Sunday, December 6, 2015

emerson, lake & palmer

Emerson, Lake & Palmer found a lucky break in the shared vision of these expansive experimental extemporizations of classical themes and psychedelic rock.   The progressive power trio was started by Keith Emerson and Greg Lake, who were both unsatisfied with their work with King Crimson and The Nice, respectively.  

Lake:   "The Nice had been playing on the same bill as King Crimson, and I met Keith in the bar after the show. We just started chatting, and he said, 'How is it going with King Crimson?' and I said, 'To honest Keith, it’s not, it’s over really.' And he said, 'That’s incredible because I’m just finishing with the Nice. I can’t see taking it any further. That’s as much as I can do with it, so I’m really looking to move on. Maybe we should think about starting a band together.' And that’s how it started ... We drew more off our European roots and that’s really what made us sound different. I think Keith and I had that clear, right from the word go...We knew from the very beginning we would be better off being a three-piece."

Emerson:   "We tried Mitch Mitchell and a bunch of other guys, sort of like an open audition. And we had almost given up, but then an old friend of mine, Tony Stratten-Smith, who was the Nice’s manager, suggested Carl Palmer. He was our last hope, really, before we looked to America for a drummer. So Carl arrived and set up his drums, and we played a blues shuffle. And it was great. But then he said, 'Well, I don’t know if I can really join you, because I’ve got commitments with Atomic Rooster.'  So there was all this talk going on by telephone, with Greg and myself trying to encourage Carl to join."

Palmer:    "At the particular time, I had a very strong group (Atomic Rooster), which musically was where exactly I wanted to be. My only apprehension in leaving Atomic Rooster is that, you have to understand, it was kind of my band, I started the group. We had Robert Stigwood as the manager. The whole deal with ELP was slightly up in the air. I didn’t want to be in any other format except a trio. And it if it was going to be a trio, then I was very, very happy. There was talk of guitar at the beginning of ELP, and I wasn’t that keen on it. I’ve only been in one successful band that wasn’t a trio and that was Asia. So that was the apprehension on my part at the very beginning. But then I played with both of them. I enjoyed the music and I still do. So I thought maybe I’d give it a try. I had an agreement with the Atomic Rooster that I would disappear for a while and give this a shot and if it worked, it worked; and if it didn’t, it didn’t."

Their eponymous debut album was recorded at Advision Studios in London with Greg Lake producing with engineer Eddie Offord.  The sessions were directed and arranged by Emerson, Lake & Palmer with  Keith Emerson on Hammond organ, piano, clavinet, pipe organ, and Moog modular synthesizer;  Greg Lake on vocals, bass guitar, as well as acoustic and electric guitars;   and  Carl Palmer on drums and percussion.   'Emerson, Lake & Palmer'  went to number eighteen in the US and number four in the UK.  

Emerson:   "There were no quarters given. ELP was out on a limb. I'd wanted to create a three-piece band with the biggest sound possible, a kind of three-man electric orchestra. We had an ambitious repertoire of rocked-up classics based on Bach, Bartok, Janacek, Mussorgsky and Ginastera intercut with blues, boogie, rock'n'roll, and we'd experiment, extemporise anywhere in between. We'd play this multi-layered stuff - complex time-changes and a lot of stage theatrics, like me spinning into space while playing the piano - without anyone working tapes or pulling strings behind the scenes. We were a live band. We could play anything we recorded. I've never liked being stuck in studios."

Lake:   "It was strange! But I think it was one of things that people liked about ELP, really, the dynamic of it: one moment, the band would be very intense and screaming, and loud and powerful, and the next minute it would be beautiful and gentle, and soulful and emotional...A singer has a different way of emotionally connecting… When you play an instrument, you are passing your feelings through it; when you sing, it is really a direct connection. I mean your voice is an instrument but in reality, your feeling is being expressed directly. And I think that in that way it’s easier to be more emotional to express feelings better, but Keith used to play some very beautiful things on piano, and sometimes I would do a very intense things."

Palmer:   "The shows we did then were overblown, but when you consider what’s being done today, all we did at the time was set an industry standard and hope people would improve on it. Unfortunately for the naïve people who are in the music business, they thought it was overblown and it was too big. But compared to what’s happening today, we did absolutely nothing but set a standard...Yes, we were pompous — we’re English! You have to be pompous. We came from Great Britain. We weren’t a blues band. We weren’t a rock band. We played classical adaptations similar to what I do now. We played folk tunes, we were quite eclectic. We dealt with technology, we didn’t have a guitar player, and we never played 12-bar. Sure, we were pomp because that’s where we come from. We’re not from the South, we’re not from the Mississippi — we’re English! (laughs)"

"Lucky Man" became a hit for the band in the US.  It had been written by Lake when he was twelve years old.     

Lake:    "To be honest with you, Keith couldn’t really find a part to play on the song – so, he went down to the pub. I made the record, basically. When he got back, it was pretty much finished and he said: ‘Wow.’ What he’d heard when he left was just me singing this plaintive little folk song. When he came back, what he was hearing was five-part harmony, triple-tracked acoustic guitars and all the rest of it – and he was quite shocked. He said: ‘I better play on it.’ It just so happened that on that very day, we had the Moog synthesizer delivered. So I said: ‘Why don’t you try out the new Moog on it?’ Of course, Keith said: ‘I haven’t had the chance to experiment with it yet; I’m going to need some time.’ I said: ‘Give it a go anyway.’ He went out there and started experimenting with the pormento – you know, how long it takes to go from one note and then to slide up to the other note. What the recording is, is him experimenting with the pormento. He experimented with it, and it just so happened – just like in the case with Gary Moore – I had the good sense to push the red button to record him. In those days, we used to run out of tracks, and we had no more tracks to record on to. Keith wanted to do another take. But I said: ‘No, we have to keep the take.’ We almost fell out over it. In the end, I said: ‘Please, Keith come in and listen to what we’ve recorded before we erase it – because if we erase it, it’s gone forever.’ And he came in, and he heard it. Well what would you say? You’d have to be deaf not to hear how good it is, right? So, it was a kind of perfect – because he hadn’t preconceived it. It had just come out of the end of his fingers, literally. I think that was the key to why it’s so popular. There was total fluidity. There’s not a moment where he stops to think. It’s free playing. If he hit a wrong note, he couldn’t give a shit. And right until the end, fantastic. There you are: That’s what art is all about. Sometimes, actually, you do get lucky. (Laughs.)"

He had white horses
And ladies by the score
All dressed in satin
And waiting by the door

Oooh, what a lucky man he was
Oooh, what a lucky man he was

White lace and feathers
They made up his bed
A gold covered mattress
On which he was laid

Oooh, what a lucky man he was
Oooh, what a lucky man he was

He went to fight wars
For his country and his king
Of his honor and his glory
The people would sing

Oooh, what a lucky man he was
Oooh, what a lucky man he was

A bullet had found him
His blood ran as he cried
No money could save him
So he laid down and he died

Oooh, what a lucky man he was
Oooh, what a lucky man he was

"Take A Pebble" 
live in Switzerland, 1970

live in Switzerland, 1970

'Emerson, Lake & Palmer' 
full album:

Side one
00:00 "The Barbarian"   (instrumental) Béla Bartók, arr. Emerson, Lake & Palmer 4:27
04:28 "Take a Pebble"   Greg Lake Emerson, Lake & Palmer 12:32
14:56 "Knife-Edge"   Lake and Richard Fraser  / Leoš Janáček and J. S. Bach, arr. Keith Emerson 5:04

Side two
20:00 "The Three Fates
Clotho – 1:48
Lachesis – 2:43
Atropos – 3:15"  
(instrumental) Emerson 7:46
27:44 "Tank"   (instrumental) Emerson and Palmer 6:49
34:35 "Lucky Man"   Lake  / Lake  4:36

1. "The Barbarian" (Béla Bartók, arr. Emerson, Lake & Palmer) 4:32
2. "Take a Pebble" (Greg Lake; arr. Emerson, Lake & Palmer, but not always credited) 12:36
3. "Knife-Edge (With Extended Outro)" (Leoš Janáček & J. S. Bach, arr. Keith Emerson, lyrics by Lake and Richard Fraser) 5:38
4. "Promenade" (Modest Mussorgsky, arr. Greg Lake and Keith Emerson, lyrics by Lake) 1:29
5. "The Three Fates: Atropos" (Emerson) 3:11
6. "Rave Up" (Emerson, Lake & Palmer) 5:02
7. "Drum Solo" (Palmer) 3:02
8. "Lucky Man" (Lake) 4:39

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