31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
ELP before the overkill,
This review is from: Emerson, Lake & Palmer (Audio CD)
Back in the 1970s I was perillously drawn to this album by the fact that it has a version of Bela Bartok's Allegro Barbaro on it. (You can hear the composer's own, very different rendition on 'Bartok Plays Bartok', Pearl 1995.) The resultant 'Barbarian' is the opening track on Emerson, Lake and Palmer's eponymous debut, and it does not disappoint: it is brooding, aggressive and dynamic.
'Take A Pebble' is next up: Keith Emerson's evocative jazz piano provides the real interest on a well-crafted, superior ballad. Only the guitar interlude seems a little lost. 'Knife Edge', which follows, is a rather less successful reworking of an excerpt from Leos Janacek's 'Sinfonietta'. Even so, Keith Emerson's Hammond organ lurches reamin immense and satisfying.
Meanwhile, 'Three Fates' takes us on an unusual journey, beginning with a glorious church organ fanfare that exudes just a tiny hint of bluesyness in the diminuendo. This segues into a dramatic piano solo. Emerson's use of dynamic range and subtle tempo changes marks him out as a performer with musical sensibility as well as panache. The third phase of this short suite is a percussively-driven, overdubbed piano trio. The melodramatic ending slightly mars the piece - a hint of excesses to come - but overall this is a an enjoyable instrumental tour de force.
The penultimate offering is 'Tank', a satisfying rhythmic workout by drummer Carl Palmer, who uses the band as a sound palette to propel and augment his main metrical theme. Emerson's dissonant electronics wail commandingly, too.
Finally we have 'Lucky Man', a straightforward ballad exploring the challenges of dealing with fame and fortune. How prescient. Personally I find it fairly unremarkable and rather out of place on an otherwise satisfyingly adventurous launchpad for the band that would become the enfant terrible of overwrought progressive rock. But the concluding Moog solo is every bit as remarkable as its proponents say. Over thirty-five years later it sounds surprisingly fresh, and it bears no relation to the cheesy sounds that other, lesser synth proponents subsequently generated.
In summary: 'Emerson, Lake and Palmer' was far and away the best work this trio ever produced. Moments of real interest and innovation surfaced on 'Trilogy' and 'Brain Salad Surgery'. The triple live album has good performances of 'Tarkus' (with its distinctive quartal harmonies) and the improvised 'Aquatarkus'. But beyond that ELP was wrecked by bombast, showbiz and pantechnican-sized bad taste. On occasions it looked like a massive waste of talent, as the critics averred. But thankfully not here. Let go of your prejudices and give this a listen.
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Initial post: 6 May 2014 13:53:16 BDT
C. Chonka says:
Good review of an excellent album! Lucky Man I think is a lovely contrast to the heaviness of some of the rest plus the message of the song is interesting! They did go OTT but in concert they were amazing! Carl Palmer's drum kit seemed to be rotating on the stand; I have never seen anything like that and I have been to hundreds of concerts. It is their best album with Brain Salad Surgery a close second!
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