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Emerson Lake & Palmer - Tarkus CD (album) cover


Emerson Lake & Palmer


Symphonic Prog

4.06 | 1660 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars ELP heads into uncharted territory on "Tarkus", pushing the limits of music that a trio might aspire to (as opposed to achieve, where CREAM still reigned supreme). What it all means is anyone's guess, and it may be nothing more than a mosaic of highfalutin' instrumental workouts and pretentious pronouncements. Remarkably, none of that's really important. What is important is the faith that the music inspires in its musicians and, by extension, its audience. You get the sense that ELP approached "Tarkus" as their magnum opus (until the next magnum opus, anyway), and it's this spirit of elevated creativity that fuels "Tarkus".

The side-long "Tarkus" starts with a clear beginning, in the spirit of creation with a single sound that soon explodes into life, and from there the band fuses EMERSON's instrumental passages (often held together by improvisation) with Lake's songs (not far removed from his work with KING CRIMSON). The arrangements themselves are at best bone and sinew, Emerson's piano providing the color against Palmer's superlative, dry drumming and Lake's incidental bass lines. When the band does reach sublime heights, it's often on the strength of Lake's stalwart voice, resolute in a maelstrom of sound. Note that the inner gatefold features what purports to be a visual interpretation of the "Tarkus" story; if you can make heads or tails out of it, let me know.

The second side seeks to defuse the pomposity of the previous saga with the irreverent "Jeremy Bender", to be savored as a cherished oddity. "Bitches Crystal" returns to the haunting grounds of side one, and remains a favorite among fans. What follows next is a miniature epic: "The Only Way" (which questions God) and the instrumental "Infinite Space", which follows a more structured and restrained path than the explosive moments around it (they would revisit this style on songs like "Jerusalem", perhaps the remnant of some fiery country parson still in their blood). The wonderful "A Time And A Place" (file under epic) and "Are You Ready Eddy?" (which immortalizes engineer Eddy Offord) close the album, every ounce of energy drained.

By turns funny, profound and profane, "Tarkus" marks the arrival of greatness in the annals of ELP. That it's a self-proclaimed greatness seized by the sheer will of youth, and not the hoary crown passed down by the unclean fingers of doddering critics, no doubt hastened the band's downfall to its current, unenviable state of disrepute. But "Tarkus" is a reminder that ELP walked tall at a time when censorious hands had yet to stick a knife in their back.

daveconn | 4/5 |


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