMERSON LAKE AND PALMER — Tarkus album cover Album · 1971 · Jazz Related Rock Buy this album from MMA partners
3/5 ·
Warthur
If this album consisted of Tarkus on Side A, and then Tarkus again on Side B due to some sort of horrible manufacturing error, I'd give it five stars. The title track to this one is a classic, easily the best track ELP ever recorded, wonderfully original and a showcase for all the band member's talents.

But oh, that second side...

First off, the guys decide to include not one but two comedy songs. One is pushing it for any band which otherwise tries to adopt a serious tone. Now, comedy is a very personal thing and everyone has their own likes and dislikes. But personally, I find ELP's comedy songs incredibly grating. To me, they come across as though they are trying really hard to be funny, as opposed to just naturally being funny, and that's just fatal to comedy. Are You Ready Eddy is a simplistic rock and roll tune - if it took the guys more than five minutes to write and record it, it's bloody shameful. Jeremy Bender, meanwhile, is a corny piano ditty that's dated horribly not just in its style but also in its lyrical content - alluding to homosexuality for a laugh might have been socially accepted in the early 1970s, but these days it just comes across as homophobic.

Then there's The Only Way/Infinite Space, which isn't a comedy song but I kind of wish it was. Now, I have nothing against atheism - it'd be odd if I did, considering that I *am* an atheist myself - but the lyrics to this one sound like the sort of thing an angry teenager would write. "How did he lose/Six million Jews?" is not just a simplistic restatement of the essential problem of theodicy which is far too complex for the lyrical abilities of the band to really grapple with; it's also just plain crass.

The second side isn't completely meritless - Bitches Crystal is a good fast song and A Time and a Place is quite dramatic - but it has few saving graces. There is no way in good conscience I could give this album five stars, even though its title track is legendary, and side B is *so* bad that I can't even justify four. I'll give it three and no more.
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