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Emerson Lake & Palmer - Emerson, Lake & Powell: Emerson, Lake & Powell CD (album) cover

EMERSON, LAKE & POWELL: EMERSON, LAKE & POWELL

Emerson Lake & Palmer

 

Symphonic Prog

3.13 | 557 ratings

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Mirakaze
Special Collaborator
Eclectic Prog & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
2 stars After eight years of floating in limbo (more or less) Emerson and Lake finally found each other again and revived the ELP brand. The only problem is that Palmer was unavailable, but this isn't that big a deal, honestly. Not just because Emerson and Lake could quickly find another drummer whose last name begins with the letter P, but also because Palmer was never a truly essential component of the band's sound: he rarely wrote or composed anything and never added any other irreplacable element to the music. He just did what he was supposed to as a drummer and happened to be outstanding at his job. His replacement, Cozy Powell, is not quite as outstanding at his job (at least not on this album; I can't say I'm too familiar with his other work), but he at least keeps the beat competently.

What is a big deal however is that there's just no grand plan behind this album. Either Keith and Greg weren't sure about which direction to take or they just couldn't agree on much (which seems likely considering the band's quick demise after the release of this album) but I get the impression that the two decided to reunite mostly just for its own sake or for the fun of it, rather than because they had a lot of musical ideas that warranted combining their efforts. Most of this album is again just a bunch of bland pop songs with mundane lyrics. No, there's nothing on here as ridiculous as on Love Beach (with the possible exception of the unbearably cheesy "Love Blind"), it's just a lot of boredom.

"Lay Down Your Guns" for example is musical filler in its purest form. It pretends to be a big emotional gospel anthem but really just uses the clichéd pseudo-epic 1980s production with booming electronic 4/4 drums and string synths to mask its utter musical vacuousness: it has no interesting melody or chord progression, no original arrangement, no breathtaking instrumental performance, and no profound lyrics whatsoever. It literally just exists for the sake of existing. "The Miracle" and "Touch And Go" are slightly better because they at least have something that resembles a melody but they're still bogged down by the boring rhythms and generic production. These songs sure sound bombastic, but bombast is useless without any substance to justify it, and bombast by itself was never what made ELP great to begin with. It was in the first place the quality of the songwriting and the amazing musicianship of the band members. Speaking of which, even though his synthesizers are still omnipresent and sound a lot more intimidating than on Love Beach, Keith is nonetheless frustratingly shy on this album: a good keyboard solo or two from him might have just been the spark to make this album stand out a little more, but he rarely gives in to his urges and the few times he does step in the spotlight on this album don't exactly show him at the best of his capabilities. I mean, live performances from this era prove that he was definitely still capable of assaulting his keyboards at light-speed velocity. Couldn't he have saved some of it for the studio?

Thankfully, some face is saved on the two tracks that bookend the album, which prove to me that this album wasn't purely meant as a pointless cash-in. First of all, "The Score" is just a lot of good fun, more or less in the style of "Fanfare For The Common Man": Greg plays a simple bass line over which Keith plays a main theme that is simultaneously catchy and awesome in all of its dorkiness. Plus, it's the one spot on the album where you'll hear Keith playing an analog synth (although I suppose it might just be a digital synth imitating an analog synth). At 9 minutes, one might think it overstays its welcome, but the boys try their best to switch up the melodies and the rhythms so that it doesn't become too monotonous. Then at the end we have a cover of Gustav Holst's famous "Mars, The Bringer Of War" because what would an ELP reunion (sort of) be without a classical cover? Well, apparently this was a request from the record company and even Emerson was reluctant to tackle this piece due to it being too obvious and/or clichéd, but I'm glad he was persuaded to do it anyway because it lends itself really well to rock reinterpretation. It's not as awesome as King Crimson's version of the song but it's clear that the boys put their heart into it and wanted to make it their own thing. Finally, I have to give a few bonus points for "Learning To Fly", which is basically just another pop song except it does have a few interesting harmonic twists and a moderately catchy coda. Call it a guilty pleasure if you want. Or maybe I'm just forgiving towards it because it's the first pop song you hear before you become numbed by the overwhelming blandness of most of the songs that follow after it. What a pity that these minor successes had to be buried under a mountain of fluff.

Mirakaze | 2/5 |

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