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

WORKS VOL. 2

Emerson Lake & Palmer

 

Symphonic Prog

2.34 | 417 ratings

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TGM: Orb
Prog Reviewer
2 stars Review 5, Works Vol. 2, ELP, 1977

StarStarStar

The much-maligned Works Vol. 2, while not progressive, is still, for me, good fun and an enjoyable album. The jazz pieces are all uplifting and cheerful, the fusion-y pieces are generally interesting, Lake's ballad really doesn't match up to the standards of those on Works 1, but So Far To Fall has its good moments. The opener and the closer, Tiger In A Spotlight and Show Me The Way To Go Home, are strong. Certainly the album has a couple of moments that most fanatical proggers won't like, but there are a couple of peaks to make up for that.

Tiger In A Spotlight starts with a light drum part and fast bass, as well as Lake singing essentially random, but decent lyrics. Unfortunately, the opening and the first keyboard solo feel a little too light and lack-lustre for me, though they really do develop into a much better piece, with great screeching synths, an excellent rhythm section, and uplifting vocals.

When The Apple Blossoms Bloom is opened by the drumming, and continues with basically different keyboard parts and riffs laid over changing percussion and a quiet bass part. The instrumental 'chorus' of this piece is very strong, and all three musicians shine on their respective instruments through to the conclusion.

Bullfrog is a fairly eclectic fusiony piece, with bizarre and conventional percussion placed side by side, and keyboards and saxes occasionally thrown in for good measure. The change to a more exotic atmosphere and more layered music at around the two minute mark is good, and I love the short bass solo here before it moves back through an anarchic section to a much better variation on the opening section. I think the unfortunate issue here is that the sum of the parts is worth more than the end result, which is too hectic and uncoordinated for my liking.

Brain Salad Surgery is a short and concentrated burst of silly keyboards, spitting drums and bass, with nonsensical lyrics. The opening riff is great. Good if you're in an appropriately sarcastic mood, and definitely musically directed.

If Emerson's Barrelhouse Shake-Down can't cheer you up, what will? This is mostly made up of infectiously cheerful piano and brass parts. Not massively adventurous and diverse, but still fun, and my addiction to piano-and-drums is suitably satisfied.

Watching Over You has two essential problems: firstly, lyrics that don't interest me and a singing style that does nothing to relieve this and secondly, a ballad acoustic guitar part, of which the good variations' quality is obscured by the weakness of the main theme. The occasional presence of keyboards is simply not enough to lift the song up. Oddly enough, I find the (thing that sounds like) kazoo solo most amusing. Not Greg Lake's finest moment.

So Far To Fall doesn't really grip me, generally, though at times its energy is contagious. The lyrics are a little shaky, the vocals are at times irritating. The music is pretty up-tempo, but difficult to describe. Palmer's drumming is (as always) excellent, and the keyboard and sax parts are good, once the band get past the fairly dubious opening.

The orchestra-and-piano version of Joplin's Maple Leaf Rag is winning, but short. If I'm not mistaken (and I could be), Emerson's playing very adeptly on a harpsichord. The drumming and band parts are equally excellent.

I Believe In Father Christmas is another ballad, though much better than Watching Over You, mainly because of the lyrics (which are excellent, and targeted at the negative effects of commercial Christmas) and the Prokofiev theme. There is a delicious irony in this song's appearance around Christmas every year. The keyboards, when added, are to good effect, and I like the main acoustic tune.

Close But Not Touching is another jazz piece, this time Palmer-penned, and with an excellent drum performance, as you might expect. It's basically a big band piece, and pretty hectic, throughout, with a couple of tunes repeating and mostly unconnected soloing. The lack of direction sometimes takes away from the enjoyment (for me), but it's still a decent track.

Honkey Tonk Train Blues is a (n excellent) jazz cover. The piano and percussion keep it going throughout and yet run off on their own spontaneously, while the brass additions over the top keep blaring out. Again cheerful. Again good.

Show Me The Way To Go Home is an exceptional rendition of the traditional song, with club piano, relaxed vocals and orchestral additions leading into a brief instrumental trio, followed by a couple of brass parts leading seemlessly into the faster not-quite-ending section with more soulful vocals, catchy harmonies and a quiet and almost lamentful end. This doesn't fall short of what I expect from earlier ELP, and is probably the best song on the album.

Onto the bonus material: the three live renditions aren't really that great, with average production, a performance of Tiger In A Spotlight (though I prefer the studio version) is always good. Watching Over You is a track I don't like, so a second version (even if it is an improvement, since it feels slightly more emotionally charged) isn't an overwhelming plus for me. Lastly, Show Me The Way To Go Home - an excellent performance, with good improvisation on the opening clouded over by poor sound quality. I miss the vocal harmonies, but it's still a good version of an excellent song, and distinctly different from the studio version.

Overall, this is still an album full of enjoyable material, and while it doesn't hit the experimental and powerful peaks that Tarkus or ELP did, I'll still give it the occasional listen when I'm not in the mood for something heavier or just want to relax with a bit of background jazz. An optimistic three stars, though I can understand why it's sometimes rated lower here.

Rating: Three Stars. Good fun. Favourite Track: Show Me The Way To Go Home

Cutting it down to two stars. I still think exactly what I did at the time of the review (though the vinyl Tiger In A Spotlight blew the CD one out of the water, for some entirely irrational reason), but I admit that, if you're not a huge ELP fan, there are much more interesting directions to check out, first. Enjoyed, but non-essential, though ironically non-ELP fans might find this preferable to some of their more 'bombastic' stuff.

TGM: Orb | 2/5 |

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