EMERSON, LAKE & POWELL - 'Emerson, Lake & Powell' (Polydor POLD 5191)


(in Kerrang! ratings: Korrosive!)

THE FIRST time I wrapped my cardboard ears around a tape of this album strange things began to happen. No, nothing avant-garde occult style a la Tom G. Warrior, nor anything lipstick-inspired in the Crüe vein. It’s just that . . .hell’s trinkets, I heard a-ringin’ and a-ragin’ and a-thunderin’ the likes of which I hadn’t been exposed to since 1974!

Yeah, for me that was the year when Emerson, Lake & Palmer actually ground to a halt. Sure, we had another five years, two studio/one live/one compilation album from them, but ‘Works Vol. 1’ was the end of the line for me. And, musically, for the trio. No need to indulge in any recollections of what’s happened to the fellas since; the fact that Emerson and Lake are back together is indication enough that things haven’t gone so well for them at least away from the trio format. More a case of ‘ELP!

So, some six years after decreeing that ‘it’s all over now, baby blue sox’, Keith has shifted around his ivoried furniture, told Greg to break out his step-ladder and Persian rug and elected to bypass the Asian Carl for Cozy Powell’s brilliantly brusque paint brushes. Yeah, the old firm are back in the decorating business ... and it’s as if they’ve never been away.

Sure, the sound of this album does acknowledge that we’re in the late Eighties and I’m certain that there’ll be no hint of Tim Oakes-approved flares or stackheels when this lot tour, but...don’t I detect more than a suggestion of ‘Tarkus’ in the approach here and that was released all of 15 years back! Ancient history indeed, yet as the opening crashes from ‘Emmo’s’ fingers tumble down like a host of Wagnerian ballerinas after a night out with Xavier’s drinking habits, the curtain rolls back as if Edward Heath was still in power, Charlie George was the toast of Highbury and Ian Botham was probably dragging on his first joint. And it all sounds so irresistible!

‘The Score’ (originally titled ‘What’s Your Game’) has all the classic Emerson, Lake & Whoever traits - the keyboards are outstandingly cavalier, leading from the front Errol Flynn-style, Cozy Powell bursts several seams bringing up the heavy cannon fodder and if Lake’s voice has lost some of its silkiness then it still glides Radox-smooth across the grooves.

‘Learning To Fly’ and ‘The Miracle’ are again lengthy yet wondrous to behold, whilst the whimsical ‘Tough [sic] & Go’ (the opening track on Side Two and the debut single) has a magnificently hummable tune (Chopin on a Tesco shopping spree?). ‘Love Blind’ indulges in fairweather balladry, though thanks to the powertul Spitfire-style strafing musicianship from Emerson in particular, it’s saved from the depths plumbed by GTR.

However, this is where things go a mite astray as, for reasons perhaps best known to their bank balances, the trio hop aboard the lounge lizard cabaret couch (departing Platform One) for ‘Step Aside’ and then allow Lake to indulge in some horrendous off-key antics for the sugar-cane soporifia of ‘Lay Down Your Guns’. And whilst the cover of ‘Mars, The Bringer Of War’ (from Gustav Hoist) is suitably grandiose I’d like to have seen a more adventurous choice, a stab at Prokofiev or even Stravinsky, perhaps..

Oh yeah, and why was an absolutely blasting cover of ‘The Locomotion’ (an instrumental tour de force) left off the final running order and reduced to being an extra track on the 12” version of the single?! I’d have sooner heard this than the glue-tube stickiness of ‘Step Aside’ or ‘Lay Down Your Guns’.

Yet, for all my minor reservations, ‘Emerson, Lake & Powell’ is a fine ‘comeback’ effort. Welcome back, my friends, to the bar bill that never ends..and the drinks are on you, Keith!