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

BLACK MOON

Emerson Lake & Palmer

 

Symphonic Prog

2.84 | 311 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

TGM: Orb
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Review 38, Black Moon, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, 1992

StarStarStarStar

I really like this much-maligned (here, at least) album, though it's probably not for everyone. Greg Lake's voice has certainly faded since its glory days, but is still passable, and has a certain verve and aggression that suits numbers like Black Moon and Paper Blood. Palmer does have a rather less constantly-shifting style that takes a while to get used to and appreciate, but still gives some solid moments. Emerson is on top form throughout, whether with vicious Hammond or gentle piano. It's not going to be another reiteration of their glory days, but it is a collaborative effort and well worth taking a listen to.

Black Moon's classic title track opens with a tense, dark atmosphere created mostly by Emerson's shimmering keyboard choices, including a bizarre, brief, crashing piano solo. Palmer and Lake kick in with a rather We Will Rock You -esque beat, though it's heavily elaborated (one or two brief bass solos also colour it). Lake's vocal, strong and aggressive, drives through the excellent and biting lyrics ('We don't get active, we become immune/Black Moon.'), and the synths give a certain strut to the political lyrics. We get two incredibly good solos from Emerson, and towards the end Palmer gives us some interesting classical-ish drumming choices which hark back to the glory of Toccata. A classic ELP track, equal with much of their past fare.

Paper Blood is aggressive ELP-fare, with a superb performance from Emerson on the hammond, giving some stabbing bursts of energy as well as that lovable blues block organ. Palmer's heavy, but quite relaxed, drumming suits the song down to the ground, and Greg Lake doesn't do badly on the vocals/lyrics department. Some strong harmonica adds yet another colour to the mix. A very thick riff holds the song together.

Affairs Of The Heart is (Shock, horror. They've betrayed prog) a ballad, with some standard Lake acoustic strumming complimented by a couple of bursts of interest. His vocals (despite some extremely good lyrical lines ['faces like a ghost with eyes of jade]) do finder it harder to cope with the extended showcase, but when Palmer and Emerson (especially, some amazingly emotional soft keyboard additions, piano and others) come in, it does take off very impressively.

The interpretation of Tchaikovsky's Romeo And Juliet has a very vicious and dark colour of its own, with strutting synths, loud and superbly interesting drumming and even Greg Lake guitar soloing of the highest order. Palmer definitely feels very much in his element on this one, and I'm a sucker for a dark (/re-)interpretation of classical pieces. Great stuff.

Farewell To Arms has a harder time contending with the rest, because despite some reverent organ and absolutely beautiful piano from Emerson (as well as excellent bass, and not-so-great acoustics from Lake). Palmer doesn't quite match up to himself in the song, feeling a bit subserviant to the mix. Lake's vocals are basically the song, and, though generally good, but overblown, they do border on the tacky at times. A whirly moog solo that from Emerson, almost a nod to Lucky Man, leads us out.

Changing States seems almost like a soundtrack piece, with an array of great piano, synthesiser and organ parts leading to the pompous and cheerful addition of a bizarre drum-bass combination which whimsically take a solo or add in something. Emerson gives us both the main tune and some variations on smaller instruments which take a little listening to notice. Basically, ELP doing what ELP do, but with a different basic sound. Lots of variations from everyone involved, a panache and grandeur that isn't to be missed.

Burning Bridges (written by manager, Terry Mancina) begins with a tense drum-part and some thick organ, with the later addition of some piano and bass, before it develops to a pop tune (I love it, don't care.). Greg Lake gives us some great vocals and lyrics to this pop tune. Keith Emerson's wonderfully dripping brief piano and organ solos, and his musicianship throughout shows how great musicians can work superbly in a pop context. Carl Palmer also provides some very fierce work in addition to his basic beat. Pop tune, but I like it.

The odd Close To Home is a piano solo (so I can't help the musicians). The feel is rather carefree, structured, but not tightly so, and played gently and carelessly on a warm afternoon. There is a rather developing feel throughout the solo. Warm and cheerful, but I can't evaluate it.

Better Days is a punchy, almost-electronic-feeling piece, with catchy bass and drums, some rocking keyboards from Emerson, mostly tolerable (narrative) lyrics and good vocals from Lake. Palmer gets to use some bells as well as a bass drum-heavy beat. All in all, a good pop song, with Emerson and Palmer giving it a little extra class.

Footprints In The Snow is another of the ballads, with the usual Greg Lake acoustics, which I can't say I find very interesting, but also some gorgeous piano additions, background keys and small bass parts. Lake's voice doesn't really have too much difficulty handling the spotlight, and the lyrics are good enough for the piece, though not great. The gradual build up in the last verse is sublime, and the conclusion for the album is prety strong.

The bonus material on my remaster is banal. Four edits with reduced atmospheric build-up. No point in listening any further than Footprints In The Snow, really. I could have done without the extras.

Basically, around half of this album is heavily pop-based or ballad-styled, so if you don't care for that, put it somewhere later on in your ELP-list. However, this half is very well done, and the other half (Romeo And Juliet, Black Moon, Changing States, etc.) is certainly not to be missed by anyone who likes ELP (or doesn't), and I think a reasonably open-minded prog fan should be happy with it. Not a masterpiece, certainly, but a very good album in a changed musical world.

Rating: Four Stars Favourite Track: Black Moon

Edit: Dropped carefully to three stars. Same recommendations apply, but I think that three reflects them better by comparison to some of my other ratings.

TGM: Orb | 3/5 |

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