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Emerson Lake & Palmer - Tarkus CD (album) cover


Emerson Lake & Palmer


Symphonic Prog

4.06 | 1666 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website


Tarkus features the amazing tale about an armadillo-tank war machine born of an egg from an eruption that goes on a... killing spree. Apparently. After destroying a "building-monster", Tarkus proceeds to face Iconoclast - a war-pterodactyl-airplane, only to be destroyed by Tarkus' turrets. His next foe, Mass, a lizard-armoured-rocket-launcher has the same destiny of Tarkus' earlier foe. Next, Tarkus is faced by Manticore, who manages to overwhelm the hybrid monster and kill it, its staggering body falls into a river. However... his cannons are still functional, so is Tarkus truly dead... or is he to be reborn as a transcending form of his self, the aquatic Aquatarkus?

Few progressive gems have brought such original characters and literally epic (and weird!) tales. Tarkus' adventure is delightfully nonsensical even if introduced in movies, let alone as a concept for a music. It's not that weird if you consider Tarkus' creation process, though - just a bunch of unrelated work produced by the trio during six days until Lake wrote the lyrics & EMERSON thought "we should call this Tarkus" & William Nail arrived with this mechanical freak as an album cover.

In fact, the song has little if anything at all to do with Tarkus. Lake explains: "The album cover art lent a sort of visual concept to an album which didn't really have a bonding concept at all. Before the album sleeve was conceived the whole thing was just a string of various musical and lyrical concepts weaved together into one continuous arrangement". Once you put this in perspective, the apparently unrelated art is actually an efficient adhesive to the "various musical concepts" into a single, homogenous idea.

The three lads agree - Tarkus is their greatest work, or to cite Greg Lake, "It is one of the best examples of the musical genius of Keith Emerson as a composer and of the band ELP working and performing together at the very top of their game".

That is true. Keith Emerson's geniality with the Moog is what brings Tarkus so many different feelings and sounds and actually manages to illustrate the situation of the album sleeve if you imagine the instrumental parts to be Tarkus and his enemies. It's one song with unique features on each piece, both calm and rapid passages, with swift and aggressive parts followed by slow, melodramatic weeping for Tarkus' death (the Battlefield section. Personally, I consider Aquatarkus the best piece. The effects Emerson used made his Moog quack, quack, and quack into one of the most creative arrangements for the instrument I've ever seen. And Lake hasn't gotten any love in this review yet. Well, his voice sounds just about right for this album. It's not too acute, not too deep, not too feminine nor not too masculine. It's kinda like "generic but with identity" to me.

I hardly think there's any fan of progressive rock to underrate or dislike this song, so it's quite guaranteed roughly everyone will love this. Moog or fans of synthesizers, in general, will orgasm to this, as the highlight is undoubtfully Emerson's instrument.

The biggest problem with the musical arrangement is that after the brilliance & consequent hype TARKUS brings, you're left with generally unfit songs to accompany the title-track. This is the reason why there's so much backlash. You see, Tarkus is a highly progressive, synthesized song, antagonistic to folk music - which is exactly the second part. However, I can't grasp just how melodramatic the folks at ProgArchives are. It's nowhere nearly as "unlistenable" or "downright horrifying" as they're claiming - yes, it is bad, but not THAT UNBELIEVABLY & HOMOGENOUSLY BAD - assuming the second side has six tracks of which three are horrible (and deservedly criticized), two are fine and one is indeed good.

Jeremy Bender, the first track, is a complete buzzkill. It's literally a boogie-woogie song. For those who don't know this genre, it's basically what you'd think of 20's piano songs, the type that'd be played on old cartoons & seem like a slow version of western saloon music.

Bitches Crystal is another boogie-woogie song, but this time on the fast, ecstatic fast form we know it by (western saloon music) on a progressive structure, with occasional Moog sweeps. Better than Jeremy Bender, but still disappointing.

The Only Way & Infinite Space are much more pleasant songs, the first being an organ that develops into an energetic classical piano & vocal slow emotional duo; the second featuring a structurally complex piece with a good solo accompanied by potent bass line.

A Time and a Place is the highlight of the second side. It is composed in the same vein of Tarkus, being perhaps the only track adequate to the first side.

Are you Ready, Eddy? is a blasphemy. Emerson is an amazing keyboardist, but this song is horribly boogie-woogie/rockabilly to me. It's a joke. Like, literally. But it's also a joke as a song.

In general, TARKUS itself is in my top-five of "best progressive songs" and I can't imagine anyone who says "I'm a prog fan" without listening to this wanting to be taken seriously. The title-track alone is enough to make the whole album worth it (hell, it's 38 minutes long, and Tarkus is more than half of that), even though the second side features some tracks that aren't despicable (A Time and a Place especially). So in the end, Tarkus is prog's most famous double-edged sword. With one edge, you can cut through diamond. With the another, it truly depends on your taste. Maybe you'll cut wood, maybe you'll cut paper, maybe the edge will be too dull to you. What better way to find out than to test it?

Luqueasaur | 5/5 |


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