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Emerson Lake & Palmer - Emerson Lake & Palmer CD (album) cover

EMERSON LAKE & PALMER

Emerson Lake & Palmer

 

Symphonic Prog

4.23 | 1345 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Pnoom!
3 stars SO ELP ME GOD...

...but this, not Tarkus, not Trilogy, not Brain Salad Surgery, is the best Emerson, Lake, and Palmer (ELP from now on) album. Now, I know that a lot of people (myself included) generally detest the use of the definitive best in a situation like this. But consider this: On Tarkus, there is the excellent, amazing, incredible title suite. And then there's a bunch of filler. On Trilogy, there are a couple good songs (the Endless Enigma, Trilogy, Abaddon's Bolero) and about as much filler. On Brain Salad Surgery, there is the Karn Evil 9 epic and, you guessed it, filler (though the filler on BSS is less than on the other two). Well, I've had it with the filler. Why don't we just sit down to this lovely eponymous debut album and have a ball without having to deal with FILLER!!!!!!! Huh, why not? ELP has one album without any filler from their prime era, and this is it. Thus, I would say that this is a flat out BETTER album than any of those three. What is a matter of personal taste is that I also happen to prefer the songs on this album to the songs on other ELP albums.

For those who don't know, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer is a three piece band consisting of, surprise of all surprises, Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, and Carl Palmer, and is arguably prog's best supergroup. Greg Lake, of course, comes from King Crimson, lending his voice and his bass talents to the album. Carl Palmer comes from Atomic Rooster, bringing with him some wonderful and invigorating drumming. And Keith Emerson, arguably the star of the band, comes from The Nice, and, in ELP, establishes himself as one of the best keyboardists around. This is their debut album, and it is their best, probably in large part because their oversized egos haven't started clashing yet. Now, on to the album itself.

There is a heavy classical influence on this album, perhaps more so than on any other ELP album. Tank and the Barbarian are covers of classical pieces, and then, I believe, The Three Fates is a classical piece composed by Emerson himself (but you should know that I'm not quite sure about this). Keyboards dominate every aspect of this album to the extent that there's even a moog solo on Lucky Man. It isn't a concept album (ELP didn't do those), but the lyrics, when they appear, are excellent, as are the vocals (courtesy of Lake). This album really shines, and as far as I'm concerned, is the real reason why ELP is one of the prog greats, not any of their other albums. In fact, even with all the hype about Brain Salad Surgery's (admittedly awesome) cover, I think "The Dove Album's" cover is much better. It is true, ELP's debut cover is their best, and one of my favorites. But enough about the cover, music isn't for looking at, it's for listening to. So, here's a bit of what you can expect from each song on this wonderful album.

The album opens with The Barbarian, ELP's wonderful take on a classical music piece. It begins with some heavily distorted guitar which gives way to Palmer's fast drums and Emerson's amazing keyboard skills. This is a fast-paced ride that showcases both the genius of ELP and the composing skills of the old greats that greatly influenced progressive rock before rock of any kind even existed. This piece really grabs you and pulls you into the album, especially when you have Lake, Palmer, and Emerson all going at once (starting with about 1:30 left), getting faster and pacer, more and more energetic, and creating a wonderful mood that gets you ready for more great music.

And ELP delivers that great music straight to your ears. The next song, Take a Pebble, is an absolutely beautiful cross between a ballad and an epic. It showcases Lake's considerable vocal and lyrical talents, as well as the ability of Emerson to create moods out of nothing on his keyboards. Lake's vocals that get us started, on top of Emerson's lovely keyboards and Palmer's fitting drums, are simply heavenly. Palmer's drumming here at the beginning does not wow you, he gets his chance to do that later in the album. Here, he lets Lake and Emerson have the show mostly to themselves, and I, for one, feel that this was a very good decision on his part. Now, there are parts of this song where he does really grab you, but mostly this is Emerson and Lake combining to create great music. After the section with vocals that got us started, there is a lovely middle section entirely dominated by Emerson. I will warn you that it is slow the first few times, but once you get used to it, it's very good (except for the short bit with the cheesy clapping, but that goes away quickly). There is a very classical feel to the keyboards in the middle here, and as I've said, they are very good. The song then returns to the heavenly vocals of Lake for a rousing finale that takes this mini-epic ballad to a wonderful close. While I will give credit where credit is due and say that Tarkus is a much better song than this, I will also point out that I enjoy this song more than Karn Evil 9 or any of the longer songs on Trilogy.

Knife Edge is a more typical rock song, though with a definite ELP feel. The lyrics are excellent, as are the vocals. The bass takes a lead role here, followed by drums. This song has the least Emerson input, which, as the quality of this song shows, is not a bad thing. And, in the short instrumental bursts, Emerson gives it his all. This is one of the "weak"-est songs on this album without a single weak song. Everything comes together to create the type of song that needed more representation on later ELP albums rather than the filler they gave us. It's a relatively short track, but engaging throughout, and I must say I love it. A lot.

Next comes my favorite on the album, essentially a solo song by Emerson that features three parts, each with him playing a different keyboard related instrument. All three parts are very classical pieces, and all are great. Clotho, the first part, features some excellent organ work. It consists of a loud theme, which is repeated a few times, and then he gets into fast and wonderful playing on piano (Lachesis) that is heaven on the ears. I didn't like this track at first, but now that I've realized just how good Emerson is (and now that keyboards and their relatives are my favorite instrument family), this track simply feels magical. Around 5 minutes in, some drums come in, and I think this marks the beginning of the piano trio (Atropos), which is my favorite part, energetic and frenetic, showing just how good piano can be. On this note, the song comes to an end, easily my favorite song on the album, and perhaps my favorite ELP song off any album (competing with Tarkus). When considering what rating to give this album, this song was the breaking point, the sheer brilliance of it convinced me that the album deserved five stars.

Tank comes next, and having just come from reviewing Yes' Fragile, Five Percent For Nothing from that album is fresh in my mind. Well, the opening of this song (released earlier) is very similar to the entire theme of Five Percent for Nothing, but this song then goes somewhere with it. It is another classical cover, this time without the distorted guitar. It is my least favorite on the album, but it is still good. Palmer's drum solo is the highlight here. The ending, which starts immediately after the drum solo, is also awesome. Overall, Tank doesn't completely tank, but it's nothing to write home about either.

The album comes to an excellent close, however, with Lucky Man. Lucky Man is a witty little song that is more pop than prog, but it is some highly intelligent pop, especially the lyrics. Basically, the song is about a man who has everything (thus he is lucky). Well, he goes off to war and becomes a hero, but misfortune besets him, and he dies, yet, "oooh, what a Lucky Man he was" (no, I was not actively trying to see how many articles I could fit into that sentence). This song is simply enchanting, and despite what at least one reviewer has said about the moog solo being dated, it is still incredible. This is a beautiful and catchy little ditty that closes this excellent album in style.

This album is simply a masterpiece, one of the defining moments of progressive rock, more so than any of their later albums. As I have written in several of my recent reviews, I've recently undergone a spiritual rediscovering of classic progressive rock, catching several great albums (including three masterpieces) that I somehow had not grasped the full power of before. And this is one of those three masterpieces. You cannot go wrong here.

5 STARS - ESSENTIAL: A MASTERPIECE OF PROGRESSIVE MUSIC!

In this review, I swear that I have told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so ELP me God...

Pnoom! | 3/5 |

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