Emerson Lake & Palmer - Reissues album review

Prog behemoth’s last hurrahs

Cover art for Emerson Lake & Palmer - Reissues album

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If a band split is like a divorce, then ELP’s first studio releases for nearly four years, 1977’s Works albums, were surely the equivalent of married partners sleeping in different bedrooms, living largely separate lives, but staying together just for the sake of the kids.

So instead they made Works Vol.1 (710), consisting of a side each of a double album and then two tracks from the whole band. Listening again on this remastered version, little of it mixes classical pastichery and baroque prog with quite the same rocking flourishes as their best material, and Works Vol.2 (710), released later that year, is an even more mixed bag – a compilation of outtakes and knockabout jazz covers chiefly designed to showcase the band’s instrumental ‘chops’.

Thankfully, this package adds the more worthwhile Works Live, previously released in 1993 and recorded at their massively ambitious, orchestrally enhanced 1977 world tour.

After that, the deeply questionable, open-shirted Bee Gees-style sleeve of 1978’s Love Beach (410) reflected a far poppier diversion, a stab at radio-friendly hit-making that quickly became the black sheep of their back catalogue.

The alternative versions included on this deluxe reissue don’t really do much to rehabilitate it, but to be fair, the latter half of the album – comprising Canario’s comfortingly familiar classical rock confection, and the 20-minute Memoirs Of An Officer And A Gentleman – does rescue it from bin-worthy status. But Christ, that sleeve…

Johnny is a regular contributor to Prog and Classic Rock magazines, both online and in print. Johnny is a highly experienced and versatile music writer whose tastes range from prog and hard rock to R’n’B, funk, folk and blues. He has written about music professionally for 30 years, surviving the Britpop wars at the NME in the 90s (under the hard-to-shake teenage nickname Johnny Cigarettes) before branching out to newspapers such as The Guardian and The Independent and magazines such as Uncut, Record Collector and, of course, Prog and Classic Rock