Emerson, Lake & Palmer

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Matt Wilson
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Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Postby Matt Wilson » 21 Jun 2021, 20:57

Any band not enjoyed by both C and John Coan has to be worth writing about. I'm not entering into the world of ELP without knowing these albums like some of the Soft Machine discs I explored before, no - I know these records well but thought I'd listen again and document my thoughts because believe me, I have nothing better to do. I was going to wait until I'd listened to a few more, but when Stephen and John both chimed in expressing disdain, something had to be done!

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Emerson Lake & Palmer
Outstanding debut from the cream of the UK prog crop circa 1970. Emerson dominates as you'd imagine, but really - they all do. Greg Lake is one of my favorite singers from the golden age of progressive rock, and to think he sang on this and In the Wake of Poseidon in the same year makes him extra cool. This is even better than Crimso's son of Crimson King though, isn't it? If anything, I think it's underrated. Nothing against that second KC effort, but this is a whole new thing.

1. "The Barbarian"
Wiki tells us that this is an arrangement of Béla Bartók's 1911 piano piece "Allegro Barbaro," but that the band tried to claim credit for it on initial album pressings. A superb, menacing number with loud guitar and an interesting musical motif. No vocals. Keith had been plundering classical music since his Nice days and this is an extension of what he had been doing in the late '60s. The shortest cut here.

2. "Take a Pebble"
The longest number on the LP is a Lake tune with outstanding dynamics and great playing - but I guess I can say that about everything here so I'll have to think of new ways to describe the music. Let's start with how well this is recorded, something The Nice albums had problems with. You can hear everything perfectly for one thing. Even Keith scraping the piano strings before Greg's acoustic part with the dripping water in the background. Little vocals to get in the way of the music and an extended jazz piano solo to set the mood.

3. "Knife Edge"
Wiki again: "Knife-Edge" is based on the first movement of Leoš Janáček's orchestral piece "Sinfonietta" (1926), with an instrumental middle section that includes an extended quotation from the Allemande of Johann Sebastian Bach's first French Suite No. 1 in D minor, BWV 812, but played on an organ rather than clavichord or piano. OK then, so what we have is another borrowing of early 20th Century classical music updated by the boys with Greg writing words with the help of a roadie. The most conventional-sounding ELP track thus far, but it rocks.

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4. "The Three Fates"
Side one was pretty pretension-free but the bombast begins here. This is mostly an Emerson trip concerning three sisters in Greek mythology which uh, oh who cares? - as the almost eight-minute track is an excuse for another pretty piano solo interspersed with bits of pipe organ and Palmer's drumming accompinament. No vocals again. In fact, there's very little of them on the record.

5."Tank"
The requisite drum song so Palmer can show us Keith isn't the only one who can show off. Like "Toad," "Moby Dick,"and "Rat Salad," it starts off with group playing and then becomes a showcase for Carl's talents before coming back to ensemble work from the other two.

6. "Lucky Man"
Greg's big number was the only thing played from the album that I can tell. Least ways it's the only thing I've ever heard on the radio. Written when Lake was a boy and apropos for the Vietnam era, it features an incredible first take Moog solo which I don't seem to tire of.

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Tarkus
The first of two 1971 platters from our heroes is a step up from Emerson Lake & Palmer. The silly notion of an armadillo tank is offset by the propulsive music on the first side and the second side songs are also pretty good. If you're thinking this is another In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida where only the side-long cut counts, think again. It's actually one of the better prog rock albums of that year. Pink Floyd were doing the same thing with Atom Heart Mother and Meddle (Pawn Hearts too) at the same time of course, and I rank this right up there.

1. "Tarkus"
Prog heaven actually. This might be my fave ELP song. I love it all, the different sections, the playing, singing, etc. No, I don't pay attention to the lyrics - the pictures are funny enough and I get the general idea of the monsters fighting and all that. Lake apparently hated it at first and wanted to quit the band or something, only coming around when it was explained to him that it was another anti-war piece. LOL. It's all here folks, bombast, pretension, instrumental virtuosity, even a sense of humor. Emerson, Lake and Palmer in toto. Play this fucker LOUD!

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2. "Jeremy Bender"
Jaunty little honky tonk number (more would follow on subsequent LPs) with Lake's nonsensical lyrics. It's over before it can bug you.

3. "Bitches Crystal"
The music sounds a bit like the opening part of "Tarkus" actually. A boogie woogie inspired by Brubeck's "Count Down." The fact that they can do this kind of stuff in their sleep doesn't detract from the fun. Can't imagine it's easy to play either.

4. "The Only Way (Hymn)"
Keith wouldn't be Keith without classical pretensions and our friends at wikipedia state that it contains themes from "Toccata and Fugue in F major, BWV 540" and "Prelude and Fugue VI, BWV 851" by Bach. Perhaps the most forgettable track here to be frank. Did Greg really sing "Why did we lose six million Jews?" Keith played this on an organ at St. Mark's Church. Impressed?

5. "Infinite Space"
Starts right after the last number and sounds like an extension of it. Inspired by jazz pianist Lennie Tristano with another piano solo.

6. "A Time and a Place"
Like "Bitches Crystal," fairly routine ELP song but I still dig it. They seem worked up about something, but I'll be damned if I'm going to start paying attention to prog lyrics.

7. "Are You Ready Eddy?"
The boys liked to put a joke song on their LPs and the practice begins here. Their engineer gets his due on this '50s rock 'n' roll tune which is easily skipped.

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Last edited by Matt Wilson on 10 Jul 2021, 05:32, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Postby Neige » 21 Jun 2021, 21:36

Soundtrack of my early teens, and I'm still fond of it (up to Trilogy anyway).
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Re: Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Postby Jimbly » 21 Jun 2021, 22:34

One of my formative bands. I love them but I am not blind to their faults. I'm constantly getting thrown out of Facebook groups for them when I dare to be critical.
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Re: Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Postby toomanyhatz » 21 Jun 2021, 23:09

I don't share your regard for the solo in "Lucky Man," but I do find the story of the recording pretty hilarious. As I remember, Emerson was just warming up, and wanted to re-do it, and everyone in the room apparently all said "NO!" at once, thinking it perfect.

I'm with Keith.
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Re: Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Postby slightbreeze » 22 Jun 2021, 00:05

Don't mind "Trilogy", but can take them or leave them. A band of musical show offs.

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Re: Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Postby Mike Boom » 22 Jun 2021, 00:18

toomanyhatz wrote:I don't share your regard for the solo in "Lucky Man," but I do find the story of the recording pretty hilarious. As I remember, Emerson was just warming up, and wanted to re-do it, and everyone in the room apparently all said "NO!" at once, thinking it perfect.

I'm with Keith.


Im not a huge fan of ELP , but Lucky Man and in particular that solo are perfection, like Matt, I never tire of it, absolutely glorious.

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Re: Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Postby Matt Wilson » 22 Jun 2021, 02:32

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Pictures at an Exhibition
Seems to be the odd man out in their series of classic releases from '70 - '73 (or '74, I'll pimp for the triple-live one too). Which is a pity because it's good. Another one of those live LPs with all new material (like the 1978 Soft Machine in Paris platter). Keith's Russian celebration represents his peak in classical plundering. Other progsters did the same thing during this time but Emerson had been doing it for years by then. This has little to do with "rock" and more to do with euphoric displays of showmanship, ambition, and chops. It's not for everyone of course, but then what is? Recorded before Tarkus, but held off because the label was nervous the kids wouldn't dig it; when eventually released at a budget price, it made the top ten on both sides of the pond. Can you imagine that happening in the eighties or nineties? As Lou Reed said "those were different times." Over twenty years later, they would record a studio version.

1."Promenade"
Introductory piece Keith plays on the Harrison pipe organ at the Newcastle City Hall.

2. "The Gnome"
The interesting thing is that Mussorgsky's music isn't unlike that of ELP, or maybe they arrange it so that both sides share common ground.

3. "Promenade pt.2"
The first vocals on the album, very ELP-like.

4. "The Sage"
These pieces fit together much like those Softs cuts do on so many of their albums. This Greg number has nothing to do with Mussorgsky and it definitely sounds like something Lake would write. Pretty acoustic guitar ramblings with pathos-laden vocals. If anything from this record was going to get airplay, this would've been it.

5. "The Old Castle"
Keith gets to show off on the Moog. They don't really make music for the masses like this anymore, do they?

6. "Blues Variation"
A more conventional-sounding ELP jam ends side one. The closest thing to rock 'n' roll to be found here.

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7. "Promenade pt. 3"
Their third go-round. At least we recognize the motif by now.

8. "The Hut of Baba Yaga"
The Baby Yaga parts form the meat of the second side of the record, some say of the entire LP. It's more of the same really. Keith front and center.

9. "The Curse of Baba Yaga"
Some evil-sounding tones open the proceedings, then we're off. A combination of riffs and soloing. I wonder how much these guys had to practice to play this? Greg's first vocals in some time too. They wrote this one.

10. "The Hut of Baba Yaga"
Yaga the Hut? LOL... A short segue before...

11. "The Great Gates of Kiev"
The longest cut sounds like everything else in this seamless suite. There's no way the audience knew where one piece ended and the next began. For some reason my attention wavers a bit on this track. The dynamics don't really work maybe. Keith freaking out after the third minute...

12. "Nutrocker"
After the audience screams hysterically, the trio returns with what I guess is their humorous number for the album. Tell Tchaikovsky the news.

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Trilogy
Another strong album after the classical leanings of the previous effort. Except unlike Tarkus, both sides of the LP are of equal importance. Is this their best record? One doesn't seem to hear that opinion expressed too often (if ever). Put it this way - it's as good as anything they ever did.

1. "The Endless Enigma pt.1"
Soundtrack-sounding music from the super trio begins their fourth offering in three years. This is a bit longer than anything on Pictures at an Exhibition and sounds like what we want Emerson, Lake and Palmer to sound like. Lots of overdubs on this LP. Everything sounds precise.

2. "Fugue"
Keith's pretty piano piece. Can anybody out there play this?

3. "The Endless Enigma pt.2"
Why not? Remember, there were three versions of a song on the last album. These first three tracks all sound like parts of the same tune really.

4. "From the Beginning"
Greg's most famous song in this country, and a highlight to be sure. Better than "Lucky Man?" Yeah, I'd say so. I'm wondering if Toomanyhatz likes this synth solo better? Supposedly offered to King Crimson when Greg was in the band but rejected by Mr. Fripp.

5."The Sheriff"
Their joke number arrives a bit earlier than usual here. Except it's a bit better than their usual humorous pieces. I told you the honky tonk stuff would return, didn't I? File this one next to "Rocky Raccoon."

6."Hoedown"
Aaron Copland's song was the second most played track from this LP on rock radio in the States. I'm struggling to think if I've ever heard this done by anyone else, not sure.

7. "Trilogy"
The boys get more serious on side two with this almost nine-minute number. The dynamics are in place as it opens with another softer Greg section before becoming more propulsive. The piano gives way to synth and then percussion-heavy music before Lake sings again. Nothing else really sounds like this in the world of progressive rock. Keith's tone is as distinctive as any guitar player's.

8. "Living Sin"
Were you wondering when Palmer was gonna get some? Fear not, faithful BCBers. He wrote this, the most throw-away track to be found here. Mercifully, it barely tops three minutes and change. This was the B-side of "From the Beginning," which was ELP's biggest hit in America. That means Carl pocketed some change from his modest effort.

9. "Abaddon's Bolero"
Many is the band who took Ravel's "Bolero" and used it as inspiration for longish cuts designed to tax the attention. Hell, I think I'll just let wiki take over: "Abaddon's Bolero" sounds like a bolero turned into a march (in 4/4 rhythm rather than the usual 3/4). The piece was originally titled Bellona's Bolero after the goddess of war. A single melody containing multiple modulations within itself is repeated over and over in ever more thickly layered arrangements, starting from a quiet Hammond organ making a flute-like sound over a snare drum, and building up to a wall of sound – Maurice Ravel's famous Boléro uses a similar effect. There is also a quote from the British traditional song "Girl I left Behind Me". "Abaddon's Bolero" is replete with overdubs. Almost every time an instrument comes in, another overdub follows. "Abaddon's Bolero" was only played live a handful of times, with Greg Lake handling Mellotron and additional Moog synthesizer duties (other synth parts accompanied them from a reel-to-reel tape playing off-stage which Emerson had pre-recorded); the song turned out to be a disaster, and when the tape stopped mid-way through the song during one show, it was cut from the set list. The band brought the piece back for the start of their 1977 tour, during which they were accompanied by an orchestra.

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Re: Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Postby robertff » 22 Jun 2021, 09:17

Like them up to and including Trilogy, after that it all goes just too far. Saw them a couple of times and thoroughly enjoyed the gigs, still play them from time to time.

Excellent critique Matt.


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Re: Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Postby ConnyOlivetti » 22 Jun 2021, 10:43

Loved them at the time (not Tarkus for some strange reason)
these days, the only ones I like is Brain Salad Surgery (their best imho) and
Pictures at an Exhibition
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Re: Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Postby robertff » 22 Jun 2021, 12:24

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Re: Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Postby Walk In My Shadow » 22 Jun 2021, 17:02

Back in the day when my best friend and I used to share LP's, it was his turn to buy one and he got that first ELP.

I remember not being overly impressed.

Later, in the CD age, I got this:


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I don't think I played it twice all the way through.
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Re: Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Postby C » 22 Jun 2021, 17:18

No Matt my dear friend your opening statement is not correct.

I like ELP and bought each one of their albums on their release

I still play the debut and Tarkus and Trilogy are good albums as is Pictures.

Brain Salad Surgery was the album I had problems with - it is overblown and overrated.

My main point is that I prefer The Nice to ELP and play the formers albums regularly.

Give me The Nice over ELP any day




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Re: Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Postby C » 22 Jun 2021, 17:19

Great posts by the way




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Re: Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Postby Hightea » 22 Jun 2021, 19:16

I'm going to re-listen to the first five albums before I make my comments since these days I really only listen to Tarkus and Trilogy.
I'm a fan of ELP but there are comments about them all.

I've seen them in pieces over the past 10 years
Here is a picture of each one
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Re: Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Postby Matt Wilson » 22 Jun 2021, 20:42

Never saw them. I saw Carl with Asia though - does that count?

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Re: Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Postby Six String » 22 Jun 2021, 20:43

I was a fan back in the day and enjoyed them up through BSS and I bought the live album from the tour because I saw them in San Diego in the winter of ‘74. Down in front between Keith and Greg I got close up views of all the OTT stage show. It was fun for someone still 19 and relatively new to the concert scene. I don’t own any of their music anymore but I still enjoy the first album or the Tarkus track when I hear them. I learned From The Beginning on guitar as it was very popular at the time as Matt stated.
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Re: Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Postby The Slider » 22 Jun 2021, 20:47

I love the records up to 77
They are shit - objectively - but I love them all the same
I have no love whatsoever for anything recorded after Works

I rank them
Brain Salad Surgery
Emerson Lake and Palmer
Pictures at an Exhibition
Tarkus
Trilogy
Works
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Re: Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Postby kath » 22 Jun 2021, 20:57

i am essentially with slider.

i love those records all the same, too.

never saw em live. saw carl palmer with some damn act.

p.s. great pics. i still wanna be surrounded with keyboard arrays all around me. what. of course i can't play. not the point.

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Re: Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Postby kath » 22 Jun 2021, 20:59

(i'll read through yer posts later, matt. i am in sugar overload.)

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Re: Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Postby The Slider » 22 Jun 2021, 21:06

I never saw them live either
By 73 they were playing stuff so horribly (speed and technique over musicality) that I can't even listen to Welcome Back My Friends.

I saw Greg on his solo tour in 81 with a proper great band - Gary Moore, Ted McKenna and Tommy Eyre - at Hammersmith
And I saw The Nice reunion in 2002 at the RFH
Never seen Palmer
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