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Keith Emerson

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Keith Emerson Honky album cover
2.94 | 50 ratings | 14 reviews | 6% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1981

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Hello Sailor Intro (1:59)
2. Bach Before The Mast (2:19)
3. Hello Sailor Finale (4:31)
4. Salt Cay (4:59)
5. Green Ice (6:18)
6. Intro-Juicing (0:25)
7. Big Horn Breakdown (2:12)
8. Yancey Special (4:31)
9. Rum-A-Ting (5:10)
10. Chickcharnie (6:21)
11. Jesus Loves Me (5:04)

Total time 43:49

Line-up / Musicians

- Keith Emerson / Yamaha CP30, MiniMoog, Hammond C3, Korg 3100 & 3300, Steinway concert grand model D, Yamaha grand, vocoder (9), arranger & producer

- Kayla Lockhart Singers / vocals (8)
- Michael Hanna / vocals (9)
- Shelley Lightbourn / vocals (9)
- Mott (the Hoople ?) / guitar (1,7)
- Andrew Brennen / tenor sax (1-3)
- Dick Morrissey / tenor sax (7)
- Peter King / alto sax (7)
- Kendall Stubbs / bass
- Neil Seymonette / drums & percussion (1-3,7-9)
- Frank Scully / drums & percussion (4,6)

Releases information

Artwork: Neal Preston (photo)

LP Bubble ‎- BLU 19608 (1981, Italy)

CD Chord Records ‎- CD002 (1986, UK)
CD Castle Music ‎- CMRCD1215 (2005, Europe) Remastered by Will Alexander
CD Esoteric Recordings ‎- ECLEC 2419 (2013, Europe) Remastered

Thanks to MANDRAKEROOT for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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KEITH EMERSON Honky ratings distribution

(50 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(6%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(26%)
Good, but non-essential (38%)
Collectors/fans only (24%)
Poor. Only for completionists (6%)

KEITH EMERSON Honky reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by richardh
4 stars Something of a change for Keith Emerson from the bombastic full on prog of ELP to this quite 'laid back' offering.The music has a much more rounded,melodic and 'warmer' approach then the hard nosed technical innovation of somthing like say Toccata or Karn Evil.This is chilled out Emerson and the album photos are indicative of that as he plays with his kid.

Thats not to say there isn't something interesting going on.Hello Sailor (ft Bach Before The Mast) shows Emersons undoubted ability on the piano as he mixes a Sailors Hornpipe with Bach before going onto the Hammond for the finale.Great stuff! (5/5) Salt Cay is also a very good composition featuring some excellent drumming and more top notch hammond work (4/5).

Green Ice sounds like it was intended to be a film soundtrack.Quite a repititive peice where the piano is more to the fore.(4/5) Big Horn Breakdown (4/5) is back to the Honky Tonk piano style that Emerson is fond of while Yancey Special is perhaps the most uninteresting track for me (2/5). Rum A Ting (along with Hello Sailor) is my other favourite peice here (5/5) while the final track is a bit of a throw away (Jesus Loves Me (1/5))

Overall as I said before perhaps best not to expect ELP like fireworks.Mixed bag with a few goodies - 3.5 stars.

Review by Atavachron
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The response Keith Emerson got when he suggested to Greg Lake and Carl Palmer that they do a version of 'The Sailor's Hornpipe' was lukewarm at best. And who can blame two of the greatest rock musicians in history for their misgivings... what was Keith thinking? But mostly because of Emerson's rare talents and even rarer inspirations, he knew exactly what he was doing. Silly? Perhaps, but also a great example of musical decontruction and reinterpretation, something ELP had done many times with classical in their meteoric career. Consequently, this project became Emerson's first solo record.

Able to draw out the musicality and warp the structure of the composition, Emerson slices this absurd ditty into pieces and finds some gold there, re-attaching things like patchwork but in the most inventive, strange and funny way, and breathing some life into this tired old novelty of a song. The opening is sheer Emersonian piano heaven with him doing a full Bach treatment of the main theme, George Malcom's 'Bach Before the Mast', sounding at peak form. From there we bounce right in to this rolling and rocking sea chantey with some sweet organ from Keith and a nice horn section. 'Salt Cay' funks with gospel charm and Caribbean flavor, 'Green Ice' is a slick rock fusion number that was written (and unused) as a film theme with some slippery piano work, and Keith's old joke radio spot makes an appearance. Barroom humor abounds for the next few cuts before we're treated to 'Rum-A-Ting', a good little prog number, and things are wrapped-up with a reprise of the main tune.

The album does suffer from weak parts that don't support the theme and are just plain uninteresting but overall, especially for those keen on Emerson's post-ELP work, this is a really neat project. There have been at least three different releases of this CD; avoid the original pressing and find one of the remasters on Sanctuary or Gunslinger, they also have a better track order which makes a big difference.

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Since in his tenure with ELP, I have always admired Keith Emerson as one of prog great musicians. By that time I could only compare him at par excellent with Rick Wakeman of YES. In terms of virtuosity, these two musicians are at the same level. Both can produce great pulsating keyboard notes in fast fashion and even in short transition piece which I could not believe both can deliver wonderfully. On ELP terms, I refer this to their seminal track KARN EVIL 9 (1st impression until 3rd impression) where Keith delivered his skills amazingly. It's really awesome. His expression through Hammond and Moog systhesizer are marvelous! On Yes terms I can say Rick Wakeman's contribution on STARSHIP TROOPER is also amazing. So, I rated these two musicians very highly.

Unfortunately, in terms of solo album, Rick Wakeman did much more better than Keith Emerson. Look at his solo album "Journey to The Center of The Earth" which represents one of the best legend prog albums. His "Six Wives" and also "King Arthur" ere all excellent.

"Honky" represents Keith Emerson's debut solo with his great piano and / or keyboard as well as Hammond work. In terms of skills and virtuosity, Keith demonstrates it wonderfully. No doubt at all that he is a great musicians. The opening track "Hello Sailor (includes: Bach Before The Mast)" shows his musicianship. The piano solo he delivers in this track is really awesome. I do enjoy the classical part where he plays the notes in relatively fast tempo and it makes the music sounds dynamic. "Salt Cay" and "Green Ice" are good tracks as well. For those who really love Keith Emerson playing style, this album is worth listening. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Review by Muzikman
4 stars Honky is an enjoyable solo retreat. Originally released in 1985, it is remastered for superior sound. Emerson had to keep putting off this solo album because the record companies would hear his material, comment how good it was, and then ask him to record it with Carl Palmer and Greg Lake. So instead of releasing it on a date in the 70s, which would seem to make more sense, when ELP was at their peak, it kept getting pushed out, finally all the way out to 1985.

The question is, was it worth the wait. The answer is yes, if you happen to be a big fan of Emerson no matter what he does, and that happens to be yours truly. This was a fun listen; he takes a little bit of all of his influences, kicks back, and lets it all fly to see what happens. The result is a mixed bag of genres, and of course much of what you would not expect from the keyboard genius.

Gone are all the complex and bombastic compositions, in there place are rollicking tunes full of some basic rock with some honky-tonk, rhythm and blues, and flat out blues. This may come as a disappointment for some and a welcome change for others. Emerson has always been ultra talented and is the accomplished music chameleon. Never is that fact more apparent than on his maiden solo voyage.

Review by Easy Money
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars When Keith Emerson is good he can be amazing, but when he is bad ... Unfortunately this album is not one of Keith's better efforts, but it does have its moments. The album opens with Hello Sailor, which is an extensive workout based on Sailor's Hornpipe. The main tune gets treated to Bach style counterpoint, then sluggish funk rhythms and finally typical ELP pomp-rock. The whole arrangement is cute, unfortunately it is just a little too cute. The following tune, Salt Cay, alternates Herb Alpert style 70s Latin-pop with Hammond driven hard rock sections. It is a weird mix to be sure. Green Ice is another odd tune. I'm not sure where Keith got the odd double time stop-start rhythm that dominates this song, it sounds somewhat related to Latin jazz, but it totally lacks any kind of groove or flow.

Side two opens with one of those Shakey's Pizza Parlor honky-tonk piano numbers that could probably incite domestic violence if turned up loud enough. This is followed by Yancey Special which is more honky- tonk piano, this time set to a reggae beat. Need I say more?

The third song on side two, Rum-A-Ting is the one gem on this otherwise overly silly album. It opens with a 70s jazz fusion meets world beat style melody that used to be common on albums by people like Stanley Clarke or George Duke. This melody is followed by a great funky groove topped by some nice aggressive soloing on Keith's new digital Hammond. There is one part towards the end of the solo that is particularly interesting, for a few bars Keith repeats an electronic texture against the funky beat and seems to predict a style of music that will come in the next two decades when it will be introduced by people like Bill Laswell and various trip-hop DJs.

The album closes with Emerson's attempt at a Bahamian style pentecostal song of praise. I guess it is supposed to be kind of funny in a colonial kind of way ... whatever. It sounds a bit like Zappa, which only makes it seem all the more tacky and distasteful. When he is at his best Emerson can combine his many influences and come up with some really creative rock music, but when he is at his worst he is similar to vituoso easy-listening pianists like Roger Williams who pastiche unlikely styles together in an attempt to dazzle people and impress them with their technique.

Review by ExittheLemming
3 stars Play that funky music white boy

During a time which Emerson later described as that of 'zero pressure' in the aftermath of ELP's burial on Love Beach, our keyboard hero stayed on in the Bahamas to top up his tan, hide from Lester Bangs and 'soak up' some of the local hospitality. Inside those precious few little windows he had in his already busy itinerary, Keith also found time to dash off a solo album at a local recording studio to which he had unlimited access in return for helping the owners modernise the facility.

The mood here is understandably relaxed, as there was no hot breath on the back of the Emerson neck from inquisitive and anxious record companies to cramp his style and the result is a collection of 'hobbyist' tunes which pay homage to his earliest inspiration i.e boogie-woogie, jazz, classical and blues.

Hello Sailor Intro - The limitations of the recording studio are evident here immediately and the sound quality is only on a par with a semi-pro establishment. Despite that, the album has a very pleasing lo-fi grunt about it which seems to suit the aged choice of materials covered. Considering the sterility of so many 80's recordings, the grainy earthiness of Honky is a pleasure avalanche in comparison. The plaintive and stately guitar on this short mood setter is provided by the session engineer Mott who segues us into the next track with a very effective pattern of guitar harmonics a la Rush's Lifeson.

Bach Before the Mast - If Jacques Loussier was ever in the habit of going to fancy dress parties dressed as a pirate, getting hammered on rum and being asked to "give us a tune on the old joanna matey" then this is just what might have resulted. There are some sadistic contrapuntal demands in this George Malcolm piano fugue that beggars belief but Emerson rises to the challenge and puts in a magnificent performance by choosing (wisely) to postpone the introduction of any jazz or blues licks until the resultant finale.

Hello Sailor Finale - This one will certainly be picked up on any auditing proghead's radar and is perhaps the most overtly progressive track on the album. The aforementioned Mott contributes some tasteful and economic lead guitar on a jazz fusion treatment of the earlier Malcolm baroque material. This is a very busy and skilled arrangement which never sits idle for long but the rhythm section of Kendall Stubbs bass and Frank Scully's drums never allow the infectious groove to get lost for a second. Have sea shanties ever sounded this cool? In less astute hands this could have degenerated into the Pirates of Penzance as envisaged by Chick Corea.

Salt Cay - I think this was the theme music written by Keith for an Italian TV show. The Korg beasties that he was using at around this time are well to the fore together with some greasy organ that lends the piece a bluesy Jimmy Smith feel. The ending theme stated on chirpy synth over an irresistible start/stop groove will stick resolutely inside your head for months to come. We meet here the local Junkanoo percussion indigenous to the Bahamas which permeates the mix subtly and unobtrusively, giving Emerson's music a hitherto unprecedented funky edge.

Green Ice - This was part of the rejected score that Emerson submitted for the movie of the same name, and considering that Bill Wyman's offering won the day, this track made the decision by the film producers an even easier one. It just sounds plain contrived from start to finish, with a cramped groove that never gets airborne and wheezes under a flimsy and disjointed structure. Did Keith receive the wrong script in the mail and write the cheesy chanted jungle vocals befitting a production starring Carmen Miranda in the role of a cross-dressing Tarzan?. Shame really, as his piano soloing is excellent on the jazz fusion sections while his collaborators continue to lend robust support despite the weakness of the underlying ideas.

Intro-juicing - Some people only sing when they're drunk, and others drink because we've heard them.

Big Horn Breakdown - Not sure who wrote the original but it might possibly have been Billy Taylor? The renowned Dick Morrisey (If, Alexis Corner etc) contributes a playful and jesting sax solo here and it is obvious that the whole ensemble are having loads of fun in the process. Once again the Junkanoo percussion arsenal lends this familiar style an interesting and innovative texture. Very few of the prog keyboard giants apart from Keith have ever tackled boogie-woogie convincingly and it should be evident by now that the required feel and phrasing are subtly elusive and take considerable dedication to master. Many other celebrated technicians make it sound like 'Status Quo for piano'.

Yancey Special - An instalment of Keith's acknowledged debt to the early masters of 'primitive piano' is repaid here on a joyous romp through a Meade Lux Lewis construction sourced from one of Jimmy Yancey's left hand boogie patterns. Yep, Emo could probably play this sort of thing in his sleep but nevertheless, his consummate feel and the infectious energy that radiates from all the players on this number is exactly what you hear from your speakers.

Rum a Ting - The Junkanoo percussion is featured prominently on a rhythm section intro before we head off into some more delightful jazz fusion territory boasting a memorable main theme and some eloquent dialogue between Emerson's percussive electric piano and the sinewy hired muscle that is Stubbs and Scully. The 'wooping' synth exclamation marks towards the end are a real goose bump raiser.

Chickcharnie - The bottom of the barrel would have represented the ceiling for Emerson on this 'disco' piano abomination utilising a melodic seed from the Nighthawks soundtrack. Like having your ears syringed (with wax).

Jesus Loves Me - Oh lordy...has Emerson gone and done a Dylan on us? Relax, this is just a misguided but sincere attempt at transferring the joyous abandon of a Caribbean gospel church service to the recording studio. Aided and abetted by what sounds like the Bahamas Ladies (Male) Voice Choir, Keith makes a decent stab at it ('scuse the pun) but as spirited and energetic as all this is, his self consciousness at being in such unfamiliar territory is betrayed by an uncharacteristically aimless and ragged solo that drags on too long. A failed experiment but one I am glad he attempted as it shows an adventurous spirit still burns even on such a relatively conservative album as this one.

As 'PA' have gone to the trouble of placing Keith's solo output quite appropriately in the Crossover Prog category, I am always puzzled at the dismissive tenor of so many of the reviews of these albums. I do admit that his career outside ELP has been very patchy but we seem to be falling into the trap of appraising this music by what is does not contain instead of what it does. Yes, there are no twenty minute bombastic, technical and conceptual pieces on this record. Would any of us throw the same barb at Peter Gabriel, Supertramp, Talk Talk, Procul Harum, the Moody Blues or (gulp) Radiohead?

Thought not.

My Dad likes this album, and he hates everything (Nuff said)

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
2 stars Hello sailor!

This first solo album by Keith Emerson is not a pleasant experience! If you know Rick Wakeman's Rhapsodies album you will have a pretty good idea of what to expect here in both style and quality. It is clear that Emerson had fun making this, but it is hard to take this music seriously. Is it meant as a joke? I would have to say, at least partly, yes!

Judging from the disastrous Works Vol. 1 double album, you might expect Emerson to continue in a classical direction. But this album is much closer in style to Carl Palmer's side of the Works album, which means a jazzy affair. The album is almost entirely instrumental but with a few vocal bits. The mood is jolly and a bit whimsical, even silly.

Honky was recorded in the Bahamas and according to the booklet 'honky' is what the children of the island called Keith while he was there! It is reasonable to believe that Emerson's stay there was primarily a holiday and that this album was recorded in that relaxed, care-free spirit.

ELP's Love Beach is a near masterpiece compared to this drivel! This album is for completionists only. Recommended only for a laugh.

Review by ZowieZiggy
2 stars It is amazing to see that while separated from each other, this great trio was unable to release good works. This clearly demonstrates (if necessary) that the sum of individuals does not match the strength of a group.

The "Hello Sailor" mini suite (including the "Bach" stuff) could have been taken out of the ELP repertoire, it is one of the best moments of music available when compared to other parts of this album (like the childish and jazzy "Salt Cay").

Unlike some other reviewers, I believe that there is a certain ELP feel to this album. Not of their best period, but still: "Green Ice" has definitely lots to share with them. The master demonstrates his skills quite well; it is only a pity that some "vocals" are ruining this piece of music.

Some Charleston/Country atmosphere for "Big Horn Breakdown". Might be fun, but it is really not my cup of tea, and I wonder who could be enthusiast about this masquerade (another one being the infect "Jesus Loves Me").

Dear Keith is attempting to offer us some reggae/jazz while playing "Yancey Special". I can't say that this mix is overwhelming me with passion. It is more of a "press next" type of song.

At the end of day, a song as "Rum-A-Thing" is probably the best you can get here: nice beat with very good percussion work, some fine fluting and a pleasant and not invading work from Keith.

In all, this is not a great album, I'm afraid. Two stars because it still holds some good moments, but not enough to reach the three stars level.

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars I found this rare album (Italian Edition) just last year first time. I never heard about this Emerson album before, so I just took it expecting something in ELP/The Nice style.

What a disaster! Nothing similar at all! What I got was a easy listening, very relaxed, not too serious. But most important - it was not a Emerson music at all. I can compare it not only with ELP, but and with his later solo albums.

Maybe he was just in searching of his solo way at that time. Album is not bad in general, something as average relaxed summer holiday music. But main thing I didn't found there - that Emerson keybord style, you know, the Master's signature.

So, I think this album could be interesting for collectors only.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars I never could understand why so many people dislike this album. Sure, it's not as heavy as Karn Evil 9, or Tarkus, but this is a solo album.

Honky starts out on the right foot with a trio of track dedicated to the famous Sailor's Hornpipe. I've always like the tune anyway, and Emerson does a fine job. The slow intro is nice, the piano interpretations are incredible, and the rock version is just cool.

Salt Cay revisits some of the themes used in ELP's Pirates from the Works album. And Green Ice is an okay fusion piece, made better by Emerson's keyboard playing.

After a quick reminder of why Emerson rarely sings, we get the obligatory honky-tonk song (I've always liked these, even the silly ELP songs), and some boogie-woogie. Chickcharnie should be familiar to those with the Nighthawks soundtrack, as it was used as the title song. It's much better without the vocals.

Luckily, the gospel song Jesus Loves Me is at the end, making it easier to skip.

Without the last track, this would be a solid four stars. With it, 3.5, but I'll be generous and round it up.

Review by b_olariu
3 stars Keith Emerson is one of the most talented and influencial keybordist in prog, for many the most. Everybody knows his work with ELP, so I will begun saying that his solo career has ups and downs. One of the ups I might say that is this album, his second relese from 1981 named Honky. Quite contrary to other reviewers I find this album pleasent, diffrent from what he done with ELP, here are besides keybord orientated tunes some funkier moments, but goes very well in this context and even good if are melted with lush keys. I was pleasently surprised, because when I saw how low rated is here, I thought will be some filler album. His talent and imagination can be found here aswell, some great tracks are Big Horn Breakdown and Green ice, each one showing that he is still in bussines, even some momemnts remind me of ELP as aproach but always coming with something diffrent. Not a spectacular album for sure, but not a bad one either IMO, good moments are plenty here, maybe some dull moments are present but overall is ok, desearves 3 stars from me. I like the cover art, goes hand in hand with the music. Not recommended but if you want to explore some of the his solo career start with this one, you will find some intristing arrangements.
Review by Matti
2 stars Anyone who knows the output of Emerson, Lake & Palmer is aware of how playful musician Keith Emerson can be. On this solo album he had the chance to play like a child in a toy shop, accompanied by Bahamian musicians. As the recent Esoteric Recordings re-release informs us, he had a happy time in and out of the studio, sun-bathing, water-skiing, fishing etc. and therefore this album is for him a dear bringer of joyful memories. It can't be denied that the joyful spirit can be felt by the listener too.

Anyone who knows the output of Emerson, Lake & Palmer also pretty surely can guess in advance whether (s)he will enjoy this album or will it push the irritation button. Well, at least the Bach pastiche composed by George Malcolm is nice. The production values are principally fine: the keyboards are in tune and the co-musicians are gifted.

On my behalf there's absolutely nothing else to say.

Latest members reviews

3 stars Sure, this album doesn't take itself seriously, but some of the greatest films ever made were comedies. While I'm not saying that this is a comedy, some of it certainly is a lot of fun, and about seventeen seconds are downright silly (Intro-Juicing). But that aside, it has some fun tunes. Not exa ... (read more)

Report this review (#759754) | Posted by HURBRET | Monday, May 28, 2012 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Like a game sure Honky is a terrible beautiful vacation game. Because in this case Emerson games to do the verse to Rick Wakeman! If you love Emerson for The Nica and ELP music... You forget this Emerson. Is my opinion that emerson have a great mind and a very full musical soul. But in this case ... (read more)

Report this review (#156534) | Posted by Stige | Tuesday, December 25, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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