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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume. 34, Number 13. Somewhere-in-July. 1971



Emerson, Lake & Palmer


Emerson Lake and Palmer cover art

Every so often in the popular music scene, between the eras of the giants, there appears a calm during which surface tremors are our only guide to the tremendous changes the matrix is undergoing. During the current quiet, after the passing of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, John Mayall, et al such tremors have been caused by the new groups, for example Santana, King Crimson, and Ekseption, and the newer style [unclear: solosists], like James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Elton John, and so on. However, from the midst of the morass now rises a combination that must (and has already started to) take off; Emerson, Lake & Palmer.

Its members are already established figures. Keith Emerson, whose superb organ work distinquished the Nice's sound, now progresses beyond the confines of that group, developing his competence in all keyboard styles and instruments, leaping from one to another. Bass and acoustic guitar player Greg Lake, formerly of King Crimson, introduces a more pensive and sensitive element with impeccable clarity He couples immaculately with Carl Palmer on drums to provide the stict rhythmical scaffolding on which Emerson builds. Lake of Atomic Rooster. Palmer never dominates but noetheless puts in a dextrous and alert performance.

Emerson and Lake met during a joint Nice/Crimson gig at the Fillmore West and there decided to form a group. Palmer was co-opted after a jam they described as incredible. One of their first performances was at the Isle of Wight, but it was not until their Royal Festival Hall concert that the people took them in. On stage, the group's visual impact is dazzling. Emerson uses a grand piano, a Moog Synthesizer, an electric Clavinet, and two Hammonds. Greg Lake alternates between his Fender bass, with Hi-Watt amps and an array of foot pedals, and a Gibson Jumbo for acoustic work. Palmer, surrounded by his drums has two enormous gongs on either side of him.

Musically they cover a complete range of Western styles, from pre-Barogue to Gershwin. Emerson's classical influence is complemented by Lake's lyrical melodic character. The first track. The Barbarian, manifests many of the characters of their music. It presents a jazz-orientated style, with changing time singatures and rhytmic patterns. The piano, as in Bartok's music is often used percussively, and there are many instances of effective tonal changes, for example cymbal merging into guzz guitar. Geg Lake's composition Take a Pebble is a tranquil exposition of thoughtful meanderings. It opens with brushed chords on undamped piano strings, leading into the song with bass and rippling piano:

Just take a pebble and cast it to the sea
Then watch the ripples that unfold into me
My face fills so fently into your eyes
Disturbing the waters of our lives.

This ethereal melody transforms into an extended middle section, beginning with some impressive sterophonic effects: the acoustic guitar is punctuated by short rippling sounds that wander back and forth across the channels. The piano then returns - Emerson's technique is superb. Later, the other two join him, and all are free creating, but it's still cool and devoid of the cacophony that often attends the attempts of others in this field. The theme eventually returns, with a repeat of the first stanza. My only criticism of this track is the appalling recording of the vocals - the mike picks up every 's' sound and produces an infuriating hiss. Apart from that, it's twelve minutes of bliss.

Emerson returns to organ on Knife-Edge The track opens with vocals and bass in unison, and after a short burst the organ breaks into an incredible Baroque cadenza. The whole sequence is neatly linked up, and the track literally runs down at the end of Side One.

The Three Fates by Emerson, is naturally enough in three parts. Clotho, uusing the organ of the Royal Festival Hall evokes images of a Renaissance fanfare with its harsh open fourths and fifths In Atropos the other insturments page break come in to produce a very catchy syncopated sound in septuple time. The piano has been double-tracked, one just playing the riff - it's stongly reminiscent of Bartok.

Tank uses a Moog Synthesizer and bass alternately improvising and coming together - it is similar in this respect to some of the keyboard/bass interplay of Deep Purple. Unexpectedly, it breaks into a percussion solo: It hought this would have passed with Ginger Baker, but Palmer introduces something different. He never becomes loud and brash, but rather concentrates on producing a different timbres and colours, particularly with the gongs. Towards the end the sound, with phasing effect, oscillates rapidly between channels. With earphones it feels like your brain is being sonically swept. When the Moog and bass return the total sound is modified with phasing and wah-wah treatment - it's pretty zappy stuff.

You'll probably recognize the Geg Lake composition Lucky Man, which has been released as a single. Backing is just acoustic guitar and percussion, though towards the end the Moog swings wildly through octaves across the channels.

The album is well engineered, and Lake's production is noteworthy. However, once again the N.Z. recording industry, in its penunous myopia has seen fit to destroy a fold-out cover by presenting it as a sleeve. Perhaps one day the total effect will be rated as important as profit.

And that's it: three individuals who have in common a tremendous talent for making music, only with Emerson, Lake & Palmer there exists a synergistic effect whereby together they stand taller than they did before. There is little doubt now that ELP will be among the supergroups of the near future.

- Zeke


A few years back, when the jug band scene was popular, Jim Kweskin's group, the most successful contemporary jug band, released their Garden of Joy LP. By the time this was released here the N.Z. jug scene was crumbling and rapidly losing its musical credibility, what with Hogsnout Rhubarb defining the music, the folkies' Philistinism regarding The Windy City Strugglers, and plastic kazoos at Begg's for 30c. So a lot of unlucky people missed out on hearing Kweskin's freaky new fiddler, Richard Greene. Kweskin's band broke up and Richard Greene, with the banjo player Bill Keith, joined Blue Velvet Band. They released an LP (available in NZ) featuring Hank Williams numbers. At the time of recording with Blue Velvet Band, Greene was well into electric violin with a group called Seatrain.

Seatrain was recorded in London, produced by George Martin, and the sound is country head-rock. The LP is characterised by outstanding and unique violin work. Greene's double-stopping techniques and feel for the country idiom are unsurpassed by other rock violinists. His chording on viola fills the group's sound and complements the funky piano. Bass and drums should have been recorded with a little more presence to give a heavier rhythm section.

Wah-wah violin opens I'm Willin the only words of which I could catch being

I've smuggled smoke from Mexico

Song of Job is a strange biblical ballad relieved only by Job's occasional yodels and Satan's freaky fiddling. Broken Morning has a good violin break which more than compensates for the too 'bubble-gum'-type backing vocals. Home to You is a powerful number but not performed as well as it could be, mainly due to vocals. Seatrain often seems to be singing beyond the capabilities of the vocalists. Out Where the Hill features some incredible electric violin effects but lacks melodic continuity. It starts very much like a Blood, Sweat and Tears song and is broken into several sections. The sections merit more as effects than as melodic counterparts. The vocals in 13 Questions have a vaguely show tune sound (like Hair). Oh My Love invokes memories of Buddy Holly then slides into an honest grassroot version of Sally Good in an old country fiddle tune. Crepin Midnight is a sloppy, syruppy country-spiritual of the type Howard Morrison mutilates very meaningfully. OBS takes Orange Blossom Special to its logical conclusion with a very freaky electronic ending. Ervin Rouse (not House as credited) would be amazed.

Graeme Nesbitt

Blind Lemon Jefferson, Vol 2

Blind Lemon Jefferson was born in Couchman, Texas, in 1897 and died in Chicago early in 1930. In the period between 1925 and his death he recorded one hundred sides of which ninety-three were eventually issued. Most of his output was on the Paramount label, which is unfortunate for record collectors owning to the incredibly bad sound quality of that company's pressings. Jefferson was signed to Paramount by Mayo Williams in late 1925, but he apparently broke his contract on the 14-15th March, 1927 when he recorded seven sides for Okeh. Sadly, only two of these were released. The 'Black Snake Moan' he did at one of these sessions is available on a Folkways R.B.F. anthology and is far superior in sound quality to any of his Paramount issues.

The quality of remastering and pressing on this second volume is quite remarkable in that all the lyrics can be clearly heard, vocal and instrumental tone is relatively full-bodied, and scratch has been well suppressed. All the selections are typical Blind Lemon and unless you're already hooked they'll probably sound like everything else of his you've heard. In fact it could be difficult to distinguish one track from the next.

Jefferson's voice is high and remarkably clear for a rural artist of the period, and is not tonally unlike Lead belly's In interviews with John Lomax for the Library of Congress, Lead belly made much of his early associations with Blind Lemon. The guitar style is loose and mainly takes the form of jagged, highly syncopated obligatoes played against his realtively unornamented vocals, it is almost as though he was playing guitar soloes with vocal accompaniment. Probably it is the incredible rhythmic complexity of the interplay between voice and guitar which is most fascinating about a Blind Lemon performance. This complexity could also explain why he is so little imitated.

Keen old-time blues collectors will need no incentive to get hold of this second Blind Lemon Jefferson album to be released here, but newcomers to music of this vintage may find the antiquated sound hard to take. Although the quality is relatively good, this album does not compare favourably with, for instance, the Robert Johnson albums also released in N.Z. by Polygram. However, despite the initial apparent sameness of most Jefferson recordings there are subtle and fascinating variations which (although not easy to catch because of the low-fidelity sound, residual surface noise, and scratch) will repay careful listening.

Tracks are (with recording date):
Jack O'Diamonds April, 1926
Chock House Blues April, 1926
Shuckin' Sugar Blues June, 1926
Bad Luck Blues June, 1926
Broke and Hungry June, 1926
Rising High Water Blues June, 1927
Teddy Bear Blues June, 1927
Lonesome House Blues June, 1927
Sunshine Special June, 1927
Mean Jumper Blues February, 1928
Balky Mule Blues February, 1928
Change My Luck Blues February, 1928

(All remasters from original Paramount 78's)