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Emerson Lake & Palmer - Works Vol. 1 CD (album) cover


Emerson Lake & Palmer


Symphonic Prog

2.90 | 697 ratings

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Symphonic Team
1 stars Emerson, Lake OR Palmer?

If there ever was an album that deserves to be called incoherent, it is ELP's Works Vol. 1. Each of the three members get one vinyl side each of this double album and then the forth side is a band side. This is really tree half solo albums and one half ELP album. The result is very uneven and inconsistent, especially as the three members evidently were moving in very different musical directions: Emerson went all the way into Classical music, Lake towards Soft Rock balladry, and Palmer towards Jazz Rock. None of the three solo sides deserve to be called progressive.

Considered as an album (as opposed to just a collection of unrelated tunes) Works doesn't work at all. What made ELP great in the first place was exactly what the three men created together; that they all brought their own distinctive styles to the collective enterprise. They are musicians of the highest calibre, but isolating their individual contributions like they did on this album just went to show that they are best when they work with each other. Not surprisingly the band side of this album is by far the best. But it is not enough in my opinion to save the album as a whole. Personally, I think that Works Vol. 1 remains the least good of all ELP albums.

When hearing this album I get the feeling that the band was getting tired and running out of good ideas. In my view they hardly had enough material for a single album, so it was indeed unwise to make a double album at this time (and, as if that wasn't enough, they also released Works Vol. 2 the same year). It is interesting to imagine how this album would have sounded like had they distilled it into a single album, taking only the best songs (perhaps plus a couple that ended up on Works Vol. 2) and recorded a briefer and rockier version of Keith's piano concerto (compare how fantastic it sounds on The Keith Emerson Band's recent live album Moscow). The few good songs and ideas presented on Works Vol. 1 (and Vol. 2) would perhaps have been enough to make an good single album, but not enough for a double album.

On to the music. The album opens with a full-blown Classical piano concerto composed by Keith and performed by him on piano and backed by a symphonic orchestra. I'm not competent to judge this as the purely Classical piece of music it is, but judged as part of a Rock album it is void of value. Whatever merits it may have when considered in its own right and for what it is, it certainly isn't ELP. Greg and Carl doesn't even appear on the piece at all.

Next up is Greg's side which is in a completely different style. It consists of shorter ballads in his characteristic singer/songwriter, Soft Rock style only not up to the quality of earlier such songs like Lucky Man or From The Beginning. These songs range from downright awful (Hallowed Be Thy Name, Nobody Loves You Like I Do) to pretty good (C'est La Vie). On earlier albums the impact of Greg's songs was very different as they were situated in between more rocking and progressive songs. Hearing only Greg's songs like this may be pleasant enough but they would be better in a context of other type of songs.

Carl Palmer's side is more towards Jazz Rock. There is a jazzed up version of Tank (which was originally on ELP's debut album). This version is very different from the original, not better, but interesting. The Enemy God Dances With The Black Spirits is quite good, but overall this side too is not particularly impressive.

On the group side of this album we get Fanfare For The Common Man and Pirates. The first of these went on to become a live standard for the band and it has been included on countless live albums which makes this original version less than essential. Pirates is by far the best track on this double album, though personally I prefer the live version on Live At The Royal Albert Hall. This original version features a symphonic orchestra which I think made it too bombastic for its own good. It is my firm opinion that ELP never needed the accompaniment of an orchestra. Still, Pirates is a very good epic composition worthy of the band's legacy (even if not as brilliant as Karn Evil 9 or Tarkus).

Only a few good songs does not a good album make, and certainly not a double album. Evidently, the four years since their previous studio album was not enough for Emerson, Lake and Palmer to come up with something to match their earlier efforts. In my view they should have taken a break and released proper solo albums instead. There are some good songs and moments here, but on the whole this album is just too incoherent and lacks flow. If you want to investigate this period of the band's career, I would recommend instead Works Live as a better starting point.

SouthSideoftheSky | 1/5 |


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