The latest slew of releases come as two-CD deluxe editions, with remastered and stereo mixes of the albums courtesy of Jakko Jakszyk, plus booklets featuring rare band photos and new 2016 interviews (as well as a telling older quote from Emerson that offers an insight into his fatally self-critical nature).
Trilogy (1972, 7⁄10), its Hipgnosis sleeve positing our heroes as Mount Rushmore-ish figures of instrumental monumentalism, finds them further exploring the rock/classical interface. The Endless Enigma (Part 1) is thriller soundtrack-worthy, while (Part 2) is a sonorous fanfare for the common man. The Sheriff is the closest thing to a three-minute ditty, and From The Beginning is jarringly acoustic in this future-facing context, as though ELP had suddenly relocated to Laurel Canyon. As for Aaron Copland’s Hoedown, it compresses pyrotechnics and sci-fi sonics into three dazzling minutes.
By common consent, Brain Salad Surgery (1973, 9⁄10) is their best, or some kind of apotheosis, the tone of flamboyant rule-breaking set by the Giger artwork. The BBC deemed the opening rendition of Jerusalem sacrilegious, but from its majestic opening chords to Lake’s rousing intonation, it can’t help assuming a new poignancy in the light of the tragic events of March 2016.
Toccata throbs with thunderous invention and a determination to push the envelope. The bloops are Kraftwerk-ish, the electro-noise unearthly, like the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in meltdown as Emerson beats Messrs Lord and Wakeman for sheer technoflash. And that’s without mentioning Still… You Turn Me On, a moment of respite and reflection; Benny The Bouncer, which is Chas & Dave go prog; and the ultimate keys/bass/drums showcase that is Karn Evil 9. ‘Roll up - see the show!’ commands Lake.
Less-than-essential live album Welcome Back My Friends… (1974, 6⁄10) allows you to do just that. Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, and witness the incredible multi-limbed musicians, playing even faster than machines!