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Emerson, Lake & Palmer
"Tarkus"

© Atlantic

February 07 - 13, 2021

Year of Release: 1971
Rating:
  • Eruption
  • Stones Of Years
  • Iconoclast
  • Mass
  • Manticore
  • Battlefield
  • Aquatarkus
  • Jeremy Bender
  • Bitches Crystal
  • The Only Way
  • Infinite Space
  • A Time And A Place
  • Are You Ready Eddy

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    A B C D E F G H I J K L M
    N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
    Emerson, Lake & Palmer returns this week, with their second chronolgoical album of their career -- Tarkus, released in 1971. ELP is obviously one of the finest and best bands in the Progressive Rock genre. With Keith Emerson's amazing keyboard skills, Greg Lake's songwriting and his singing have made ELP a dominant force. And let us not forget drummer Carl Palmer, who provided the drumbeats for the amazing Progressive sound that ELP was famous for. Tarkus contained a 7-song, album side of what most Progressive Rock bands were focusing on -- A long and impressive musical concept. Concept is probably the best word to describe it; where others would call it a "rock opera," or a "suite." What makes this 7-song concept work so well, is that each odd-numbered songs were instrumentals, where the even-numbered songs provided the distinguished and amazing vocal skills of Greg Lake. Back when this album was released on vinyl, the 7-songs was "Side 1" of the album. "Side 2" contained six songs, but they were not blended into one distinctive concept as Side 1 was. Instead, they were six different songs. And it is obvious, that the Tarkus 7-songs are the highlight of this album, and stands out as a great theatrical concept, in how ELP made this album as one of their best, based on the Side 1 Tarkus concept alone.

    As for "Side 1" and the 7-song masterpiece -- The odd-numbered tracks truly has Keith Emerson as the standout throughout these instrumentals. "Eruption" is reminded of another great Progressive Rock band, the band Yes, and their amazing keyboardist -- Rick Wakeman. "Iconoclast" is the second instrumental, as it continues the great Progressive sound ELP has always had. Emerson's keys once again stands out on the third instrumental, Manticore (which ELP would form their own record label, based on the "Manticore" name.) And lastly, the fourth instrumental is another great Progressive Rock in sound, and very powerful - "Aquatarkus.

    Then there is the great vocal songs, three of them, and not only does it provide Greg Lake's great singing (and songwriting), Keith Emerson's keyboards also stands out as well. "Stones Of Years" compares somewhat to that of The Moody Blues, yet it is more progressive in sound to another band (of which Greg Lake was a part of, before joining ELP) -- King Crimson. "Mass" is the next vocal tune, and the beginning of it, I just couldn't help but think that maybe (just maybe) The Beatles could have ventured into this particular tune, especially after the year 1967 for them. Again, Keith Emerson's keyboards are very impressive. "Battlefield" is the last of the three vocal tunes, as it also has a great progressive feel, and great vocals by Greg Lake. This ends Side 1, of the Tarkus repretoire. An amazing 7-song concept, and highly a recommended listen.

    But, as Side 2 begins, (and pretty much throughout the rest of this side), it just seems that after hearing the great 7-song concept, you would think the rest of the album would blend into that. That is, six songs that would venture into more of the famous ELP sound, in Progressive Rock. The answer to that, is a disappoting no. "Jeremy Bender" sounds mediocore, it is just ok. The long pause at the beginning of "Bitches Crystal" you're thinking something is wrong with the audio. Yet the progressive sound is there once it kicks in, and a possible comparison to their classic "Karn Evil 9," but not only is the KE9 song better than this song, alot of other songs are better too.

    Probably "the best" song of from Side 2, would be "The Only Way." It is more on the Classical music side, as it meets Progressive. It blends into the next track, "Infinite Space," where there is Classical piano, and, like the previous song before it, it does meet the Progressive side. "A Time And A Place" blends Rock with Progressive, as heard in many other ELP songs, but, those other songs are better. And to mention, Greg Lake's voice is a rough around the edges. Maybe he was trying to accomplish how well he did with his loud and powerful dominant vocals on such tunes as "Karn Evil 9," and his famous line "Welcome back my friends, to the show that never ends. We're so glad you could attend. Come inside, come inside." "Karn Evil 9" is way better (as others), yet it was interesting to hear if there could have been another "contender." That answer would be No.

    Ending the album is a musical style that pretty much does a complete 180 for those familiar with ELP, and their Progressive sound. "Are You Ready Eddy" is more of a plain rock and roll number, totally different in hearing this style from Emerson, Lake & Palmer.

    Compared to Side 1, Side 2 just doesn't make the grade. Not that Side 2 is bad, there were some songs from that six that are by far, better than others.

    But for Side 1, and Side 1 alone, Tarkus by Emerson, Lake & Palmer makes it a classic. It's a concept side that is an impressive body of musical work that is just beyond impressive. In reading about this album, it was interesting to learn that there was some tension between the band members. Erespecially regarding the 7-song Tarkus suite. Greg Lake had objected to the music Keith Emerson had provided, and almost left the group. But one of the band's managers persuaded him to stay. Lake wrote all the lyrics to the "even-numbered" songs in the Tarkus suite. In fact, when he returned to the group, one of those three songs was "Battlefield." Emerson's keyboards in that particular song, is another great highlight. Keith Emerson would refer to Tarkus as one of his favorite albums, saying "not least because the title track has taken on a life of its own." Truer words definitely spoken.

    3 stars for Side 1, 2 for Side 2.

    But as in this present day, 2021, it is hard to believe that two of the three members of ELP are no longer with us. Keith Emerson passed away in 2016, from a self-inflicted gunshot. He had been suffering from heart disease, likewise depression. He also had nerve damage, that would affect his playing. This was probably that made him more depressed, which led to his suicide. Keith Emerson was 71 years old. Greg Lake passed away in the same year, 2016, from cancer. He was 69 years old. Carl Palmer is the sole survivor of the band, as he has been providing an ELP tour, with other musical artists. He is currently 70 years old.

    Emerson, Lake & Palmer have been the Kings in Progressive Rock music. Their albums are of a concept nature. As compared to Yes, both Emerson and Wakeman were the best keyboard players of their genre. There was a rumor that both Emerson and Wakeman were to record together. That never happened. Wakeman, of course, is continuing making albums.

    Tarkus is one of those must-haves from ELP. Although, the Tarkus suite is the highlight, that and that alone is worth having in your collection. The remaining songs are not as good, but they still are part of their legacy. For Progressive Rock fans, ELP is a must-have, as mentioned.




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