on March 7, 2002
I'm not an ELP fan, but I am a fan of this album. In the aftershock of King Crimson's "farewell" album (Wake of Poseidon) and still reeling from the breakthrough "The Yes Album", ELP's first release captures much of what is best in the shortly post-emergent days of progressive rock. Having followed Emerson through some tortured releases with The Nice, ELP finally framed his talent with a pair of musicians that could, at least, keep up with his outstanding ability. Just listen to "Hang on to a Dream" on Elegy, by The Nice: I don't think Jackson or Davison had a clue to what Emerson was doing with that piano. Unlike The Nice, ELP plays here as a unit. And while their taste will be called into question in later releases, the first album balances extravagance with restraint in performances that sound as if they had been playing together for years and years.
What remains so strong about this album is that each piece is archetypal. Each is the definitive version of itself. From the virtuosic "The Barbarian" to the introspective "Take a Pebble" to the theatrical "Knife's Edge" and the fairy-tale-with-a-message "Lucky Man", all the music is strange, new and familiar at the same time. You may think you'd heard it before and elsewhere, but until this recording came along, you hadn't. It even set a new standard for sound reproduction: my friends and I often used "Tank" as a demo for evaluating stereo equipment. The climactic thumps once set a Phase Linear 400 amp on fire. Honest.
Perhaps it was simply the newness of combining all these influences at this particular moment in music, but the lads came out with what may be the only truly unique, complete and coherent record of their careers. It's one of those records where every note is in place, every inflection is absolutely right ( even though the reverb gets over the top in places ) and all of it stands the test of these past few decades at least. It perfectly captures that singular moment in music.
on August 27, 2007
If you check my older reviews, I gave the Rhino disc a great review but the improvement here even over that one is astounding. I don't think I've ever heard clearer vocals on my system - how the hell did these guys record this album so well, a DEBUT album no less? On my rig, sibilants are outstanding, smooth as silk and not harsh at all - it IS a brightly-mixed album, after all, and your speakers' high end had better be up to the challenge. The soundstage is also a mile wide and just when I thought I knew every musical nuance of this album, I found myself hearing "further back" into the recording than ever before - stunning. This also makes me realize just how BAD those old Atlantic CDs were. And I have heard the K2 and sorry, but for my taste the treble is just a bit bright and the music sounds slightly compressed to my ears. Horses for courses, as long as we all enjoy the album, guys. Right?
And with that, let me publicly state that I will NEVER buy another version of this album on CD.
on April 24, 2007
From the booming bass that kicks off "The Barbarian" through the final Moog synth squiggle of the "Lucky Man" outro,"Emerson Lake & Palmer" is the powerful opening salvo of ELP's mixture of classical,jazz and hard rock-best known to the world as "progressive rock"-that presented such obscure classical pieces as Bela Bartok's 'Allegro Barbaro'("The Barbarian") and Janacek's 'Sinfonietta'("Knife-Edge")in fresh contexts.Other highlights-on an album featuring nothing BUT highlights- include Greg Lake's 12 minute-plus epic "Take A Pebble" and Carl Palmer's fusion-esqe drum piece "Tank".This record has been remastered on CD a few times,first on the dismal-sounding Atlantic one from the 80's,and again on the Victory and Rhino in the 90's which,while an improvement from the first one,were pretty below the standards of most remasters from that period.This Shout! remaster(done by Andy Pearce at Masterpiece London)is right in the class of the Yes Rhino remasters and the Genesis CD/SACD/DVD hybrid's,with Lake's bass guitar sounding big and beefy,Palmer's drum work crisp,and Keith Emerson's keyboards as clear as pure mountain water.Despite the lack of bonus tracks,ELP and prog-rock fans should not hesitaite in picking up-or upgrading with-this reasonably-priced remastered jewel.
on September 26, 2006
When I first listened to this LP way back in 1970, I was taken aback by the power of this music. I knew the music of The Nice, and I didn't believe that anything could top the first record of King Crimson, the majestic: "In the Court of the Crimson King". Oh, boy was I WRONG !!! ELP not only broke down the walls that stood between rock music and classical, They smashed the walls apart, crossed through and built totally new worlds of music that were so new, so fresh that nobody at this point was even close on their heels.
I brought this prize over to my friend Larry's house, sat him down and thrust this gem upon his turntable. He sat there in a cold silence during: "The Barbarian" and about half-way through "Take a Pebble" he got up from his chair and stormed outta the room to get away from this music and this record... We never spoke to each other ever again.
There are only six tracks on this record, but each of them matters as an important piece of this record. To my mind they are more like 'Movements' of a single work of music. Keith Emerson, was thinking outside the box, and was looking forward into uncharted waters. ELP was to sail out there and explore, no matter the cost. Progressive rock didn't start here BUT this first recording by Keith, Greg & Carl set the bar, and they set that bar VERY HIGH.
By the mid-seventies there were hundreds of bands all over the world TRYING to imitate this record (many of them built careers on their imitations) But, this first album of: Emerson,Lake & Palmer along with the first release from: King Crimsom were the pioneers that started a movement... IF YOUR EARS WORK, LISTEN TO THIS... FIVE STARS !!!
on January 3, 2013
Note: I am reviewing the 3-disc version, which includes the 5.1 mix by Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson.
Wilson is a busy man these days. In addition to his working with his own band Porcupine Tree, since 2009 he has devoted a great deal of his time to remixing the King Crimson catalog in new, double-disc versions that include 5.1 mixes in the supposedly dead DVD-Audio format.
The results have been, for this listener, amazing. I own every Crimson studio album, but I have bought every updated release. Wilson, working with Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp, has created not one but SEVERAL masterpieces so far, with "In the Court of the Crimson King" deserving special mention for the way Wilson reconfigured the sounds for 5.1 without destroying the uncanny ambiance that marked the band's debut.
So it came as something of a surprise to me that I have to deduct a star for Wilson's update of "Emerson, Lake & Palmer," the group's first album, from 1970. And I feel bad for doing so, because I honestly don't know what the man should have done given the situation he was facing with this one.
The problem: Wilson could not locate the multi-track masters for two of the three sections of "The Three Fates", nor the entirety of "Tank," which in my mind are two crucial pieces of this album. The first shows off Emerson's keyboard skills in three specific settings -- organ, piano solo, piano trio. The second, "Tank," was an Emerson/Palmer composition featuring a build-up-to-blistering drum performance by Palmer.
Faced with something like this, there are three options: 1. Abandon the project, which some think Wilson probably should have done. 2. Use the available stereo versions of the missing sections and drop them into the 5.1 mix -- not at all ideal, but you preserve the track listing and running order of the original album. 3. Do what Wilson did: Substitute other material for which the multi-track tapes were available.
So on this three-disc set, we do get one CD of the original stereo album, remastered, and a CD of "The Alternate ELP" that's pretty much duplicated on the DVD Audio disc. Wilson found a version of "Promenade," later to be incorporated into ELP's "Pictures at an Exhibition," and a band jam called "Rave Up" to fill out the missing sections.
I know there have been howls of protest over this from other reviewers here. But I think they're being somewhat too harsh. After all, the original album is all here, albeit in a two-channel mix. And we're probably getting the best 5.1 mix we can, unless or until those missing masters ever turn up -- and I doubt they ever will.
If you're a purist about this album, maybe this version isn't for you -- although I have to warn you that in missing "Raveup," you're missing a pretty fine piece of music in its own right.
Frankly, despite the technical problems, I don't see how Wilson and original ELP producer, bassist/vocalist Greg Lake, could have made the decision to SCRAP the band's DEBUT ALBUM from the 5.1 remix program, which is supposed to continue. I'd also point out this isn't the only imperfect 5.1 mix out there; far from it. Many 5.1 releases go back to classic rock albums, and keep in mind the age of the original tapes of those by now! Forty-plus to nearly fifty years. Such tapes have to be baked in special ovens before they can even take a chance at accessing them safely. And of course the worst possibility of all: Not being able to find all the source material. Bob Clearmountain and Rhett Davies remixed Roxy Music's "Avalon" for 5.1 SACD, and it's an amazing result -- just look at the price third-party sellers are getting for it now, which Amazon will delete if I quote it here, but take a gander. Anyway, one track was missing from that, the instrumental "India." Their regular elegant solution was to slowly pan the whole thing right around the room in 5.1, and it sounds wonderful.
Final thoughts on the music itself: "Emerson, Lake & Palmer" was released 43 years ago, but it doesn't sound as dated to me as some records from 1970. For one thing, the band was aggressive and accomplished even at this early stage; all three members play beautifully. And the songs were varied, from the very hard energy of "Knife-Edge" and "The Barbarian" to the softer feel of Lake's "Lucky Man" and the sprawling ballad "Take a Pebble." ELP served as whipping post for a lot of rock critics at the time who found them impossibly pretentious, but when you listen back to them now, they just sound like a pretty tight, pretty amazing rock band most of the time, with the jazz and classical flourishes they loved tucked in nicely here and there. This would change over time as Emerson especially led the band on an orchestral obsession that culminated with "Works, Vol. 1" But that's a different album (can't wait to see what Steven Wilson does with that one). "Brain Salad Surgery" is widely considered ELP's signature work, but this debut was an incredibly strong beginning. If you remember it fondly, hear it again. If you're not familiar, by all means, seek it out and experience it, whether in standard stereo or this sprawling version. The bottom line is that there is good, fiery music here.
on March 6, 2007
A clear and solid Jap remastering of this milestone CD brings it to life with a rich engaging sound. One of their best albums, and one of the best 70s albums period - big, bold, beautiful and beefy.
on July 31, 2007
First of all, I do Not understand why "Bob" from Los Angeles feels the need to give this ELP offering a 1 star rating, just because ELP's catalog has been remastered numerous times. I don't care how many different labels remaster and distribute their music. What does that matter? Why does he think that fans must now "dutifully purchase these newly remastered editions?"
If you own early 1990 first edition Atlantic releases, and you are satisfied with them, then that's the end of the story. No one is trying to force you to buy something, just entice you purchase their product. I have an old version of ELP's Live "Welcome Back My Friends..." on Atlantic records and it's fine. Sounds just like my original 3-LP set, just in a more convenient package.
I also own The Atlantic Years, a two disc compilation of ELP tacks which came out in 1992. This past year I started researching ELP and noticed one of my favorite re-issue companies, Rhino Records, had released all of ELP's original albums. As I looked at all the track listings, I realized there was a lot of Emerson, Lake and Palmer music that I did not own and had not heard before. I thought about picking up these individual discs, but just never got around to it. Now, the Rhino Remasters are over 10 years old. Recording and Production Technology continues to evolve, so when I noticed these new Shout! Factory re-issues, and read some of the rave reviews about the quality, I decided now was the time.
I purchased the debut Emerson Lake and Palmer album. First of all, it's a bargain price at only $11. I compared some of the tracks to my Atlantic Years cd. The Shout! version was definately more dynamic, with the loudest parts of the songs just peaking at -0- Db on the VU meters of my Denon Digital CD Recorder (the older Atlantic version only reached the -4 mark). Admittedly, the Shout! disc had slightly more analog tape hiss, but a much crisper high end. You would only notice the hiss in the absolute quietest passages in a quiet setting. Bass response was good, not "boomy", nice and flat over-all frequency response across the entire sound spectrum.
I have already decided to purchase all the Shout! Factory versions. Even though it's not listed yet on Amazon's site, an advertisement included in my disc shows they are planning to offer Brain Salad Surgery and the Live Welcome Back My Friends, to the Show that Never Ends also.
on May 3, 2004
In 1971, keyboard wiz Keith Emerson, fresh off his stint with the Nice, formed a progressive rock power trio with singer/guitarist Greg Lake of King Crimson, and drummer Carl Palmer of Atomic Rooster. Their self-titled debut album from '71 still stands as one of the group's very best releases. Emerson brilliantly plays a wide variety of keyboards (including the Royal Festival Hall organ for one track), Lake's powerful vocals, booming bass & expert guitar lines simply amaze, and Palmer is a mighty stickman, trouncing his huge drumkit into submission with the greatest of ease. "The Barbarian" & "Tank" are both thunderous instrumental tracks, allowing the trio to really stretch out. Lake's 12 1/2 minute epic, "Take A Pebble," is a truly beautiful piece. "Knife-Edge" is a classic ELP rocker. Emerson's three-part keyboard suite, "The Three Fates," remains one of his greatest contributions to the band, and, of course, there's Lake's timeless, FM radio sing-along classic, "Lucky Man," complimented by Emerson's avant-garde synthesiser flourishes and Palmer's thumping drumwork. Great music and performances from end to end, and brilliantly engineered by Eddie Offord (who also worked with Yes around the same time), Emerson Lake & Palmer's debut disc is a magnificent album, and one of the great jewels in the progessive rock crown.
on April 13, 2007
Emerson, Lake, and Palmer are my favorite prog rock band, and this is arguably their most balanced album as a band. On most of their albums, Emerson and Palmer dominated the proceedings, while Lake diddled on his bass guitar, usually playing a simple riff or two while Keith and Carl ripped their instruments a new one. Lake only really shined during the ballads, and probably resented Emerson and Palmer (Emerson especially) for their domination of the band. This album strikes a beautiful balance between all three. The opener, The Barbarian, opens with a killer guitar riff (yes, guitar), then breaks into a blistering version of Bartok's Allegro Barbaro (even though Emerson, Lake, and Palmer are credited with the song). The second song, Take a Pebble, is Greg Lake's most underrated ballad, and it's a damn shame, because it is one of his best songs, and one of ELP's best songs. It's an epic Greg Lake song running 12 1/2 minutes (usually the epic were courtesy of Emerson), and it boasts some great lyrics and amazing beautiful piano work by Emerson. Knife Edge has some great bass playing by Greg, which blends it beautifully with Emerson and Palmer. The Three Fates is mostly Emerson, until the final segment, when they all join in. Tank is a great Palmer drum workout, with excellent keyboard work from Keith and another great bass line from Greg, and Lucky Man closes it. It's Greg's signature song, and it's really all him. The synthesizer solo at the end was an add on. Greg wanted to give Keith something to do on the song, so Keith improvised the solo. ELP would get bigger and better with longer tracks (Tarkus, Karn Evil 9), but here they share more of the music. I'm not saying this is their best album (that's the triple live one), but it's certainly as good as anything they ever put out...
In 1970 keyboard player Keith Emerson of Nice and Greg Lake of King Crimson bolted from their groups and joined with drummer Carl Palmer from Atomic Rooster to form the most successful power trio in the history of progressive rock. Only Renaissance could be said to have more explicitly incorporated classical music into its sound that Emerson, Lake & Palmer. The trio were regarded as technical virtuosos on their instruments, to such a point that their performances surely could not match their reputations. Lake might not be as great a guitarist as the other two were on their instruments, but when I was a lad if you had given me my choice of any one's voice in rock and roll, I would have wanted to sing like Greg Lake (Emerson, Lake & Palmer also have some of the more interesting "what ifs" around in terms of their origin, since there were rumors of Jimi Hendrix joining the group and Steve Howe of Yes actually auditioned).
The self-tilted 1971 debut album (mostly recorded the previous year), is a mix of the bombastic synthesizer overkill that could dominate some of their early work (such as the first side of their next album, "Tarkus") and the subtle balance between Lake's vocals and Emerson's piano playing. The former is represented by the instrumental opening track, "The Barbarian," which sets up a radical shift to the former with "Take a Pebble." This song was ELP's first released single, and would become one of the improvisational standards of the group in concert. The "first side" ends with "Knife-Edge," based on a theme by Janacek I believe, and is one of the rare examples of balance between Emerson's synthesizer and Lake's vocals. You have to remember that the synthesizer was a new toy at that time and perhaps Emerson should be forgiven for taking it out so unrelentlessly at times on a test drive.
"The Three Fates," like "Take a Pebble," owes much to classical forms and provides ample evidence of my contention that Emerson was much more proficient on a piano than on an organ. "Tank" represents the third synthesized work while "Lucky Man," the group's first and biggest hit single, showcases Lake's haunting vocals against an acoustic guitar, with a synthesizer solo at the end. You cannot help but wonder what else Greg lake might have written if he did not have to contend with Emerson's propensity to longer and longer keyboard works. Any how, on Emerson, Lake & Palmer's debut album we end up with three synthesizer songs and three piano/guitar songs. I give the latter 5 stars and the former 3 stars, but "Lucky Man" is a 6 and "Knife-Edge" a 4 and that ends up a 5 because I can make this stuff up as I go along. Seriously, whichever type you prefer, it is going to dictate which of their other albums you are going to enjoy.