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Monday, June 6, 2011

Album Review: ELP's Works, Vol. 1

Again, I have no objectivity when it comes to Emerson, Lake and Palmer. This album came out on St. Patrick's Day, 1977, and I bought it soon as it hit the stores. It had been years since Brain Salad Surgery and we fans were frothing at the mouth for the new release. I hurried home and, naturally, skipped right to Greg Lake's side first- the 2 records were divided into a side for each of the band members and a side where they all played together. Then I played Emo's side, Carl's side, and finally side four. Nearly an hour and half after putting the needle down to hear Greg start off with, "Lend Your Love to Me Tonight", I was wiped. Happily, the way great music wipes you out. This is the only album that took over a whole day of my life, and a day I recall clearly. Which itself is unusual for me in the '70s.

This, however, was not the album old ELP fans were expecting (there go expectations again) and at the time it wasn't well-received, even among my friends. But I was delighted. Here were my guys, all grown up and crafting their art to more refined heights.

"Closer To Believing" is to me, The Song about falling in love- just as "Trilogy" is The Break-up Song. All of the Greg side is a matured Lake/Sinfield series of multiple eargasms. Especially in headphones. Emo is at his peak keyboard skills with his compositon, the 3-movement Piano Concerto No.1. Again, not the synth-Moog monster that fans were looking for; far better than they deserved, I thought then and still do think. This piece alone should establish him among the great keyboard composers of all time. And Carl takes the listener all over the place from the formal pounding of Prokofieff's "Enemy God Dances with the Black Spirits" to the funky "L.A. Nights" and a tight rework of "Tank" from Tarkus. Then they all tear into Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man"- since become a classic- and "Pirates", which at the time made me say, "Holy Shit!" as the last BA-bump! sounded. What the Hell is there not to love?

Later that day, celebrating St. Pat's, an argument ensued. I couldn't believe things my friends were saying- it was "the commercial sellout of ELP"- "they let their fans down"-WHAT??!!!! I'm pretty sure I called one guy traitorous and ignorant. Indignance turned to fighting words. Even recalling it my teeth go on edge. We took our music so seriously, and defended our opinions as if the future of the Earth were at stake. Ah, to be 17 again! The night ended with peaked eyebrows and flared nostrils all around. None of us ever brought up "Works Volume 1" again.

So here I sit, over 34 years later, still loving this album and reviewing it on my little blog as a masterpiece. Finally, I get the last word. ;)

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