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Emerson Lake & Palmer - Tarkus CD (album) cover


Emerson Lake & Palmer


Symphonic Prog

4.05 | 1759 ratings

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4 stars The prog rock community, and the music community as a whole, seems to fall on two sides in regards to Tarkus: Depending on who you talk to it is either a masterpiece or complete, worthless dreck. I submit that it falls in the middle-Tarkus is a perfectly adequate album that doesn't quite achieve what it aims for and stumbles in places, but is nontheless an overall pleasant listening experience. That said, "pleasant" is a cheap experience and you can get it from countless better albums than this one.

The biggest fault with the album lies in the title track. It's often put side by side with Yes' "Close to the Edge" or Genesis' "Supper's Ready" in terms of reputation for being a masterful prog epic, but the key difference is that the latter two songs could not achieve the majesty that they reach if they were any shorter. There is absolutely NO reason at all that Tarkus has to be twenty minutes long. You could easily cut it in half, maybe even whittle it down to a solid 8 minutes, and have all the prime material intact. As talented as Keith Emerson is, he is also very tiresome, and one can only take so many Moog flourishes before one becomes extremely bored. There are worthwhile moments to be had in the song, notably Greg Lake's guitar solo and the choral introduction, but the length soon eats away at any interest the listener may have.

The rest of the album fares better. "Jeremy Bender", while almost a filler track, is a nice, jaunty tune that serves as a nice wake-up call after the stultifying "Tarkus". We then move into what is without question the best song ELP has ever made, "Bitches Crystal". The song showcases a (sadly) rare side of the band, one which is absolutely ferocious. Carl Palmer pounds the drums for all he's worth, Keith Emerson mixes honky-tonk with foreboding synthlines and Greg Lake howls like he's close to losing his mind at points. It's a rare display of truly aggressive music on the band's part, and it's a direction I wish they would've gone with more frequently.

"The Only Way" and "Infinite Space" form a song that is, while lyrically pretty clunky, a fine cosmic meditation, and while "Are You Ready Eddy?" is terrible, "A Time and a Place" is a good rocking send off, should you (wisely) choose to stop the album before reaching the final song.

I see how this album got its reputation, but frankly, it's almost too vanilla to get worked up about one way or the other. With the exception of "Bitches Crystal", there's nothing ELP does on this album that they haven't done better elsewhere. A couple good songs can't make up for an album that's largely too busy examining itself in the mirror to see if its made anything compelling or worthwhile.

40footwolf | 4/5 |


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