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Emerson Lake & Palmer - Works Vol. 1 CD (album) cover

WORKS VOL. 1

Emerson Lake & Palmer

 

Symphonic Prog

2.94 | 741 ratings

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TCat
4 stars I understand why this album always gets low ratings. A lot of people think it's pompous and not tied to progressive rock very closely. There are a lot of styles here, but, considering that each one of the members took a side of this album and then united for the 4th side, I think it is a very enjoyable album. There have been a lot of reviews for this album, most of them negative, and I would have agreed with them 20 years ago. But, after repeated listens, a lot of the music has grown on me. It's true that most of it isn't prog per se, but side one is classical (more specifically sounding like it's from the late romantic, early 20th century), side 2 is pop oriented, side 3 is more like jazz fusion (for the most part), and side 4 is the progressive side. As the first 3 sides are styles of music that have influenced progressive rock, you could almost consider it progressive roots music. By the way, all 4 sides are well orchestrated with the full orchestra joining them for most of the album.

Keith Emerson composed his 1st Piano Concerto for his side. Consisting of 3 movements, it follows the concerto formula quite well. A concerto is a classical piece that features a certain instrument that plays many solos interspersed with full orchestra. Even though I have classical training, I had a hard time with this track. I enjoyed listening to it, but it took a surprisingly long time to really start picking out themes. Now I can pretty much play the whole thing verbatim in my mind. Emerson is an amazing keyboardist and it is great to hear him concentrating on the piano for 18 minutes with a full orchestra complimenting and even taking the spotlight in many passages. Yes, it is true that there are a lot of romantic era passages that are formulaic, but he also adds plenty of dissonance and aggressiveness to keep things from getting completely schleppy. Anyway, I do love this track, it is 18 minutes of pure classical bliss.

Greg Lake is responsible for side 2, the more poppy side of the album. Lake has often been the more accessible side of ELP, but he has an amazing and bombastic voice, sometimes even approaching an over the top glam rock sound with his strong operatic voice. This side, to me, is the weakest side, but it still holds some favorites like "C'est La Vie" and "Hallowed Be Thy Name", the others, to me, are kind of cheesy. This cheesiness, unfortunately, would ruin the next album "Love Beach", where chessiness runs amok. "These songs were co-written by Peter Sinfield, who was with King Crimson in their early days. There's not much here that lends to that KC influence, at least not on this side.

Carl Palmer's side is my favorite, because he is more experimental and ventures from neo classical to jazz fusion. These songs are mostly percussion driven, as you would expect. He gives his treatment to Prokofiev's "Enemy Gods...", gets help from Joe Walsh on the structured and improvised rocker "L.A. Nights", delves into jazz on "New Orleans", gives Bach the percussive treatment on "Two Part Invention...", teams with jazz keyboardist Harry South (cowriter and performer) on "Food for Your Soul" and even revisits on of his past ELP compositions on "Tank", this time with a full orchestra.

The last side is the full band, together at last, for two long compositions. First they do their version of Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man". The original classical piece was a lot shorter in that it did not contain the middle section that ELP added, which is a long improvisational section, mostly driven by Emerson's various keyboards and synths. This is a well know favorite of the band, and it pretty much sums up what the band typically sounds like. This is all instrumental. The second track on this side is the band accompanied with a full orchestra on "Pirates". It has a long instrumental introduction, but Lake does eventually start singing this very dramatic piece. It is a definite period piece, it is also definitely progressive, and Lake takes on the character of a pirate trying to recruit a bunch of scalliwag greenhorns to join them on their escapades. This is a great closer for the album.

Overall, this may seem somewhat disjointed, with the variety of styles. But I consider it an excellent album, especially with what would be coming up in the future. The companion album, "Works Pt. 2" is the last album that I would consider excellent. It is mostly outtakes from this album, and is more scattershot than this, but I still love it for the crazy variety and the talent of these amazing musicians. Let them have their ego, I can still enjoy their music. Anyway, since this is not really a completely prog album, I must resort to giving it 4 stars, but I do so without feeling bad. I can sit through side 2 if I have to, but the rest of the album is worth it for me.

TCat | 4/5 |

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