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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Emerson, Lake and Palmer

Emerson, Lake and Palmer

Review by Gary Hill

This first album from Emerson, Lake and Palmer is really a classic. It could be argued that it’s one of their most consistent. It certainly has quite a few songs that became trademark ELP tunes. It’s one of my favorites of there, no question about that one. It should be noted that I reviewed several of these songs on my review of their Atlantic Years compilation. For the sake of consistency, the track reviews here are copied or modified from those reviews.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Barbarian

Based on Bartok, this pounds in with a real psychedelic rock sound. They create waves of melody from there in a smoking hot jam. It is a powerhouse jam that’s infectious. It’s a purely instrumental tune and a great way to start the album in style. It really does a great job of combining classical music with a jazz styling and creating a prog rock masterpiece.

Take a Pebble
I love the mellow, harp-like introduction to this and the track is built up nicely from there. It’s definitely another trademark piece by the group. This has a lot in common with early King Crimson. Emerson’s keyboards really produce a lot of the magic in this mellow, but very intricate and involved number. That said, you can’t discount Greg Lake’s vocals one bit. There’s a little hoe-down section in the middle of this that doesn’t do all that much for me, though. Some of the other explorations that follow, though, work quite well.
Knife-Edge
The keyboard riff that leads this off is a classic and when they drop it down for the first vocals, it’s simply awesome. This is one of the band’s greatest songs. It showcases a lot of the musical elements that made the band who they were and this covers a ton of musical ground in its prog rock exploration.
The Three Fates
This is essentially a keyboard solo in three parts. The first is bombastic and organ based. The second is more on piano and has a more purely melodic sound. The third seems to combine the two. Overall, it’s a classical styled piece and yet it rocks with some seriously proggy sounds. It’s good, but for my money if you have to pick a “throw away” here, this is it.
Tank
Percussion leads off here and this is turned out into a powerful jam that combines rock, classical and jazz leanings into a killer instrumental. There’s a drum solo in the middle of this and a lot of this music is extremely intricate. The scorching jam after the drum solo makes it all worth while for certain and is one of the best instrumental segments ever from ELP.
Lucky Man
For my money, ELP shines the brightest on evocative balladic numbers like this one. The thing is, they take that sort of a format and work it out in all its glory before tearing into some serious progressive rock territory. That’s the formula here and this is one of ELP’s most successful tracks as far as I’m concerned.
 
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