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


Emerson Lake & Palmer


Symphonic Prog

2.90 | 692 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

TGM: Orb
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Review 4, Works Vol. 1 (double-CD), Emerson, Lake & Palmer, 1977

A much harder album to analyse than their previous studio albums, because the band is no longer a three-piece band, but a three-piece band with an orchestra and with Sinfield and Lake collaborating on the lyrics to Lake's side and Pirate. This combination is at times winning (Emerson's Toccata Con Fuoco, Lake's Closer To Believing and Palmer's Tank), and at times quite annoying (Pirates, Nobody Loves You Like I do). The album consists of three solo sides, of which I prefer Palmer's, and a group side, on two CDs. I do enjoy most of it, and there are a couple of excellent tracks, but it's a far cry from ELP's earlier material, and it's probably too varied for one person to like all of it.

Keith Emerson's classical piano concerto is basically too fluid for me to describe fully. It has an essentially anarchic and dramatic opening that doesn't particularly impress me, after this moves to a crescendo, the music slows down into a lush classical piece, with violins leading onto a slightly darker horn and bells section, and then constant shifts in mood and instrumentation. Whenever the piano comes in, it's usually to good effect, and, though I'm not a big fan of violins and some other elements of the orchestra, everything seems to work together quite well. I enjoy the flute parts especially. The first movement does continue and end much better than it starts.

The short second movement has a great piano part, and the orchestra seems to be supporting it well. The third movement opens very dramatically with aggressive piano and classical drumming as well as a continual build-up despite the fluent musical changes at any moment. The sheer beauty of the lone piano after the fire dies down for the first time is amazing. There is not a weak moment to the third movement, and even the orchestral sections are good. Furthermore, the music really does evoke the fire ('con fuoco') that is the focus of the movement. Despite an uninspiring start, Emerson's contribution to Works 1 is overall pretty good.

Lend Your Love To Me Tonight is an acoustic ballad that moves to a better orchestra and drum backed acoustic-ballad. Sinfield's lyrics are quite decent, until 'confuse me, abuse me, misuse me'. It's overall a decent effort despite occasional tackyness and generic moments.

C'est La Vie is amazing: tragic, strong lyrics, real atmosphere, and the ability to almost reduce me to tears every listen. It's basically driven by an acoustic guitar with beautiful orchestral additions. The only (and very annoying) weakness here is the accordion solo, which takes a bit of getting used to. I prefer the Works Live version, though.

Hallowed Be Thy Name is a complete contrast, though also good. It's a fairly energetic number with biting, entertaining Sinfield lyrics. The drums and piano are great, and the horn and violin additions are also very strong. Lake's voice is, as usual, amazing. I think the fade could happily have been replaced with a proper conclusion, though.

Nobody Loves You Like I Do has a great start, with acoustics, electrics, piano and drums leading it. Unfortunately, it then has a pathetic chorus with an irritating harmonica sound. The vocals and lyrics are cheesy. The brief moments of excellent instrumental work are instantly replaced with irritating chorus and frivolous violins and that bloody harmonica. I dislike it, but it still shows promise.

Closer to Believing is much better, a tragic, sweeping ballad with beautiful lines like 'From the opium of custom to the ledges of extremes'. Not repetitive, not weak, and with both strong music and enough substantial lyrics to allow Lake to sing throughout without wrecking the song. It ends the first CD beautifully, and the orchestra is perhaps used with more finesse here than it is in any of Lake's other pieces.

I've always found The Enemy God... a little difficult to stomach. A strong reinterpretation of a classical piece, certainly, but it's really a one-mood song, and the fact that it's not in and of itself on a cohesive album/side makes that mood less easy to achieve. The drumming underlying the piece is very strong, and the orchestra is well used. The drama is really here, and it has atmosphere. A great track when you're in the right mood, but you do need to be in the right mood to appreciate it.

LA Nights begins with bass, drums and synths cooperating moving into a great jazzy sax part, a superb guitar solo and the occasional bit of piano with good drum and bass backing. The full-out continuation is superb, even if the opening doesn't strike me as much above-average.

New Orleans is another jazzy piece with really unusual hollow drumming complimenting more conventional percussion and occasional jazz guitar and brass. The drumming essentially acts as the backbone of the music, and various other things are basically added on over it.

The rendition of Two Part Invention in D Minor is beautiful. Some people don't like the idea of reinterpreting a classical piece without going into electronic overdrive, I love it, and the percussion focus is an excellent change to conventional classical instrumentation.

Food For Your Soul is one of my favourite pieces from the album, with brief drum solos interspersing various instruments, and seems at the same time quite anarchic and yet directed. The drum solos do grate a little, but they're short, and the power and ideas of the music more than make up for it.

The orchestra-including revision of Tank basically has all the (many) strengths of the original, except that the drum solo is a lot briefer than that on ELP and the ending section seems a little more developed, though Emerson's still adding the keyboards to the end section. A great re-working.

The classical drum and keyboard opening of Fanfare For The Common Man is promising, and the unexpected leap into a freer bass-and-drum-with-keyboard-soloing section does follow up on this, and the piece basically continues in this mould, and the jam section is good. On the plus side, there is a feel that the band collectively had fun making it, on the minus side, some of the keyboard noises aren't clean enough for my liking, especially over a longer track. Not my favourite, but a good collective piece.

Pirates has a lot of fans, probably more than detractors, but it's doesn't really dazzle me. There are certainly some great moments, and Lake's voice, as always, is perfect. Unfortunately, the lyrics seem to alternate between entertaining and creative and bland and stereotypical. The music is similarly a mixed bag, from seemingly random, light orchestra-based moments to a few superb highlights. The ending also leaves a little to be desired, for me, at least. In the end, this is listenable, and sometimes enjoyable, and I usually end up singing along, but it just doesn't have the consistency of Tarkus or Take A Pebble that turns an epic with some great moments into a masterpiece.

Concerning the bonus material, the live version of Tank is essentially decent, but the sound quality isn't great, on the other hand, I do like some of the changes on the drum solo (the Works Live version is better, though), even if it still retains some of the basic problems of a drum solo, and the direct shift into The Enemy God... is a nice touch. The version of Nutrocker is a little different from the studio version on Pictures, but it still, appropriately, rocks, and what sounds like a bit of decent improvisation is always fun.

Overall, the effort is commendable, and there are some stunning moments. Palmer seems to have an idea of exactly where he wanted to go with each track on his side, whereas Emerson and Lake occasionally don't quite know what they want to do with their material. The group side is palatable, but really I think that it doesn't bear much of a relation to their earlier efforts, and it's not up to par with them, either.

Rating: Overall, good, with some very strong and some very weak moments. Three Stars. Favourite Track: Disc 1: Closer To Believing, Disc 2: Food For Your Soul

TGM: Orb | 3/5 |


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