one of the most influential bands to come out of the treasure
trove that was the early seventies was a band that was known by
the names of its three members: Emerson, Lake and Palmer.
The band was founded in 1970 by keyboardist Keith Emerson,
who had just left The Nice. In The Nice Emerson had been accompanied
by a bassist/vocalist and a drummer. For his new band Emerson
decided to use the same format. To fill in the role of bassist/vocalist
Emerson recruited Greg Lake, of King Crimson fame. Lake
was originally a guitarist but playing guitar in King Crimson
alongside Robert Fripp was not an option, so he picked up the
bass. Drummer Carl Palmer was enticed away from Atomic
Rooster, finalizing the line-up.
1971 Emerson, Lake and Palmer released their second album Tarkus,
named after the epic track that took up the entire first side
of the album. It is considered by many to be ELP's magnum opus
and it is for that reason that we've chosen this album to represent
ELP in Counting Out Time.
track Tarkus is divided into seven parts, four of which
are instrumentals. It's a song about the futility of conflict,
expressed in the context of soldiers and war. The soldier is Tarkus,
a machine which looks like a cross between a tank and a swine.
The war is the revolution, about which Lake, who wrote the lyrics,
says: "The words are about revolution that's gone, that has happened.
Where has it got anybody? Nowhere."
first part, Eruption, is where Tarkus comes into being.
The music reflects this, as the track starts with a synthesizer
sound which swells slowly and then erupts as Lake and Palmer join
in and Emerson switches to the Hammond organ. Later on we hear
the Moog synthesizer screaming for the first time. Emerson was
in fact a pioneer on this instrument, even at times surprising
inventor Dr Moog himself with its possibilities! Emerson was also
one of the first musicians to use any synthesizer in a rock band.
His Moog solo in Lucky Man (from the debut album Emerson, Lake
and Palmer) is legendary. Eruption is full of odd time
signatures and it is Lake's solid bass playing, which keeps things
together between Emerson's virtuosity and Palmer's energetic drumming.
of Years is the first vocal part. It introduces Lake's warm
voice which gently admonishes Tarkus. Emerson then takes over
with the very characteristic 'click' organ (which can also be
heard in Deep Purple's Child in Time). Lake then sings the last
verses supported by Emerson's Hammond. All hell breaks loose in
Iconoclast as Tarkus takes on his first enemy. Palmer tries
hitting all of his drums in rapid succession and manages to make
it sound in tune, Lake keeps up effortlessly in the background
and Emerson hammers the Hammond. A repetition of the Eruption
theme follows and leads into Mass.
bass comes to the foreground for the first time supported by Emerson
on piano. But before long Emerson's organs take over again, getting
sounds out of them that no manufacturer probably ever intended!
Amidst this carnage an electrical guitar can suddenly be heard.
Then it's battle again in Manticore, one of the more complex
parts of the song with some delightful drumming by Palmer. Emerson
takes the Hammond to its boundaries again (and probaly even beyond).
A short drum solo leads into The Battlefield, the only
part of Tarkus for which the music was not written by Emerson
but by Lake. It's one of the more special pieces of music ELP
has done in the sense that it features a solo on electric guitar.
The music breathes a lament on the futilities of war and the grief
it causes. Lake's wailing guitar and dramatic voice illustrate
Hammond leads us into the final part of Tarkus: Aquatarkus.
He takes us through his entire arsenal of instruments again: Moog,
Hammond and piano all battle for attention. A march rythm by Palmer
seems to end the song until the it erupts into what I consider
to be one of the finest endings to a song ever. A gong heralds
the beginning, Emerson is back on Hammond and screaming Moog like
the beginning of the song. Indeed, a part of Eruption is revisited
before the Moog synthesizer majestically brings Tarkus to an end.
rest of the album can but stand in the shadow of the might of
Tarkus, but still contains some very fine work. Jeremy Bender
is a more traditional Rock & Roll song, with Emerson stealing
the show on piano. Bitches Crystal is quite similar to
parts of Tarkus, and features aggressive vocals by Lake. It starts
of with very delicate piano but also the Moog turns its head around
the corner now and again. Palmer's drumming on this track is energetic
Only Way (Hymn) is a great piece with Emerson on church organ.
Ironically, Lake's lyrics, delivered with his warm and full voice,
criticize that very same mother church. A line like 'How can you
say God makes you breathe, why did he lose six million jews' can't
be taken to mean anything else. The second half of the track is
a jazzy affair, Emerson having switched to piano. Palmer has to
contain himself and deliver some very delicate drumming. The Only
Way flows seemlessly into Infinite Space (Conclusion),
which continues the same jazzy theme first explored in the preceding
Time and a Place is a short rock song and the only group composition
on the album. It's quite chaotic, with Emerson apparently having
acquired a third hand. The song ends with a delightful outburst
on the Moog.
final song on the album is Are You Ready Eddie, a short
funny song about engineer Eddie Offord. If Jeremy Bender was a
more traditional Rock & Roll song, this is the archetype of a
R&R song, complete with vocal effects (the slight echo), the high
tempo, and the staccato piano.
had always been quite a spectacle live. Their shows were packed
with visual and special effects. For Tarkus Emerson and Lake would
fire with cannons at each other on stage. At one such occasion
one of the roadies had loaded Emerson's cannon with too much gunpowder
which resulted in Lake being blown clear off stage!
went one to make two more highly acclaimed studio albums (1972's
Trilogy and 1973's Brain Salad Surgery) but after
the release of the fantastic live album Welcome Back My Friends...
things declined rapidly. There was a brief resurgence with Works
Volume One, released in 1977, but by then it was already apparent
that there was no real unity within the band anymore. In 1979,
after the release of the not very succesful Love Beach,
the band died a quiet death, only to resurface again briefly in
1986 and later in the nineties.
Emerson, Lake and Palmer made a lasting impression on the music
scene and to this day their influence can still be felt and their
music still inspires bands from around the world.
Written by Derk van Mourik