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Emerson Lake & Palmer - Works Vol. 1 CD (album) cover


Emerson Lake & Palmer


Symphonic Prog

2.90 | 698 ratings

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3 stars A huge step for a man, a small step for a human kind.

EMERSON LAKE AND PALMER's "Works Volume 1" album is certainly weaker than its predecessors. A lot weaker, because it's far from a masterpiece, and because all the previous albums were, in one way or another, monuments to genius.

When the music is good, it's good; when it's bad, it's varying from bad to horrible. Greg Lake's tracks are mostly below par, Palmer's tracks are decent but most of the time far from perfect and smooth; ELP's side is not bad, but not remarkably good neither. Keith's Concerto is absolutely out of Time And A Place, and I'm not sure how to rate it.

There's not a single not of Hammond organ on this album (actually there is some on Carl's side I think, but that's just a rock wrapping rather than one of most powerful ELP's tools). The entire album is played with the orchestra - and these kind of rock albums are rarely successful from the artistic point of view (as an exception, BANCO DEL MUTUO SOCCORSO springs to mind). But since ELP were so strongly inclining towards classical music, it was a matter of time when the band will utilise an orchestra on the studio record. Orchestra arrangements are lovely, but that's not it. I prefer much more to hear Keith's keyboard layers taking a role of orchestra - that was really pioneering and progressive. This is not necessarily bad but not very exciting, I dare to say not more exciting then a post-coital experience. The orchestra worked well with the live records at the time (check old ELP's live records; strings and Moog are going very well together).

Oh well. Keith's side - a Concerto - is, as someone observed, neither rock, neither prog. It's not badper se, actually it's not bad at all, but at the moments it's tacky, it's about Keith's showmanship and at the moments it's just boring. Keith showed very few keyboard tricks here that we are not familiar with already; the some goes for the structure. We heard all these chord progression before, in a pop-rock format of first four ELP's albums. And they are working much better that way. This one might be a good start for some classical music-purist willing to investigate ELP deeper, but it's not necessary.

Lake's side contains only his typical ballads, most of them are just boring. However "C'est La Vie" and "Closer To Believing" are memorable and catchy. Orchestral arrangements are nice, but somehow typical for the seventies. and over the top too. I can't stop imagining "Windmills Of Your Mind" while listening to this, it's so 70's.

Palmer's side is decent, with no overbearing drum solos - thank you Carl. Jazz funk tunes. Listenable. ELP are (were) three geniuses, but I really admire Carl's characteristics; he's an extremely intelligent man, fast-thinker, sharp when necessary. Check the interview with him on "The Birth Of The Band (Isle Of Wight)" DVD. All of aforementioned characteristics are obviously also reasons why he's a damn good drummer too (+ motorical competency). However, he didn't overdid his songs as they are the most coherent ones on the entire album, and closest to the definition of focus and decency.

ELP's side contains long version of "Fanfare For The Common Man" which is bland. Not bad, but after repeated listening the enthusiasm will vanish. "Pirates" is watered epic, not even close to the old epics from the band's glory days, but actually is less horrible then I expected (I knew for an awful version from "Live At The Royal Albert Hall"). The orchestra actually works well, much better than digital keys imitating an orchestra. But I'm sure it will sound even better with Hammonds and Moogs. On that point, Keith's Yamaha GX1 synth annoys me a lot; it was a monster when it hit the market - but this fits my theory that polyphonic synths were also guilty for killing progressive rock from the golden era. How very sad and true. Remember LED ZEPPELIN's "All Of My Love" and those cheesy synth? The same story.

Finally the rating. Not very good. But there ARE some moments, so I'm giving it three stars rather than two. Some tracks are monstrous, even if they're a labour of hard work rather than a labour of love. Dinosaurs were impressive, but even the left-overs (bones in the museums) are worth taking a look. So, three stars.

clarke2001 | 3/5 |


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