I approached this album with a mixture of trepidation and excitement. Trepidation, because some `orchestral rock' albums are simply awful. Excitement because I have thought for some time that parts of Keith Emerson's output had more potential than ELP were able to draw out and, if it worked, it would be a pleasure to hear.
The good news is that it works, and it works because everyone involved has thought it through. It becomes apparent from tracks 1 and 2 (The Endless Enigma) that this is not going to be an album of simple transcriptions to new instruments. This is an album where selected tracks have been re-arranged completely to fit an orchestral setting.
The arrangements are not simply Keith Emerson and friends backed by an orchestra. They are Keith Emerson and friends integrated into an orchestra. That's an important distinction. So this isn't a showcase for the soloists but for the music.
The effect a bit like revisiting a place one knew as a child - a lot that is familiar, but differences too. The biggest difference, of course, is that this record is 100% instrumental.
The major track is, almost inevitably, Tarkus, but completely re-presented. And it works. There are times when I think the slower sections are a tad ponderous and could have been taken faster but that's my only quibble.
The track I was most looking forward to was Abaddon's Bolero and it transcribes to orchestral form as well as I had hoped: very good. And `Fanfare for the Common Man' - of course that works as it started as a classical piece. The treatment here is to offer the Fanfare as originally written and then to follow it with the band playing the rock version: a rousing sign-off, finishing the album in up-beat style.
Outstanding? Probably not quite consistent enough for that. But very good? Yes. So - a smile of relief at a job well done, a pleasurable listen - and four stars.