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


Emerson Lake & Palmer


Symphonic Prog

4.23 | 2036 ratings

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4 stars 3.5 stars really.

The first album by the first prog supergroup, as members of King Crimson, The Nice and Arthur Brown / Atomic Rooster came together to create a new type of music.

Well, not really new, since it is dominated by Emerson's neo-classical sensibilities. Pretty much a continuation of the Nice, only with a much better singer (in terms of ability, I think Palmer and Lake were pretty much on the same level as Davidson and Jackson on their respective instruments).

Many people consider this their best work. In some ways, I can agree. It's fresh, different, and pretty consistent. There are no "joke" songs, and it's actually comparatively restrained compared to their later albums. On the other hand, it seems to me that they really didn't have enough material for a complete album and threw some stuff together at the last minute to fill up the album.

The album opens with a heavy handed Bartok interpretation, The Barbarian. It is pretty much a statement of intent for the band, and as such works pretty well. Heavy, distorted organ, nimble bass lines, and propulsive drumming define the piece. Not a bad tune.

Take A Pebble is a Lake composition, and is by my reckoning the best song on the album. A great ascending and descending piano melody compliments Lake's fantastic vocal melody. The instrumental middle section features Lake on unaccompanied acoustic playing some lovely yet simple major key explorations (though the almost country section with the drums is more than a little corny, but it's over quickly). This is followed by an excellent jazz tinged piano solo section over a great Lake bass line with excellent drumming from Palmer. It finishes in grand fashion with a reprise of the beginning section. A great piece.

Knife edge is a driving song, containing yet more classical "borrowings", this time Janáček's Sinfonietta for orchestra, Opus 60. Lake has added lyrics to this one though, and his vocals fit very well. A very fine piece of music, and another defining piece for the band, with heavy organ, great bass playing, and precise drumming.

The Three Fates is basically 3 mostly unrelated pieces stuck together to create a longer piece. Church Organ, then piano, then Emerson soloing over a repetitive bass and drum line. Frankly, I find this song rather dull and aimless, but I suppose Emerson's playing is decent. Tank is a Palmer Drum solo, followed by another repetitive bass and drum line with soloing. Not a bad solo, but I really don't understand why bands put them on albums. Another mostly uninteresting track.

Finally, we have the song that everyone in the Western world has probably heard (over the age of 30, at least), Lucky Man. Lake wrote it when he was 12, though it is not a terrible song, despite the simple chord progressions and humorously naive lyrics (though even those are pretty good for a 12 year old). Emerson didn't want to use it, because he didn't think it represented what the band was. Of course, with his ego, he wasn't really considering what the other band members wanted, so Carl and Greg recorded the song without Keith. Later, Keith recorded a Moog "solo" over the tail end of the piece. Keith later stating that it was really more of him just playing with the Moog and not a proper solo. Nevertheless, it has become an iconic Moog solo and was one of the first times members of the public would hear this now hopelessly intertwined with prog rock instrument. The song became a hit. The band made lots of money, thanks in large part to Lakes simple song. Keith, it seems, never really accepted this or was comfortable with it. But, it allowed the band to move on to a more interesting album with a large following and plenty of money.

On the whole, I don't find this to be their best album. But the first half is excellent, and the second half, while far less interesting to me, is not terrible. So a solid 3.5, rounding up for the historical significance and my general fondness for ELP.

infandous | 4/5 |


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