69 of 73 people found the following review helpful
on August 22, 1999
A simply brilliant album. The "Tarkus" suite is one of the most high-energy 20 minutes in music. Not in rock, or in prog-rock, but in music.
For that suite, I'd rate this as my personal favourite ELP album. The songs that followed (on side 2 on the vinyl version) are more inconsistent but also contain moments of excellence - especially "Hymn" and "Bitches Crystal".
The Greg Lake contributions to Tarkus are some of his best work ever. And for all that people think of ELP as a keyboard band, when Greg Lake is good, the band is good. When he's off (as in "Love Beach" and anything produced during the cash-in 90's revival) the band is horrible.
"Battlefield", the last of the vocal sections in "Tarkus", is outstanding; the best section of the best thing they ever did. Lake's final "Let there be no sorrow, be no pain" works for me: awesome, actually moving, brilliant at every level.
Even the electric guitar playing's pretty good, though I prefer Lake's soloing on the "Welcome back my friends" live version, where he plays some damned impressive rock guitar, something I didn't realise he could do.
I've highlighted Lake only because he sometimes doesn't get enough credit. I'm a fan of each of these three musicians. Each was simply the best around at what they were doing.
Side two is more hit and miss, though there are more hits than misses. "Jeremy Bender" is the best of their comic songs by a fair margin, and *short*. And the silly throwaway song at the end, "Are you ready, Eddie", in honour of their sound engineer, is actually a good song.
But the "Tarkus" suite is one wild, exuberant ride, musically absolutely unique (I can't think of anything else like it; though some other ELP comes close), and consistently brilliant.
ELP are starting to influence other musicians only now, long after they stopped. (They stopped in 1976 at the latest - product from the 90s reformed ELP can be safely ignored.) It's the critics who sneered at ELP twenty years ago who look silly now.
This is one of the greatest rock outfits ever at the absolute peak of their creativity.
59 of 65 people found the following review helpful
on September 21, 1999
I admit to being an ELP fan from the actual days that Tarkus was current. Then and now, the album was courageous, and not completely accessable. I give it four stars rather than five because it is somewhat inconsistent in compositional quality. And yes, every now and again on this album Greg Lake's vocals are flat, and it grates my ear to hear it. But the overall virtuosity of the band must be appreciated, as well as the fact that they were stepping into uncharted territory. One can also regard with some melancholy how this period corresponded to a time when ELP could be seen to be maintaining progressive rock "progress," much as King Crimson would do. Sadly, KC continued to grow and evolve (if in fits and starts) while ELP fizzled out.
For me, most of the material from Tarkus still sounds strong today, and why many cannot appreciate the challenging difference this music represents, compared to the overrated, repetitious, and derivative crap that one hears from many artists today, is puzzling. It just seems that many regard adventurism as pomposity, and it ticks them off. Yes, ELP can be pompous, and yes, sometimes breaking off in a non-comformist direction can lead to a dead-end. But I'd rather take the gems with the clinkers, unearthed by a band that tries to find something, than settle for the fool's gold consistently proffered by the mediocre.
ELP will always elicit admiration and scorn (and no ELP album more so than Tarkus). But to the scornful, I would ask the question, "why does everyone insist that ELP was so 'over the top'?" I saw the live stage shows back in the glory days, and for sure, there was a hell of a lot of "show" going on. But of course so did many others (The Who, Jimi Hendrix, etc.) who are not routinely hung with such scornful accusations. And any number of shock-rock, glam-rock, or any other kind of rock you can think of, bands have done much the same, and to a lesser purpose. For instance, what was Kiss all about in their first incarnation anyway, other than their version of an over-the-top show? From an over-the-top ELP, as seen in Tarkus, you could take away the musicianship, compositional talent, and add a large helping of exceptionally bad taste and you have anything Kiss ever did.
55 of 61 people found the following review helpful
on June 7, 2002
Tarkus (the title suite) is the one of the most complex, inventive and intense pieces of music made. It's written in 7 movements and is mostly jazz influenced. To be quite honest, it surprises me that ELP were a "popular" band because their music is not very accessible (i.e. easy listening) and the title suite is no exception. On here you will find the most unrelenting musical assaults (in every way possible), as the band seems to go all-out. Keith Emerson's maniacal and restless synthesizer work backed by Carl Palmer's frenzied and violent drumming is definitely a rush, if not somewhat draining (in a very good way!). Greg Lake seems to keep up with the insanity of his counterparts on bass, vocals and guitar. (Note: The thing on the cover art is half tank, half armadillo.)
The second half of the disc is heaven or hell, depending on where you stand with the Tarkus suite. If you thought the title suite was excellent (which many fans do), you'll probably find the second half lackadaisical. However, if the title suite seems a bit overwhelming, the second half can be seen as a welcome relief from the previous chaotic madness. Jeremy Bender is a short wild west tune. B**ches Crystal is a jazzy tune. The Only Way/Infinite Space, which is essentially one track separated into two, is more atmospheric. The former is a hymn, featuring dramatic and beautifully somber vocals from Greg Lake set against the backdrop of Keith Emerson's organ, then piano. Infinite Space is a mellow and jazzy piano instrumental. Probably the only subdued moment on the disc. A Time And A Place is mostly a hard rock tune followed by the comical Are You Ready Eddy?
If you want something challenging and edgy, pick this up.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
The Tarkus suite remains one of the most indispensible tracks in progressive rock history. All three musicians are at the top of their game. Palmer never ceases to amaze with his fabulous and inventive rhythms,while Lake is the glue that holds it all together. But, Tarkus above all else is a Keith Emerson record. Tarkus remains Keith Emerson's shining moment as he dominates the suite from the opening notes of Eruption to the end of Aquatarkus. I have never heard such complete mastery of an instrument as Emerson's domination of his keyboards in Tarkus. However, all members shine inevitably at multiple points during the suite. Lake's vocals are stellar as is his bass and guitar work. Palmer simply had mastered all facets of percussion before ELP even started recording Tarkus. ELP could have just released Tarkus as an ep but they chose to include a number of shorter tracks toward the end or second side of the recording. Jeremy Bender remains one of ELP's stronger tracks to date and probably the most radio friendly. Bitches Crystal is an overlooked gem in the ELP catalogue. Overall, you can't go wrong by purchasing this album. Masterful musicianship, excellent lyrics and concept, you need to own this. P.S. What ever happened to the double cd "ELP: The Atlantic Years?" luckily I got a copy back in the early '90's, it remains the most complete look at ELP for both the casual and hardcore ELP fan alike.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on August 25, 2007
When it comes to Emerson Lake & Palmer, one of two pieces is usually voted the band's pinnacle of achievement: "Karn Evil 9" from 1973's BRAIN SALAD SURGERY or the titular suite from 1971's TARKUS. And if "Karn Evil 9" is one of my top candidates for Best Prog Work Ever, "Tarkus" is a monolithic achievement nevertheless, one of the first sidelong epics in the annals of progressive rock, and one of its greatest.
Flying high on Keith Emerson's savage keyboards, grounded by Carl Palmer's seismic drumming, embroidered with Greg Lake's dour vocals and complementary bass licks, "Tarkus" alternates peaks of the loftiest beauty with storms of the basest profanity. There's a plot in Lake's overblown lyrics somewhere - I think it has to do with war, and the armadillo-tank on the LP cover, and something about a manticore as well - but lyrics have never been all that important in prog. They sound profound, and that's all that matters. The suite is partitioned into seven movements, but it's often difficult, amidst the hail of screaming organ solos and percussive whiplash, to discern where one ends and another begins. Besides, I listen to "Tarkus" as a whole, a mammoth example of everything good (and bad) about prog rock, so it's rather pointless to focus on the individual parts. It's a monster, to be sure, some of the most intricate, bloodthirstily confrontational music of the rock era.
Two prog workouts ("Bitches Crystal", "A Time & a Place"), a pair of goofy throwaways ("Jeremy Bender", "Are You Ready Eddy?"), and a bipartite mini-epic ("The Only Way (Hymn)"/"Infinite Space(Conclusion)") flesh out the remainder of the disc. After a behemothic opening like the title cut, the rest of TARKUS should be an anticlimax, and in many ways it is. But if it doesn't achieve the demented grandeur of Side I, Side II allows the band to calm down, stretch out, and defuse their self-conscious pomposity a bit. "The Only Way (Hymn)"/"Infinite Space (Conclusion)" in particular is great, featuring ecclesiastical organ, blazing bass figures, and a couple melodies "borrowed" from Bach.
If 70s prog ever needed a "poster band", there would be few acts better qualified to fill that role than ELP. By the same token, TARKUS plays about as near a 70s prog "poster album" as any album possibly could.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on December 14, 2004
On no other ELP record does KE's C3 sound like it does here.It's a living thing that moans,screams and fulminates anger,aggression,and Balls galore.The same can be said for most of his Moog patches as well.Tarkus is brilliant through and through.Brilliant composition and writing craft(Keith and greg),brilliant execution and playing(all three boys),brilliant sounds(Hammond C3 and The beast called Moog),brilliant production(the late great are you ready Eddie Offord),and lastly brilliant-cheesey fantasy sci-fi story line and art work,that made more of an impression on the original lp.I don't even think the cd has the inner sleeve story board pics.I always wanted to see a cartoon with this art work and music-Tarkus by Ralph Bakshi.Speaking of first impressions(no Brain Salad pun intended),you can't fathom a ten year old's reaction to first hearing Eruption,thanks to two older brothers who brought the lp home in early 72.I'm 43 now-i was ten then.and i still ha ven't recovered.Keith Emerson is the main reason i am a Composer concert-jazz pianist today.Without his influence i would never have discovered classical music,or Prokofiev,Scriabin,Gershwin,Mennin,Rachmaninoff,Ravel,Chopin,Bach,Sondheim,or even Corea.How many thousands of others world wide share the same sentiments?This reason alone makes him a critical force in late 20th century music,specifically in regards to the piano and composition.To his detractors i would say get over your resistant need to find fault with his showman persona(also important to that ten year old who in addition to his music thought keith was so damn cool looking mean and lean over all those keys),and try to grasp his essential significance.And like it or not Tarkus 30 + years on, is still significant.From that opening layered C-3 crescendo swell(never done live)to that stack o fourths left hand ostinato figure,Tarkus still kicks [...]!
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on November 17, 2000
This album gave to progressive rock a definition. Rock became more than a 4/4 rhythm, it was an alive style. The beginning of the Tarkus suite has one of the most complex Moog synth sounds, which ELP used a sample in the 92/93 tour. Lake's and Emerson's styles are melted for good in this album. It seems that they were trying to fuse musical ideas, not to stablishing poles as they did after. Palmer is, as always, perfect in everything.
Tarkus is one of the best essays on progressive rock, number one in 1971 UK charts. It's true that it's not as united as Brain Salad Surgery, but on the other hand, it's very fluent, and the sound production is a lot better (I don't know what's wrong with the sound of the latter, Lake's voice is different than in any other record, as the Hammond organs - maybe it's due to Eddie Offord's sound engineering absence). The live version of Tarkus in 1973/74 was bigger and very interesting also (available in "Welcome Back My Friends..."). I recommend you hear it and compare with the original.
What was the "B-side" of Tarkus has a lot of different genres, from rocky to classical, from almost heavy rock (Bitches Crystal) to pure humored rock (Are you ready, Eddie?) and fascinating homages to J. S. Bach in "The Only Way", one of the most beautiful songs they did, followed by one of the most despaired: Infinite Space.
This album is from a time when any music of ELP was a rock treasure. It's very different from their 90's records, which you rather get a single really good song (not to mention the lot of 90's "best of"s, anthologies and repeated material that made loyal fans spend money for few never-released-before songs).
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on May 2, 2007
Emerson, Lake and Palmer once again gives the world another satisfying listen. Again, the keyboards are everywhere, just like on the debut. This time, though, they sort of changed gears and gave us some shorter and catchier tunes on Side 2.
The first half of the album is one GIANT medley of keyboards. It's really surprising to me how, even before I got into lengthy prog pieces and jams, I was STILL able to enjoy this song. It's because the band knows how to make their jams melodic and interesting. That was something they did very well back in the day.
It's a shame most people ignore the shorter songs on the second side of the album. There's some good stuff there, and entirely worth hearing if you're a fan of the band.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on March 13, 2002
If Tarkus had been written by a Western Art Music composer, it would have been recognized for the complex atonal arrhtymical masterpiece that it is.
For most Rock listeners and critics, however, this album asked simply too much from them. It is a complex work, full of invention and shifting horizons, far more complex and coherent than even the most celebrated rock albums previously called complex.
Is this good music? Good question. I love it, but I could well understand how people might be put off of Tarkus, given its harsh edges, mish-mash of styles, and long playing time. Still, it is an important album in Prog rock, and ups the ante for all others in the genre, and no other band has yet come close to this, then or now.
As synthfool, Proghead, ELP fan, I would love to see a new recording of this album, since frankly, the original sound is flat and sometimes muddy.
If you don't like Progressive rock, stay away!
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on June 6, 2008
I should start this review by pointing out that I am reviewing this album based on the K2HD AND the MFSL versions that I own & NOT the one for sale from SHOUT Factory. I consider the two versions cited to be definitive examples of the state-of-the-art recording, at their respective times and that we do not need to dwell upon their respective audiophile tweakish differences - on which I could expound, boringly & probably boorishly for hours.
What I would like to say about this album, and most notably the title "track", is that this is probably Emerson's most "complete" work, to date (since I haven't heard his soon to be released KEB album due in July 2008). Keith's Piano Concerto was a work from the heart, which I feel will stand the test of time, but TARKUS (the suite) is a truly thematically complete work, from a man whom his own band-mates, of many years, accuse of "... never finishing anything...". It is impossible to categorize - it's not rock, it's not jazz, it's not classical - it's Emerson, with a fair shake of the highly talented Mr. Palmer for flavor (I'm not including Mr. Lake as I feel that this piece stands alone as an extremely powerful instrumental piece). From the furious intro of Eruption to the sombre and unsettling Battlefield, this piece moves me like few pieces of music in my 50+ years have done. I recently found out that it has been arranged for trombone and orchestra and will likely be picked up by other major orchestras for arrangement. THIS is what struck me most as an adolescent when I first picked up and heard this album - the title track was so HUGE in sound - it needed an orchestra. This arrangement - by a 3 piece band - still sounds like a full orchestra, even 37 years ago. This is a must have for any true music lover.
By the way, most of the other material is darned good, too - even the "throw-away" tracks like "Jeremy Bender" and "Are You Ready Eddy".