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Emerson Lake & Palmer - Trilogy CD (album) cover

TRILOGY

Emerson Lake & Palmer

 

Symphonic Prog

4.13 | 1550 ratings

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TCat
5 stars For some reason, I keep wanting to put this album after "Brain Salad Surgery" as far as when it was released, but in actuality, it was released before that album and after "Tarkus" (and "Pictures at an Exhibition" which was a live album). That makes "Trilogy" the 3rd studio album for Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP). Trilogy was definitely quite different than both the albums that came before and after, less bombastic and more personal, yet still not commercial. It also relied more on classical music influences.

There are a lot of people that feel that this album relied more on Keith Emerson's talent, but in reality, that is what ELP always relied on, at least on their best and more progressive albums. Emerson seemed to always stand out more than Lake or Palmer. A lot of that is because Emerson was the best at being able to play several keyboards at a time and he was exceptional and adding in textures and loops where needed. Greg Lake, of course, fit right in with Emerson's bombastic style as far as his vocals were concerned as he had a very strong and almost operatic voice, but his guitar and bass talents were meant mostly for support, and never really proved that he could uphold a long guitar solo, so that was still left up to Emerson to carry that load. Besides that, Lake, when left alone to write a song, always leaned toward commercialism, especially ballads. Carl Palmer was an amazing drummer, and proves that many times on ELP albums, probably one of the few that could keep up with Emerson. He doesn't stick out on the albums as much as Emerson, obviously because he played percussion and didn't have the texture and dynamic opportunities that Emerson had with the keyboards and gadgets available to him. Thus, its easy enough to understand why Emerson seemed he was in the spotlight, but it wasn't just because of this album, as it was always the case. Yes there could have been a fourth member that could have provided some great guitar solos, but, then it wouldn't have been ELP. Besides, you have "Triumvirat" if you want to hear that same style of music with more guitar.

So, you have the album "Trilogy" which is decidedly less bombastic and it sits between two very bombastic albums. I have always loved this album and consider it one of the all time best, and I actually place it over "Brain Salad Surgery" because I was never as excited over the "Karn Evil 9" suite, that, even though it is an exceptional work, it is way too long and over-the-top, sometimes a seemingly endless barrage of wildness which could have stood being trimmed down to fit a few more tracks in there for variety. Trilogy, on the other hand, has plenty of crazy solos, but is much more dynamic with it's heavy and soft parts. It's the variety on this album that makes it stand out for me, plus the fact that it relies on the classical (and sometimes jazz) influences of the musicians.

"The Endless Enigma" is actually a suite of the first 3 tracks, a great combination and opening highlighting the strengths of all three performers, but driven, of course, by keyboards and piano, which start off mysteriously and minimal, become dramatic with the introduction of the piano, and then settle in for the heavy melody. The vocals are one of the most difficult parts of this track and show off Lake's dynamics and range, going from soft to loud many times. The first part takes up most of the track. The second part is a short piano solo based somewhat loosely on the fugue style of baroque composers, and even this section actually starts more like a rhapsody which finally does turn into a fugue in the second half. The last part returns to the main theme again after a fast attack with percussion and bass and Emerson's varied sounds and textures and ending on Lake's heavy vocals.

After that first 10 minute track, we get one of Lake's most beautiful compositions "From the Beginning" which starts with an acoustic guitar solo similar to the introduction to "Roundabout" from "Yes". When the main vocal melody starts, it continues with acoustic guitar some sparse percussion and a beautiful melody. The long instrumental ending has a nice electric guitar solo, which remains light. Keyboards don't even come into this track until the second part of the instrumental break.

"The Sheriff" is a "western" style track (western in topic, not sound), a rowdy track along the same lines as "Jeremy Bender" from "Tarkus". This is a quick track with the expectant story line, but a quite basic melody line. The best part is the Honky- Tonk style ending.

Following that western theme, we get a cover of a section of a classical work from Aaron Copeland. The track is "Rodeo" taken from one of Copeland's much bigger works called "Hoedown". This is one of my favorite ELP covers, and it remains surprisingly faithful to the original, only done with ELP's instruments and not an orchestra, Emerson taking over all of the orchestra parts on his keyboards. It is quick paced, exciting, fun and entertaining, a track that definitely shows off Emerson's talent as he pretty much takes control of everything except bass and drums.

"Trilogy" is really a three part track put into one song. It starts off in a rhapsody style with piano, which is later joined by Lake's excellent and expressive vocals. After the vocal part, the piano continues and by itself builds up to the faster 2nd section, which hits suddenly with the full band, suddenly jumping into a repetitive and noisy pattern with Emerson doing a keyboard solo over the top of it all. This section ends with a sort of fanfare separating into the next section, which continues with a more complex foundation that has amazing bass and drum parts. Lake starts singing again, this time with shorter phrasing and stanzas, but still all over the musical scale. After the vocals, Emerson plays another solo with a deeper texture, but the chaotic section continues to the end which comes at almost 9 minutes. This is the most bombastic song on the album, but there had to be at least one, right, and its welcome on this album.

"Living Sin" is a dark track, mostly headed over by Lake's evil sounding vocals, similar to "Knife's Edge", but shorter and less complex. I remember the keyboard riff that comes at the end of this track used to be used by a local TV station as theme music to their "Movie of the Week". There is some great drum work by Palmer on this one, but then his work is great on the entire album.

The last track is "Abaddon's Bolero". So, a Bolero is typically a Spanish style dance, made popular worldwide from Maurice Ravel's "Bolero". Ravel's classical version of the dance is the most popular version of a bolero and because of that many current artists and composers that came after use Ravel's template of starting out soft, and over the course of several minutes, the song increases slowly in volume, using the same melody and thematic ideas throughout, until the song climaxes at full volume. The traditional bolero is typically in a 3 / 4 or 6 / 8 meter. ELP's version of a bolero uses the same template as Ravel, starting soft and over the course of 8 minutes of repeating the same basic melody and adding instruments and volume, ends in an explosive climax. However, their "bolero" is actually a march in 4 / 4 meter, so it really isn't a bolero. (Yes I know there is a different style of Bolero from Cuba that uses 2 / 4 time, but ELP's track is still obviously a march). Anyway, the song is quite dynamic as explained, the melody is simple, but complex and long enough to not get too boring as textures and sounds are added with repeats. The style is not Spanish either, but more Americana sounding, taking short riffs and feelings from maybe Civil War times. Anyway, there you have it.

I tend to blame the varied reviews on this album due to the fact that there isn't as much bombasitic-ness on this album as others, and the fact that the album ends on "Abaddon's Bolero" which is repetitive, but hopefully the explanation above will shed some light on that, it is actually a great track even if it isn't a bolero in a traditional sense. But the album still shines in the fact that it has a better variety and still shows off the exceptional musicianship of the trio. It might be harder to accept too because it is driven more by classical influences than some of their other albums. I don't agree that it has anything to do with Emerson being in charge of it, because he was always at the head of their best albums anyway. When Lake started influencing the music more by writing more songs, that is when the overall sound of the band suffered more, starting with the horrible album "Love Beach". As far as "Trilogy" is concerned though, it is one of my favorite ELP albums and I consider it essential especially with regards to its use of classical influences in progressive music.

TCat | 5/5 |

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