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

EMERSON LAKE & PALMER

Emerson Lake & Palmer

 

Symphonic Prog

4.23 | 1309 ratings

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Chicapah
Prog Reviewer
5 stars I was in my very early 20s when this album came out in 1970. But I was in no way, shape or form able at that time to fully appreciate the brilliance of the revolutionary music of Emerson, Lake and Palmer. (I dare say I wasn't alone among my peers in my immaturity, though.) I'm not telling you that I didn't become an instant fan or that I didn't enjoy it. On the contrary. It's just that I probably lifted the needle over the very best parts a hundred times in order to get to the "heavier" stuff that the headbanger in me craved. It's only in the many decades since then that I have come to understand just how amazing and timeless this album is. First things first, however. I have to point out the fact that the painting on the cover by Nic Dartnell is one of the all-time classics. But you already knew that.

"The Barbarian" is a perfect four and a half minute introduction to ELP. They throw everything at you including a fuzz bass and a very intense, snarling organ from Keith Emerson. His piano interlude midway through is exhilarating and soon you know you are in the presence of a truly gifted keyboard virtuoso. "Take a Pebble" is one of those songs I would jump over in my youth but I was only cheating myself by doing that. Greg Lake's distinctive voice starts things off singing a nice melody with simple lyrics about how each individual act can have a rippling effect on one's entire life. Emerson's piano takes over and literally takes your breath away. Then comes a folksy acoustic guitar segment from Lake that is gentle and spacious, ending with handclaps and whistles as if they were sitting around a campfire. Next you get another dose of wonderful piano alongside Carl Palmer's jazzy drums before Lake finishes the song with another poignant vocal. "Knife Edge" more than satisfies the hard rock monster in us all with its hard, piercing organ and gutsy vocal over some very strong drums. And the cool meltdown ending is just what the doctor ordered. There's no excuse for my years of skipping over the apex of the album, "The Three Fates." What was I thinking? Just testosterone-fueled impatience, I guess. The enormous sound of the Royal Festival Hall Organ is magnificent and the piece, "Clotho," would be right at home in a gladiator movie soundtrack. And I mean that in a good way, too. It is epic in scope. Emerson next treats you to "Lachesis," a truly outstanding solo piano composition and performance that blew away 99.9% of the keyboard players in rock at that time. It is nothing short of awesome. After a brief return to the cathedral organ the drums enter and Palmer and Emerson go into the stirring 7/8 time "Atropos" that would impress even the great Gershwin. It's fantastic. "Tank" is probably the least remarkable track here but that's only because of the obligatory (at that time) drum solo contained within. Even then the clavinet at the beginning and the Moog noodlings at the end are intriguing. All this being said about the album, if it wasn't for Lake's ironic anti-war anthem "Lucky Man" it's debatable as to whether the group would have attained the huge success that was to come. This song got them noticed. It's a very catchy ditty to begin with and Greg's unique voice is a definite plus but it was Emerson's Moog rising like a phoenix toward the latter part of the tune that made everybody reach over and crank up the volume on their radio. It wasn't the first time the public had heard this new instrument but it was the first time it was the STAR OF THE SHOW and even the most conservative listener couldn't get enough of it.

The high fidelity of the sound is surprising until you notice that the engineer was none other than Eddie Offord (who would go on to produce most of Yes' finest albums). In particular, the piano sounds so crisp and clear it's like it's in the room with you. So, if you haven't procured a copy of this cornerstone of progressive rock by now, do yourself a favor and add it to your collection. It is unquestionably one of the greatest debut albums ever and the music is still as fresh and relevant today as it was when it first appeared on the record shelves. Just don't be like me and skip over the best parts.

Chicapah | 5/5 |

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