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Emerson Lake & Palmer - Works Vol. 2 CD (album) cover


Emerson Lake & Palmer


Symphonic Prog

2.39 | 576 ratings

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3 stars "Works Volume 2" is a collection of odds and ends released some 8 months after "Works Volume 1". Whilst it is no masterpiece, it succeeds where "Works Volume 1" failed. On "Works Volume 1" the band, both individually and collectively, let their pretentiousness get the better of them, and I say that as someone who usually defends the band against the criticism of pretentiousness. The conceit evident on "Works Volume 1" is much less evident on "Works Volume 2", partly because several of the pieces on the latter predate the former, partly because the pieces on "Works Volume 2" are basically better than those on its predecessor (the tracks have catchy tunes and none are weak), and partly because they seem more 'genuine', i.e. less laboured, than the pieces on "Works Volume 1".

'Tiger In A Spotlight' I like quite a lot actually; it's an unsophisticated bopping number recorded in 1973, with plenty of Emerson's synthesizer but also honky-tonk piano, Palmer bashing away in the background and Lake's singing, slightly gravelly in places. It's similar to the ELP sound on "Brain Salad Surgery", although not to the same high standard.

'When The Apple Blossoms Bloom In The Windmills Of Your Mind I'll Be Your Valentine' was recorded in the sessions for "Brain Salad Surgery" but did not appear on the album, although it ended up as the B-side of the single 'Jerusalem'. Actually it's not a bad instrumental, and boogies along nicely in the 'classical' ELP style.

As its name suggests, the track 'Brain Salad Surgery' was also a cast-off from the "Brain Salad Surgery" sessions, and is a track that I also like: it's brash, has plenty of synthesizer, Lake's gravelly shouting singing, and is catchy. It would probably have worked had it been on the eponymous album, but is not as good as the music on that album. This track and some excerpts from the album "Brain Salad Surgery" were released on a 7-inch 'floppie vinyl' free with the November 10, 1973 issue of New Musical Express.

'Bullfrog' is a jazzy number by Palmer, Aspery and Hodgekinson, and is essentially a percussion showcase for Palmer. It has sax and some fat, bullfrog-sounding synthesizer and would be quite acceptable in a modern jazz bar. It's not bad and, in my opinion, more interesting than Palmer's contributions to "Works Volume 1".

'Barrelhouse Shake-down' is an Emerson boogie-woogie, honky-tonk number and is great. With trumpet and/or trombone in the background this shows that the right track can be given the 'big band' treatment without sounding pretentious. This track was released as the B-side on Emerson's 1976 single "Honky Tonk Train Blues".

'Watching Over You' is a Lake lullaby with acoustic guitar. This really *is* a song that you could play to a baby or small child to lull it to sleep, as he wrote it for his daughter when she was very little. It's a nice song with a simple but pleasant tune, with a genuine feel about it that Lake's songs on "Works Volume 1" lack, in my opinion. Maybe I'm a sentimental old codger, but I like it (even the mercifully short burst of gratuitous harmonica). It was released as a single in 1978, with Lake's 'Hallowed Be Thy Name' from "Works Volume 1" on the B-side.

'So Far To Fall' is a Lake song that sounds to me like it came from the same 'big band' session as his songs on "Works Volume 1". Although this is no masterpiece, I actually find 'So Far To Fall' better than those, and the trumpets don't sound so corny to me on this one. The lyrics are a bit difficult to stomach in places though, as lyricist Sinfield again seems to have gone a bit over the top: ".she did a thing to my thing, she did a thing to my thing like it's never been done before."

Scott Joplin's 'Maple Leaf Rag' needs no introduction. A great piece of music and Emerson gives it the full treatment with ragtime band backing (by the London Philharmonic Orchestra!). It sounds like Emerson is playing either a clavichord or an upright, overstrung piano. Whatever it is, he's the business.

'I Believe In Father Christmas' was Lake's 1975 UK single and it became a Christmas regular along with SLADE's and WIZZARD's Christmas songs. It's a wonderful piece, using Prokofiev's Troika from the Lieutenant Kije Suite, Opus 60 as a refrain. Although I like the song very much, given its disdainful message I have never ceased to be amazed at this song being trotted out at Christmas time. Like 'The Only Way (Hymn)' on "Tarkus", it's one of the most antireligious songs I've heard. The lyrics by Sinfield are hugely full of irony. It's a clever song, dressing up a disdainful message in beautiful, Christmassy sounds. When Sinfield says "And they told me a fairy story 'Till I believed in the Israelite" he's making an adverse comment not just on the commercialisation of Christmas but also on Christianity itself.

'Close But Not Touching' is a Carl Palmer/Harry South 'big band' number that spilled over from "Works Volume 1". Whilst the playing is good, it's my least favourite track on the album. I can still listen to it, but it's nothing special.

'Honky Tonk Train Blues' is another of Emerson's honky-tonk piano forays, this time his arrangement of Meade "Lux" Lewis' famous jazz number from 1927. Like 'Barrelhouse Shake-down', it has trumpets/trombones to give it a jazz swing. I can listen to this stuff all day. As mentioned above, this track was released as a single in 1976.

'Show Me The Way To Go Home' is Emerson's arrangement of the 1925 song by Irving King, with Lake crooning as if he's been doing it all his life. Emerson expertly tickles the ivories and the orchestra provides excellent 'big band' support. A great version of a good song.

The album is a rather disparate collection of tracks, which I feel reduces its impact. In this case the whole is not greater than the sum of the parts. However, unlike "Works Volume 1", it's an album that I think *is* worth having in my collection. Although I would recommend that you don't get this album instead of one of the first 5 ELP albums, if you do have all those and are wondering whether this one is worth getting then I'd say: "go for it". Just don't expect the Earth. I'll rate it as a 3-star album (Good, but non-essential).

Fitzcarraldo | 3/5 |


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