Emerson, Lake & Powell
DATE: 8 p.m. Thursday
PLACE: Reunion Arena, 777 Sports St., Dallas
DETAILS: Opening act: Yngwie Malmsteen. Tickets
$16.75 at Rainbow (787-1500)
Emerson, Lake march to different drummer
(Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Tuesday Evening, August 19, 1986)
by Roger Kaye, Star-Telegram Pop Music Writer
When it came to playing classically flavored progressive rock, nobody did it better than Emerson, Lake and Palmer. They virtually wrote the book on that form of music during the 1970s.
From 1971 until their breakup in 1979, keyboardist Keith Emerson, lead singer/guitarist Greg Lake, and drummer Carl Palmer - also collectively known as "ELP" - scored nine straight gold albums (for such classic works as Tarkus and Brain Salad Surgery) and were among rock's most popular touring attractions.
ELP practically invented synthesizer rock for radio. And with the synthesizer playing such an important role in pop music today, perhaps it was inevitable that ELP one day would become a force in popular music again.
And that's exactly what has happened. The cast of characters has changed slightly. Palmer is not part of the re-formed unit, but the identifiable "ELP" tag is still in place because the newcomer in the lineup is drummer Cozy Powell.
The fact that Powell's name also begins with "P" is only a happy coincidence, Lake emphasized in a recent interview.
"It's funny. Everybody asks if our drummer's name had to start with a 'P,' but it is actually a coincidence," Lake said from New York prior to the start of Emerson, Lake & Powell's first tour, which began in Odessa last week and includes a Thursday night stop at Reunion Arena.
"The fact is, Cozy is a tremendous player and a tremendous live performer. And it was the fact that he had this added ability of being a great on-stage performer that made him perfect for the role."
Palmer was unable to take part in the reunion because he was a member of Asia when Emerson and Lake reunited.
"Of course, what's even more unusual is that Cozy's initials are 'CP,' just like Carl's. But that couldn't be more coincidental. We would have been just as happy with a drummer whose name started with a different letter. We just would have called the group a different name and gone on," Lake said.
Even with Powell in the group, there was some talk of naming the group something else to avoid comparisons with the '70s version of ELP.
"When we decided that Cozy was the right person, everybody said, 'Why not use your own names?' Then, in the end, we thought, 'Look man, it's my name. I've got a right to use it.' So that was the end of that."
The success of Emerson, Lake & Powell's self-titled debut album on Polydor has proven that there still is a market for the classical/ornamental rock ELP made famous in the '70s. The LP has moved into Billboard's Top 25, spawning the hit single Touch and Go.
However, re-creating the original ELP sound and group concept was not the intention of Lake and Emerson when they first got back together in the summer of 1984 and started writing songs at Emerson's home in England.
"Keith and I decided to make an album together about two years ago, and we started with a concept of basically writing some music together and making an album with a selection of different musicians on sort of a session bassis," Lake explained.
"We wrote some of the music and got part way along the path of doing it. But we said, 'Look, the first person we need is a drummer.' Carl was in Asia. But, in any event, I think Keith and I felt that we would welcome some fresh input. We started to play with a few different drummers, and then Cozy Powell became available."
Long regarded as one of rock's most respected drummers, Powell's impressive set of credentials included stints with Rainbow, Whitesnake, and Jeff Beck.
"We asked Cozy if he'd like to play some sessions on the record, and he said he'd love to. Once we started to work with him, it became obvious that the band had the potential to come back as a three-piece and be very, very strong. So, at that point, instead of a Keith Emerson/Greg Lake album, it became an Emerson, Lake & Powell album."
Both Lake and Emerson also liked the idea of forming a group again after several years of solo work.
"Keith and I felt the time was right. We definitely welcomed the camaraderie of being involved in a group as opposed to this life as a solo artist, which tends to be rather lonely. We actually enjoy working together in a group."
However, much of the joy of performing together had disappeared in 1979 when Emerson, Lake & Palmer decided to go their separate ways.
"Toward the end of the days of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, I think we probably had toured just too much," Lake recalled. "We had been on the road for nine years doing 200 days a year. And it became too much for us. We just became tired of doing it.
"At that point, we felt enough was enough. But, like anything, absence makes the heart grow fonder. Because of the time away from it, it became an attractive thing again...to go out on the road and to enjoy the life of being in a group."
At the time, there were reports that a relentless clash of egos wrecked Emerson, Lake & Palmer. The three supposedly couldn't agree on anything at the end.
"Oh, I don't think that was the case," Lake now says. "To a certain extent, I think every group has a fairly turbulent type of ongoing situation. In anything in which people care deeply and passionately about what they do, everyone has an opinion.
"If you care a lot, there are bound to be conflicts from time to time over what gets done and how it gets done. But I don't think it was from an egocentric base. With us, it was never a petty-argument-type thing - ever."
In fact, Emerson, Lake & Palmer never made an offical announcement they were breaking up. They simply ceased working together.
"We never intended it to break up in the sense that we all fell out and never wanted to work together again. We just simply couldn't face doing another tour or making another album at that stage of our career," Lake said.
Although other '70s groups such as Yes and Deep Purple have made successful comebacks in the '80s, Lake wasn't sure there still was an audience for Emerson, Lake & Powell's elaborate brand of progressive rock.
"We had no way of knowing what sort of reception we'd have, but we're obviously very happy about the way things have gone," Lake said. We're very grateful that we've still got that many fans out there who are still keen to see and hear the group. We're just very happy about it."