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

EMERSON LAKE & PALMER

Emerson Lake & Palmer

 

Symphonic Prog

4.23 | 2081 ratings

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Syntharachnid
4 stars The self-titled debut album of prog's neo-classical Symph-Prog trio gives a good taste of what's to come for this monumental band. They found their footing fairly quickly for a band whose members are all freshly picked from the finest Proto-Prog bands of the late- sixties and early seventies. Here, you can see ELP starting to develop the album format that would win and lose them some in the years to come. You've got your classical adaptation (Bartok's "The Barbarian"), you've got your Lake ballad (the unsought after radio hit "Lucky Man"), you've got your concert favorite-to-be ("Take a Pebble"), you've got a couple of short but memorable tracks ("Knife Edge" and "Tank") and you've got your Emerson ego-trip ("The Three Fates"). The only thing missing appears to be the worthless "comedy" number. But we can live without that.

The album is more laid back than the better recognized "Tarkus" or especially "Brain Salad Surgery". Emerson plays some blistering solos here, but the pace of the album as a whole seems to be quite a lot slower than the aforementioned albums, or even than "Trilogy". This impression may be partially because of the centerpiece track "Take a Pebble", which is bookended by two lyrical ballad-like bits featuring Greg's beautiful voice over the sound of Keith strumming a piano. In between, there's an acoustic guitar and nature sounds bit, followed by some of Keith's most sensitive piano playing. Yes folks, he could be subtle when he wanted to, he just chose not to be most of the time.

"Take a Pebble" is one of three numbers on the album meant to showcase the individual songwriting talents of each of the three members. Pebble was written entirely by Lake. "The Three Fates" was written entirely by Emerson. This is a composition in three parts: one for pipe organ, one for piano, and the last for three pianos. All three are thoroughly engaging and showcase Emerson's writing style very accurately, as well as his incredible instrumental prowess. Mr. Palmer lends a helping hand or two (and a couple of sticks) to part three.

In return for this, Emerson assists Carl in composing his feature number, "Tank", as composition was never his strong point. Unless, of course, he's composing (improvising?) a drum solo! A Palmer drum solo is always a red carpet event, and this one's no exception. It fits nicely in with Keith's intro and outro.

There's a funny story behind the album's introductory track "The Barbarian". This story is also the reason I bought the album used on vinyl. Early editions of the album had this track credited to Keith Emerson, when it was actually composed by Bela Bartok for solo piano and arranged for rock band by Keith Emerson. The song itself opens the album (and the band's career) with a bang. Emo's characteristic synths and Hammond dominate, setting the stage for the next five releases.

Knife-Edge is a cool rocker with some great vocals from Greg Lake. A great way to end Side One. Side Two ends with a similar kick in the pants, with the ballad "Lucky Man". It's great that this was the track to become a hit for ELP, much as it doesn't represent their sound. The reason being that the track's finale makes very pronounced use of the Moog Synthesizer shortly after its development. This introduced the general public to a new and exciting sound that would become one of prog's defining traits, and would be used in several other styles to boot. In conclusion, "Emerson Lake and Palmer" is an excellent debut from a monumental trio. It is great all the way through, although "The Three Fates" can get a bit dull at times. Not that it's bad, its just that there are lots of other Emerson features I enjoy more. And "Take a Pebble" more than makes up for it. The other tracks are also solid moments in ELP history. A more than satisfactory piece of prog from all angles.

Syntharachnid | 4/5 |

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