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


Emerson Lake & Palmer


Symphonic Prog

4.23 | 2078 ratings

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4 stars ELP is probably one of the most debated of all classic prog bands, praised to heaven by some, slated by others. I find myself in both camps really, often even simultaneously, one moment marvelling at their unique sound and musicianship, the next shaking my head in desperation at the pointless and emotionless drivel they churned out. Also their debut doesn't escape this ambiguity and contains both pearls of prog and annoying filler.

The first track is essential, in so far that I would include it on a 'mixed tape' sampler of prog music - supposing someone would actually ask for that. The Barbarian is rock music full of classical influences, it's big, overstated, pompous, grandiose, swirling, epic, virtuosic, it's prog! And it only needs 4.30 minutes to make its point.

Take A Pebble shows another side of ELP, more lyrical, melodious and romantic. It's the Lake side of ELP, more classic rock ballad oriented, tasteful and more subtle then Emerson's extravagance. It's the other aspect of ELP's sound that makes them an interesting listen. Take A Pebble is a beautiful piece of music; even if the middle part is a bit long-winded, (especially the piano section).

Knife Edge is another classic ELP track where all 3 forces in the band come together very successfully, the heavy organs from Emerson, the pumping bass and commanding vocals from Lake and Palmer's superb drumming.

Side B of the original album has a whole lot less to offer, at least to me, when I want to hear church organ I'll put on Bach and when it comes to piano, there's a library full of more meaningful pieces from classic composers and jazz pianists. The Three Fates is not bad by any means but it's a bridge too far for me. The last two minutes with the entire band make more sense.

Tank is the desperation moment. There are worse examples but still this is where purposeless virtuosity for its own sake takes over, the drum solo is downright tedious. However, the last 2 minutes save this one again and demonstrate what this band could achieve when they set their minds to it. A great staccato rhythm sets the pace for one of the first moog solos on a rock album, and it's a great one, both playful, smart and dramatic. Lucky Man is ELP's campfire moment, unexpectedly ending with anther big moog party.

Making consistent albums wasn't ELP's specialty and the debut suffers from their lack of consistency. Overall, I count a good 20 minutes of really great music here. The remainder is a bit average but nothing that's really poor.

EDIT: I though I liked Tarkus more but upon reviewing that one, I realised this debut is my preferred ELP release after all.

Bonnek | 4/5 |


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