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Emerson Lake & Palmer - Tarkus CD (album) cover


Emerson Lake & Palmer


Symphonic Prog

4.06 | 1655 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Review Nš 65

This is my fourth review of an Emerson, Lake & Palmer's album. The others are their eponymous debut studio album 'Emerson, Lake & Palmer' released in 1970, their fourth studio album 'Brain Salad Surgery' released in 1973 and their debut live album 'Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends' released in 1974. 'Tarkus' is their second studio album and was released in 1971. It represents my first contact with the group. 'Tarkus' was my first vinyl disk of them and is also one of my eldest vinyl records. I bought it in the distant years of the 70's. So, I know it very well.

This was a very important album to the band because after the huge success of their eponymous debut studio album, the band was under an enormous pressure to come up with something special. This was a hard task basically because of two reasons. The first was that the first super group in the rock history had the obligation to make a very special musical work with great quality. The second was that their first studio album was seen more like a collection of individual efforts and ideas than a collective musical effort. So, there were doubts about the result of the collective musical composition of the band. However, after the release of this album, all doubts were dissipated.

'Tarkus' was their first successful conceptual album and has seven tracks. It's a very special album divided into two parts. However, essentially everything runs around their first track who gave its name to the album. It occupies an entire side of the LP, almost making us forget the other half of the album, what would be a little bit unfair because it has also some very good songs with a certain charm. As I wrote before, the first part is entirely completed by their first track 'Tarkus', which is divided into seven parts: 'Eruption' (instrumental) written by Emerson, 'Stones of Years' written by Emerson and Lake, 'Iconoclast' (instrumental) written by Emerson, 'Mass' written by Emerson and Lake, 'Manticore' (instrumental) written by Emerson, 'Battlefield' written by Lake and 'Aquatarkus' (instrumental) written by Emerson. It's a very complex and a fantastic piece of music with great creativity, very experimental in rock music and certainly avant-garde for those times. This great progressive epic represents the lengthiest studio song made by the band, 20:35, until their song 'Karn Evil 9', 29:37, released on 'Brain Salad Surgery'. This remains a favourite song for the fans and was consistently played live by the group, and is also my favourite song of them. Namely, 'Battlefield' is absolutely superb, beautiful, memorable and an unforgettable song. The side B of the LP has the remaining 6 tracks. The first track 'Jeremy Bender/The Sheriff' written by Emerson and Lake and the sixth and last track 'Are You Ready Eddie?' written by Emerson, Lake and Palmer, are two comedic rocker songs on the same mould of 'Benny The Bouncer' released on 'Brain Salad Surgery'. Sincerely, these two songs are very pleasant to listen to, but hardly worthy of an Emerson, Lake & Palmer's album. The second track 'Bitches Crystal' written by Emerson and Lake is a song strongly influenced by jazz and represents a very good song. The third track 'The Only Way (Hymn)' written by Bach, Emerson and Lake and the fourth track 'Infinite Space (Conclusion)' are also two very good tracks with a fantastic piano and organ works. The fifth track 'A Time And A Place' written by Emerson, Lake & Palmer do a nice contrast to the other songs. It's the hardest song on the album and it shows the rocker quality of the band.

The art cover of the album was made about the first track of the album and was created by the artist William Neal. It depicts an image of a creature half armadillo and half a tank of the World War I. Inside the cover of the album there is a gatefold who features a sequence of pictures which show us the birth of Tarkus, from an egg erupted from a volcano, and others depicting pictures of some other battles fought between Tarkus and some other half mechanical creatures, until their defeats by a Manticore, the only creature totally organic on the story. It's interesting to note that the band later named their record company as the Manticore Records. To sum up, 'Tarkus' described a story about reverse evolution and speak to us about the futility of the war in general, and it's also about the religious hypocrisy.

Conclusion: Unfortunately, due to the profound musical differences between the two sides of the LP, 'Tarkus' is somewhat unbalanced and failed to be a masterpiece. The problem with this album is that on side A we have 'Tarkus', a truly masterpiece, but on side B, despite the songs being good, they're in generally with a slightly lower quality. Nevertheless, with this album the group made a great musical work and 'Tarkus' can be considered a landmark to the band's musical career and represents one of their best pieces of music. With it, they made a lasting impression on the music scene and to this day their musical influence can still be felt and their music still inspires bands from around the world. They simply became as one of the most influential bands to come out of the treasure that was the early 70's.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

VianaProghead | 4/5 |


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