on 20 August 2006
This album is essential listening for anyone interested in the possibilities of where rock music can go. It fuses rock with aspects of keyboard-driven classical music. Despite the classical elements, it is absolutely NOT an offering from a bunch of nice, testosterone-deficient middle-class white boys. This album goes for the jugular from the word go, and just never lets up. The tone of the LP is brooding, melancholic and melodramatic. Are there any Metals fans reading this? - I recommend this LP to you all.
Every time I give this LP a listen I curse that albums like this aren't being made today. Just where else in your life are you going to hear the sound of electric harpsichords alongside thudding, driving drums? Just where else will you hear the sound of a (oh my god what the hell is that?) church organ bearing down on a (feral, escaping?) classical piano?
On the negative side, some of the early 1970's synthetic keyboard does sound dated, but this appears only on few of the tracks. The classical piano and drums used are timeless.
Fusing classical and rock is difficult. It's because the invasion of drums distracts from the dramatic tension within classical music. On this album, ELP sussed this out better than anyone else before or since. For example, on 'The Three Fates' & 'Take a Pebble' they separated the classical and rock sections, so neither was compromised. Other works such as 'Tank' fused the two forms from the beginning, inevitably making it more 'Rock'. The first section of Tank is the most stimulating rock music I've ever heard. Play it to your kids if you want to boost their IQ!
Classical/Rock fusions are far too rare in popular music. I have this album to thank for knowing that.
on 19 January 2006
I was at school when this came out and, althouigh I don't play it very often, it still conjures up the period amazingly well. Think cheesecloth smocks, clogs,loonpants and pre Raphaelite hair!
Musically, this is such a piece of it's time that you have to put it into context with albums like "Court of the crimson king", "Atom heart mother" or "The Yes album".
It stands up pretty well and is far less self indulgent than much of their later output.
Probably for most people "Lucky Man" is the best known track and it does have a certain magic but my favourites are the tracks where the band "borrowed" themes from classical composers. The light use of the Moog is a welcome textural addition to the musical palette and I still like the drum phasing at the end of the drum solo (yep, there is a drum solo!) basically because there is still a part of me that is an old hippy!
I's say that the "Three Fates" suite is the weakest part but overall "ELP" is worth buying and playing, if only to see where "prog" was before it became totally grandiose and bloated.
on 5 October 2012
Big disappointment, I'm sad to say. I don't blame Steven Wilson so much as I blame his method. This remix has excellent tonality, doesn't sound EQd or compressed or anything, but it is DEAD. The instruments sound dry, sterile and uninvolving. The reverb ideas used on the original stereo master mix are all missing. I just cannot imagine anyone would think this could ever be compared to Eddie Offord's stereo mix. The ambience, the life, the *feel* of the album ... it is just not there.
The surround mix suffers the same clincial, sterile sound, but things are obviously spread around so it isn't quite as obvious.
The new tracks added to replace "The Three Fates" and "Tank" as a result of the missing multitracks are simply inadequate. Side two has become a big mess. Basically you get "Promenade," some of Three Fates (where they had multis), jamming with stuff that later became part of "Tarkus," and a drum solo. The entire feel of side two is like a toally different album. I can accept this but I think in fairness it can be stated that the new "Side 2" is an inferior album unworthy of any real comparison to the innovative, fascinating original. "Lucky Man" concludes, of course. It sounds really clean in terms of the guitar parts being crystal clear, but again, the feel is just all wrong to my ears.
This release is confirmation for me that putting separate tracks into a digital workstation and remixing an album is right up there with using a DX-7 to replicate a moog. It can be done, but there is a missing organic quality that is blatantly obvious. Not my cup of tea.
on 7 April 2006
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.
on 4 June 2002
I was partly attracted 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.) 'Barbarian' is indeed the opening track and it does not disappoint: it is brooding, aggressive and dynamic.
'Take A Pebble' is next up: Keith Emerson's stunning jazz piano provides the real interest on a well-crafted, superior ballad. Only the guitar interlude seems a little lost. 'Knife Edge', however, is a less successful reworking of an excerpt from Leos Janacek's 'Sinfonietta'. Even so, Keith Emerson's Hammond organ lurches are immense and satisfying.
Meanwhile 'Three Fates' takes us on an unusual journey, beginning with a 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 variable pace marks him out as a musician rather than simply a performer. The third phase of the short suite is a percussively driven, overdubbed piano trio. The explosive ending slightly mars the piece - a hint of excesses to come - but this is a highly inventive instrumental tour de force.
The penultimate offering is 'Tank', a satisfying exploration by drummer Carl Palmer, who uses the band to propel and augment his metrical theme. Emerson's dissonant electronics wail commandingly.
Finally we have 'Lucky Man', a straightforward song exploring the challenges of fame and fortune. How prescient. Personally I find it utterly unremarkable and rather out of place on an otherwise satisfyingly adventurous debut from 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 years later it sounds surprisingly fresh, and it bears no relation to the cheesy sounds that other, lesser synthesizer proponents subsequently generated.
In summary: 'Emerson, Lake and Palmer' was far and away the best work this trio ever produced. Moments of interest and innovation surfaced on 'Trilogy' and 'Brain Salad Surgery'. The triple live album has good performances of 'Tarkus' and 'Aquatarkus'. But beyond that ELP was wrecked by bombast, showbiz and pantechnican sized bad taste. It was a massive waste of talent. But thankfully not here.
I'll never forget the impression this album made on me as an undergraduate - a rock group with a virtuoso keyboard player, a singer with a distinctive voice and one of the fastest drummers around. This was a brilliant debut that defined the progressive rock movement.
A lot of the album has its roots in classical works. Tracks include influences from Bartok, Janacek and Bach. This was typical of Keith Emerson but serves to emphasise his mastery of both classical and rock genres. I always regarded Emerson as being at his strongest when playing in this 'cross-over' area.
Greg Lake's multi-tracked voice is as distinctive as any in rock history. 'Lucky Man' was a filler track - he had written it as a boy of twelve. It was not liked by his two colleagues but included and it became their biggest hit. The Moog solo at the end was entirely improvised by Keith Emerson.
I saw the band perform this album live, along with 'Tarkus' and 'Pictures at an Exhibition'. The showmanship to accompany the music was a sign of things to come, though it eventually it overtook the band. To see Emerson playing two keyboards simultaneously - one on his left and the other on his right - whilst looking at neither and getting it all note-perfect showed that this was a remarkable talent. And the recordings of him playing the piano from the wrong side (i.e. upside down) are equally remarkable.
This record marked a debut band making a huge impact as one of rock's first supergroups. It bears revisiting four decades later. Thoroughly recommended.
Progressive Rock music was all about pushing at the boundaries of style, structure, technique, and virtuosity. It took its influences from many sources including, classical, jazz, and even folk. In pushing the envelope, musicians often used the latest instruments, the melotron, synthesiser, and Brian Eno tape loops to name three.
Emerson Lake and Palmer were later to become guilty of excess and at times they sacrificed soul and feeling for showmanship and bravado, but not on this, their first album. Their first album defined the new way forward for prog rock and this is an example of Emerson Lake and Palmer leading from the front.
`Barbarian' is an instrumental, bombastic piece based, recognisably on Allegro Barbaro by Bartok.
`Take a Pebble' is a beautiful, acoustic and considered piece written by Lake and at over 12 minutes is the longest piece on the album. Interestingly, Emerson opens the piece by strumming the strings of his grand piano. The lyrics are amongst the strongest that Lake was ever to write.
After the gentle Take a Pebble, `Knife Edge' takes up where Barbarian left off, this time however it is a song based upon Sinfonietta by Janacek and depicts a dark, rather 1984 like world.
`The Three Fates' is another instrumental piece in three movements. The first (Clotho) features Emerson on the Pipe Organ at the Royal Festival Hall and is followed by Lachesis, which is possibly one of Emerson's finest piano solo movement. Atropos is a fiendishly complicated and enjoyable piano trio, which aptly demonstrates Emerson's virtuosity, but it's more than that, it demonstrates the thought, depth and complexity that is a hallmark of Emerson's work.
`Tank' is another instrumental written to showcase the enviable talents of Carl Palmer. It has a brutal riff and is very different in style and structure to anything else on the album; it also features a two-minute drum solo. Whilst I admit that Palmer was a prodigious talent with arguably the best technique and fastest speed, but Tank is not exactly my favourite ELP piece.
The album ends with `Luck Man' pleasant enough ballade written by Lake. It is musically simplistic but interesting for two reasons. Firstly it was to become the piece that became synonymous with ELP in the US (probably much to Emerson's frustration and secondly it features the first example of a Moog Synthesiser to be used on record. We're talking 1970 here remember.
Emeson Lake and Palmer (the album) containes all that was good about prog rock. It is a coherent, collection of tracks that gel into an outstanding album and with few of the excesses that were later to plague the genre. It has no 30-minute tracks or needlessly overcomplicated arrangements and deserves a place in the rock hall of fame. I doubt we would ever have heard pieces like Dark Side of the Moon had this album not have been released. It is a vital piece of any self respecting rock fan's historical music collection. The digitally re-mastered version is a great reason to buy it again.
on 4 June 2001
What is it with these 2001 editions of ELP? Without telling about it (at least I haven't seen any commercials), ELP's back catalogue has undergone a tremendous remastering! This album, their first, sounds so good that it must be heard to be believed! If you're not familiar with ELP, or think you own albums with a wide range of styles, this should be an eye opener. One piece is furious modern classical music, another a great piano ballad, one is Bach meets metal, another pure Church organ music, one a piano trio, another intense fusion and the last one - "Lucky Man" one of those great English pop classics on accoustic guitar ending with one of the first Moog syntheziser solos ever!
If this doesn't expand ones musical horizon, nothing will;-)
on 7 October 2012
I never liked this much back in the day, preferring the more theatric Brain Salad Surgery, but now have a lot of sympathy with the view that this was their best moment and everything that followed was a bit OTT. Amazed at how little synthesizer there is on it.
BEWARE - don't assume like me that the Steven Wilson remix is a straight remix of the original album. It isn't because as the booklet points out the session tapes weren't available for Tank and parts of Fates, and instead of using the original tracks for that part they've made up an "alternative album" with stuff that would have been better as bonus tracks at the end. It's clear from the track listing on Amazon that it's something different, but you know how blind you get once you've assumed something. I've only listened to the original album on disc 1 so far and it sounded pretty good, have to criticise the package for not making it completely clear whether this was a new remastering, although it looks like it is. Anyway, it sounded better than my original CD release version, how it stacks up against the previous remaster I've no idea.
If you really prefer the SW version of the available tracks you can always burn your own mixture if it doesn't sound too jarring.
The other confusing thing is the NTSC designation for disc 3 when it's a DVD-A. Maybe it refers to a menu if you put it in your DVD player, but it could lull you into thinking you're getting video. Again, in fairness it's clear what it is from the listing.
Also not sure why the outer case has a green cast to the colour, maybe a dodgy print run, but the booklet looks authentic and it's the sort of thing that fades in importance once you listen that wonderful music.
At the end of the day, it's a great package for £10 and the original album is a definite improvement on the original CD release, but if you already have a remaster and are hoping for a complete Steven Wilson version of the album then you'll be disappointed.
No matter how dated ELP's first album might seem to some people, it was an astonishing debut by any standards. Never before had there been a full-scale fusion between classical music, techno-synth rock and melodic pop songs.
It's also a showcase for the many talents of this trio, which put to shame many musical pundits and players alike. Keith Emerson is classically-trained, and demonstrates his mastery of piano technique to perfection on Greg Lake's Take a Pebble and in particular The Three Fates. Carl Palmer's value is amply shown on Tank, notably the final section with the thumping drum riff overlayed by Emerson's screaming Moog.
ELP are accused of being pretentious and lacking in emotion, though Greg Lake disproved the latte with Lucky Man, a song that brings a tear to my eye to this day.
Pretentious? Well, when you can play to classical standards, why not flaunt it!