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

EMERSON LAKE & PALMER

Emerson Lake & Palmer

 

Symphonic Prog

4.23 | 1369 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

LinusW
Special Collaborator
Italian Prog Specialist
4 stars It's both a surprise and an impressive statement that this first album by the symphonic supergroup is their best. The complicated relations of the three members and their individual talents actually work alongside each other at one-hundred percent here, creating a focus and determination one would have wanted for all the successive albums, but sadly is found only here.

There has always been a deep schism in ELP's music, between top-class symphonic numbers and the more accessible songs, appealing to a wider audience. Heading off in your own direction, with the choice of combining these two styles, is by many considered the biggest flaw of the group. I'm often, but definitely not always, agreeing with it since it makes many of the albums feel like bags of wild ideas, without relation to each other and far from being in touch with the audience. It's an egocentric, introvert yet flamboyant style of music you often love OR hate. Stuck in a middle-ground between these camps, I find ELP's career to be an interesting mix of highs and lows. The self-titled debut is a definite high. It's definitely focused on sheer, brutal musicianship, leaving vocals and lyrics a little behind. If you find this hard to bear, be warned.

With a menacing distorted guitar, The Barbarian opens the album in classic ELP style. Aggressive, loud and forceful, with technical and jagged keys from mr. Emerson and drum power from Palmer, you know you're in for a proper tour-de-force. Interestingly, the song develops into a nervous, paranoid theme with a compulsion that reminds me of Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso's Darwin!, only to return to more violent ground and the abrupt ending.

Showcasing ELP's most prominent feature - the polarity - Take A Pebble is next. It's stunningly beautiful, sometimes reminiscent of the mellower King Crimson tunes, but with a lot more emphasis on piano. Soft-singing, Greg Lake delivers the first vocal line of this great tune. It's not sad, but reflective in nature. Mystical and enthralling, it's carried away on Emerson's delicate piano. The odd, cheerful middle-part with guitar feels very Yes-like for a while, but it's deceptive. In a matter of seconds, the piano is back, very classical-sounding this time. A real pleasure for tired ears.

Lucky Man closes this phenomenal album, being the last jigsaw in the ELP puzzle. Simple in structure, light-hearted in ideas and concept and perhaps frustratingly accessible to some, it's a quality rock song nevertheless. Acoustic guitar as a textural backdrop, with a relaxed electric solo, standard drumming and Emerson surprisingly out of the picture. He delivers a Moog solo in the end, but it's actually not that mind-boggling. A fair, but not brilliant ending.

Aggression is what prevails though, and most of the remaining songs wander off in that direction. The hard-rocking Knife Edge, a bit like something by Atomic Rooster, the chaotic and brilliant Three Fates, which I didn't like at all from the beginning, but which has evolved into an amazing display of Emerson's, but also Carl Palmer's disciplined frenzies as instrumentalists.

It is absolutely an odd collection of songs. But they all work together, sharing one important thing: impressive quality. And sometimes that's all you need. There are some jazzy parts thrown around, there is a lot of arty pretension, stunning displays of skill, drama and fire. Borderline masterpiece.

4 stars.

//LinusW

LinusW | 4/5 |

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