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Emerson Lake & Palmer - Works Vol. 2 CD (album) cover


Emerson Lake & Palmer


Symphonic Prog

2.44 | 685 ratings

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3 stars Ouch! Artist hits the canvas and gets counted out....

Had this been a boxing match, I hope they would have thrown in the towel to spare the victim suffering any more potentially irreparable damage. I've felt for some time that this album got it's 'damn good hiding' as a reaction to the perceived excesses of Works Volume One by a majority of ELP fans, and the alienation they felt at having it confirmed by installments, that the trio had largely abandoned their previous electronic style.

Be that as it may, Atlantic were left to mop up the remnants of that four-sided mismatch, and provided us with this two-sided mishmash as a means to stem the flow of losses suffered by a band who were hemorrhaging huge amounts of cash during a crippling orchestral tour.

What we have here is less than A Saucerful of Secrets and more of 'A Doggy Bag of Tidbits'. A decent, if rather undistinguished collection of singles, B sides, outtakes, oatcakes and fruitcakes.

'Tiger in a Spotlight' - A leftover from the Brain Salad Surgery sessions and although just a bog standard boogie, a filling snack with some understated lead guitar flourishes from Lake, a scintillating barroom piano solo from Emerson all held together by a very tautly swung shuffle from Palmer. Keith makes good use here of those signature brass sounds he coaxes from the Moog to garnish an otherwise cheesy dish with some alien 'other worldly' seasoning. This studio incarnation of 'Tiger' however, always seems muddy and unfocused to my ears, and pales in comparison to that of the superior live version on In Concert. I'd hazard that the relatively basic recording facilities of their Fulham cinema rehearsal room at the time, might explain these deficiencies?

'When the Apple Blossoms Bloom etc' - Appears to be a jazz inflected jam over an infectious fusion groove laid down at the outset by bass and drums. Emerson may have utilised this track to explore some of the possibilities afforded by the prototype polyphonic Moog he was auditioning during the same Brain Salad Surgery sessions. Nothing to hyper-ventilate about but it does have some nifty 'bubbling' and delayed synth effects at the end. Some unscrupulous techno act is bound to hunt this down and loop same to appalling effect before long.

'Bullfrog' - Carl Palmer's association with the jazz rock trio 'Back Door' is a longstanding one dating from when he produced their Activate album. Together with Ron Aspery on sax and Colin Hodgkinson on bass they embark on some incredibly accurate unison playing at very high tempo before moving into an African styled 'jungle' beat precipitating what can only be described as 'analogue sub aquatic frog farts' from which I am sure the piece was named. This is a great track and perhaps should have been included at the expense of one of the weaker offerings on Carl's portion of Works Volume One

'Brain Salad Surgery' - notable if only for the trio's continuing vendetta against 'girly' sounding waltz grooves, (see Bitches Crystal) this one kicks seven shades of fecal matter out of 3/4 but sounds unfinished and underdeveloped after a lively jazz-fusion start and a memorable tagline from a snarling Lake. The truncated feel of this song may be a result of the limited time format available on the promotional flexi-disc it was recorded for. Apart from this and Queen's Sheer Heart Attack there can't be many other title tracks that never made the album can there?

'Barrelhouse Shakedown' - The B side of Honky Tonk Train Blues and an Emerson original that shares with Freddie King's Hideaway that rare feat of being a memorable tune over a set of standard blues changes. The clarinet solo on this is particularly good and well worth waiting for.

'Watching Over You' - This was written by Lake as a lullaby for his infant daughter, but before you reach for the sick bag, please be advised that this is a very beautiful and sincere song brilliantly sung by the chunky troubadour who in turns tackles some delightful harmonica and what sounds like an upright jazz bass with consummate ease.

'So Far to Fall' - There is no copyright law applicable to 'spirit' but this is a pure unadulterated and joyous 'lift' from the late Jimmy Smith featuring a jazzy big band arrangement and Lake's cautionary tale of a bedroom Olympian who, to put it euphemistically, suffers a career threatening injury at the hands of his female fitness coach. Like Bullfrog this was deserving of a place on the Works Volume One record and would have improved Greg's very disappointing side greatly.

'Maple Leaf Rag' - Joplin's famous tune gets beneath Emerson's fingers and is rewarded by being played at the correct metronome setting for a change. Admirable but rather pointless even with the comic intro.

'I Believe in Father Christmas' - a considerably stripped down version of Lake's yuletide smash and all the better for it. The overblown orchestral arrangement on the original was even by ELP standards, just too rich a dish to be healthy.

'Close But Not Touching' - I am trying very hard to resist Carl's unwitting invitation to play into the hands of his most virulent critics here but oh what the hell...never was a track more aptly named. The music here betrays its creator as being that of a percussionist due to an unwavering linear design that becomes wearying very quickly. Things do pick up in the jazz funk/big band developmental section however, but does not save this effort entirely.

'Honky-Tonk Train Blues' - Erm, the A side of Honky Tonk-Train Blues

'Show Me the Way to Go Home' - I was dreading this but my fears of 'Chas and Dave round the old joanna' proved to be unfounded. Emerson staggers delightfully over the piano during the 'three am after a night on the turps' intro before the vocals enter and Greg delivers this rather thread worn standard incredibly well. Thereafter we build up to a gospel choir and horn backed boogie shuffle over which Lake, to my unreserved surprise, proves he has more than a vestige of the blues in his soul after all. Great fun all round.

ExittheLemming | 3/5 |


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