"Works, Volume 1" might be one of the most indulgent albums in history, but for my money Emerson, Lake and Palmer carry it off, both individually and collectively. On vinyl you had each of the progressive (nee classical) rock trio getting one side with the final side being a group effort. Keith Emerson begins the self-aggrandizement on Disc 1 with his "Piano Concert No. 1," in three movements (I still do not know what Andante Molto Cantabile means). Since I have always preferred Emerson on piano rather than synthesizer/organ, I am inclined to like this solo jaunt into the classical realm (the third movement is the best). Since I have always wanted to have Greg Lake's voice in my rock and roll fantasies, I am gratified that his set of tracks are songs that feature his voice rather than musical pyrotechnics. These are orchestrated songs, rather than the acoustic approach inherent in his two hit singles "Lucky Man" and "Still You Turn Me On," and I think that Lake's vocals on "Lend Me Your Love Tonight," "C'Est Las Vie" and "Closer to Believing" are as fine as anything he has ever recorded, even though the lyrics are pretty inane.
Certainly the Carl Palmer tracks on the first half of Disc 2 feature his drumming skills more so than any previous ELP efforts, ranging from Bach's "Two Part Invention in D Minor" to the driving "The Enemy God Dances with the Black Spirits" to a remake of "Tank" that best represents the strong jazz influence on several of these tracks. Come to think of it, I do not know if I have really heard a drummer being featured like this since the glory days of Buddy Rich. The two tracks that comprise the ELP section of the collection are a perfect combination of their best effort at presenting their own version of a classical work, in this case Aaron Copeland's "Fanfare for the Common Man," and what may well be their best "suite," the 13-minute "Pirates." Of their earlier attempts at such grandeur, "Pirates" is more reminiscent of "Karn Evil 9" than "Tarkus" or "Trilogy," and has what certainly seems to me to be a strong Copeland influence which extends beyond the use of a symphonic orchestra. I find the track somewhat amazing simply because who else would ever think about writing something like this first person narrative about being a pirate? It is a very unique piece of work from ELP.