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

Emerson, Lake & Palmer — Atlantic

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