Emerson Lake & Palmer - Reissues album review

Fourth, fifth and sixth albums in the ELP reissue program

Emerson Lake & Palmer Tarkus album cover

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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, 710), 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, 910) 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, 610) allows you to do just that. Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, and witness the incredible multi-limbed musicians, playing even faster than machines!

Paul Lester

Paul Lester is the editor of Record Collector. He began freelancing for Melody Maker in the late 80s, and was later made Features Editor. He was a member of the team that launched Uncut Magazine, where he became Deputy Editor. In 2006 he went freelance again and has written for The Guardian, The Times, the Sunday Times, the Telegraph, Classic Rock, Q and the Jewish Chronicle. He has also written books on Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Bjork, The Verve, Gang Of Four, Wire, Lady Gaga, Robbie Williams, the Spice Girls, and Pink.