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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Emerson, Lake and Powell

Emerson, Lake and Powell

Review by Larry Toering

When Keith Emerson and Greg Lake enlisted Cozy Powell because Carl Palmer wasn't available at the time, I thought it was a strange idea. Then, when I heard the record and went to the show in 1986 I was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked. On that night I got to meet one of my biggest heroes for the third time and was treated to more jokes than I could hold down from Mr. Powell who didn't even seemed phased after such an energetic performance.

Everything I recall from that night I do so with crystal clarity and without it this record might have less appeal after all these years. It was that concert that made me listen much harder to their work together, yet what I was mostly impressed with was Powell's painstaking note for note rendition of Palmer’s drum solo. After that night this record went on my play-list for years. I tend to think of it as an experiment that I was glad I latched onto, and this release stands the test of time for this fan of all three musicians.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Score

Things kick off in the normal ELP tradition with Emerson dominating for the most part, and it was lovely to hear him return to form for once on this LP. By the time Lake arrives this track comes full circle and it turns out to be a fine opener. It sets the whole disc up really, and I'm always satisfied when an opener achieves that.

Learning to Fly
This is a relatively pop approach for Lake, but it turns out to be a good thing as it comes to a close. Emerson pulls out some fantastic bits and pieces from his hat full of magic, and this is about as ELP as it gets without Palmer, This is a lot like listening to them with Palmer behind the kit.
The Miracle
Here is one of those tracks of a lesser interest to me but it lacks nothing in traditional ELP style and overall ambience. There’s not a whole lot to write home about here, but then it's ELP we're talking about. It’s still a quality track, as most all ELP tracks with either drummer.
Touch and Go
Emerson means business as usual here and Lake is also featured in one of his most accessible vocals ever recorded. It's a triumphant effort and still a favorite rocker of mine to this day. Anyone who witnessed them live in 1986 on the tour saw how Emerson worked two Hammond's at once on this track, but I have to say the mix did not come off so well live. I’m not sure why, but this track worked so much better in the studio. This is a great song that still stands up very well. It’s an absolutely wonderful composition, and Powell shines on this. It’s one of his best performances on the disc.
Love Blind
This is a lovely bit of experimentation with Lake going where he never went before. This is not a bad little number and Emerson put his proverbial stamp all over it with interesting bits of keyboard.
Step Aside
I love the piano here, and Lake doesn't cease to amaze once again with a fine vocal performance on this. It's a softer number, but that is no mark against it. Emerson commands with such ease on what is otherwise not a very traditional ELP style. This is probably one of the more overlooked cuts on the disc.
Lay Down Your Guns
This is an extraordinary number that finds Lake in his element for sure, very much like that of King Crimson. It's very ELP, while not everything here can be considered as such. I attribute this one to Lake for his nearly haunting performance. He is really one of the most underrated singers. This is beautiful!
Mars the Bringer of War
There is a classic ELP vibe to this. It’s one of the numbers I play the least because it's an instrumental, but it's a stellar track and a perfect closer to this underrated effort by three great artists coming together to add a chapter to the ELP legacy.
 
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