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


Emerson Lake & Palmer


Symphonic Prog

4.24 | 1915 ratings

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TGM: Orb
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Review 1, 1970, Emerson, Lake and Palmer

This self-titled debut is, in my opinion, the progressive supergroup's best. Of the six tracks, only one (Emerson's 'The Three Fates') suffers from any doubtful taste, and even that has a beautiful section. This is an even more astounding accomplishment given the sheer versatility of the music produced: a great folk ballad with a moog solo that never ceases to amuse me, the essential acoustic masterpiece, the heavier Hammond-based Barbarian and Knife Edge, the drumming-dominated Tank, and the various noodlings that comprise The Three Fates. Even though ELP have produced several excellent prog albums, this is the one I'd call essential.

Barbarian introduces the trio perfectly, with a growling electric guitar, a superb heavy Hammond organ, and tasteful drumming. The music's constantly shifting, yet retains all its rawness. And suddenly, there's an acoustic section with quirky, yet delightful, piano and drumming. And somehow Emerson escalates that back to the main tune's heaviness flawlessly. And it just gets better and better towards the end. Proof that a progressive masterpiece does not need to be long.

Next we have my all-time ELP favourite, Take A Pebble. It's just three musicians on acoustic instruments working together flawlessly, with gorgeous, flowing classical-inspired piano supported by Lake's delicate bass and acoustic guitar parts, tasteful percussion, inspired use of watery sound-effects, strong vocals (most reminiscent of Epitaph) with beautiful surreal lyrics. The band shifts moods between optimism, anticipation, grandeur and surprisingly heavy, dark moods seamlessly. Emotion oozes from the piano and the vocals. There are no weak moments in all the twelve and a half minutes of beautiful music.

Third in the album we have another heavier piece, Knife Edge. This took me a little longer to acquire than the previous two songs, but the excellent bass lines, mantra-like, almost-spoken vocals, slightly darker drumming with brief drum solos, and superb build-up and entertaining keyboard riffs and parts ultimately make for a great song. I particularly like the weird churchlike instrumental section in the middle. The lyrics are solid, and work very well with the music. It ends with a slowing-down effect and sort of clicks to a stop. As progressive as Barbarian, and though it doesn't quite reach the heights of the opener, it's still a masterpiece.

The Three Fates is a little more mixed. The organ-opener Clotho hasn't really made an impression on me, but it's well worth listening to through to move onto the beautiful piano solo, Lachesis. Delicate, beautiful, tasteful, mobile, and fairly symptomatic of Emerson's piano on the album as a whole. Atropo is another entirely different kettle of fish, with a combination of the instrumentation used earlier in The Three Fates and a little percussion, if I'm not mistaken. The build-up to a final explosion sound effect is quite good, and has a bizarre dramatic atmosphere that goes down quite well. Overall, this track's not quite as good as the rest of the album, but still interesting, at times masterful, and well worth listening to.

Tank is another oddity. Bass and drumming paves the way for another flippant keyboard (Moog, I think) part, sustained by the bass and brief bursts of solo drumming leading up to a longer (though not excessive), extremely good drum solo with a real sense of direction that many solos lack. It builds up extremely well and leads into the return of the bass and the moog. Yet another great, charming prog piece.

Lucky Man rounds off the album soundly. It's in a much less progressive vein than the rest of the album, but that doesn't really matter to me. The basic melody and the bass part is good, Palmer's drumming complements it nicely, you get to hear more of Lake's voice. And finally, there's a hilarious moog part. Emerson was apparently not taking the solo entirely seriously when he played it, but it's still brilliant. Although it's really more folk than prog, I still love this song.

In conclusion, I'm giving this album one of the easiest five star ratings that I'm ever likely to give. I love it. This is ELP at their finest, with electronic and acoustic instrumentation both used to their full effect. Accessible, yet a grower. As much loved as In The Court Of The Crimson King or Selling England By The Pound. Well worth buying, and also a good introduction to the band.

Rating: Masterpiece. Five Stars.

Favourite Track: Take A Pebble.

TGM: Orb | 5/5 |


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