EMERSON, LAKE AND PALMER-1971-1974: THE GLORY YEARS.

Emerson, Lake and Palmer-1971-1974: The Glory Years.

Nowadays, the seventies are regarded as a golden age for rock music. Especially progressive rock. One of the giants of British progressive rock were Emerson, Lake and Palmer. They were formed in 1970, and went on to enjoy commercial success and critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. That was the case right up until Emerson, Lake and Palmer split-up in 1979.

By then, Emerson, Lake and Palmer had amassed nine consecutive gold discs in America. Just like Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull, Emerson, Lake and Palmer were more popular in America, than they were in Britain.

In Britain, two of Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s albums were certified gold, while another was certified silver. Emerson, Lake and Palmer were just the latest band to be under appreciated in their home country.  That was a great shame.

Emerson, Lake and Palmer were undoubtably, one of the most ambitious and innovative of the British progressive rock bands. They released seven groundbreaking studio albums and two live albums where they pushed musical boundaries to their limits.  However,  Emerson, Lake and Palmer released some of the best music of their career between 1970 and 1974. For  Emerson, Lake and Palmer, this proved to be their glory years.

The Emerson, Lake and Palmer story began back in in 1970. That was when Keith Emerson and Greg Lake first met at the Filimore West, in San Francisco. Both of them were at a musical crossroads. Keith was a member of The Nice, while Greg Lake was a member of King Crimson. Nether Keith nor Greg felt fulfilled musically. So, the decided to form a new band. 

This new band would feature Keith on keyboards, Greg on bass and a drummer. Their first choice for a drummer was Mitch Mitchell, who was without a band, after The Jimi Hendrix Experience split-up. They agreed to jam together. Then the music press heard about this jam session. 

Rumours started doing the rounds that Jimi Hendrix was going to join this new supergroup. That put an end to the jam session. It never took place. Jimi Hendrix had never been asked to join the supergroup. Mitch Mitchell meanwhile, lost interest in the project. This presented a problem. Keith and Greg still didn’t have a drummer. Then Robert Stigwood, who was then the manager of Cream, suggested Carl Palmer’s name.

Carl Palmer was another experienced musician. He’d previously been a member of The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown. At that time, he was a member of Atomic Rooster. So Carl was approached. He was, at first, reluctant to leave Atomic Rooster, which he’d cofounded. However, when he spoke to Keith and Greg he realised that he could be part of something special. 

Having left Atomic Rooster, he became the third member of the newly formed supergroup Emerson, Lake and Palmer. They made their debut at The Guildhall, Plymouth, on 23rd August 1970. Then on 26th August 1970, Emerson, Lake and Palmer stole the show at the Isle Of Wight Festival. This resulted in Emerson, Lake and Palmer being offered a recording contract by Atlantic Records.

Ahmet Ertegün the President of Atlantic Records realised the potential in Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Here was a band who wouldn’t just sell a huge amount of records, but could fill huge venues. So, not long after signing Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Ahmet Ertegün sent them into Advision Studios, London, where they recorded their eponymous debut album.

Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

At  Advision Studios, Emerson, Lake and Palmer recorded ten tracks. They became Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Although this was meant to be the birth of a supergroup, the ten tracks on Emerson, Lake and Palmer came across as a series of solo pieces. However, Emerson, Lake and Palmer were a new band, who’d just recorded an eclectic and innovative album.

Although many people refer to Emerson, Lake and Palmer as prog rock band, they’re much more than that. Their music is eclectic. They draw inspiration from a variety of sources on Emerson, Lake and Palmer.  This includes folk rock, jazz, psychedelia, rock and classical music. The classical influence is apparent on the opening track, The Barbarian and Knife Edge. Elsewhere,  Take A Pebble finds Emerson, Lake and Palmer heading in the direction of jazz, with folk guitar and improvisation playing a part in this band workout. The Three Fates was the first three part suite Emerson, Lake and Palmer wrote and recorded. However, Lucky Man, a folk rock ballad was one of the album’s highlights, and kept until last. It found Emerson, Lake and Palmer experimenting. 

This determination to experiment, is one of the reasons some of the music on Emerson, Lake and Palmer sounds futuristic. That’s in part to Keith Emerson’s use of the Moog synth. The result was a pioneering, innovative album that would launch Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s career.

When critics heard Emerson, Lake and Palmer, they hailed the album as innovative and influential. On its release  in the UK in October 1970,  Emerson, Lake and Palmer reached number four. Three months later, on New Year’s Day 1970, Emerson, Lake and Palmer was released in the US. It reached number eighteen in the US Billboard 200 and was certified gold. Ahmet Ertegün, the President of Atlantic Records had been vindicated. Emerson, Lake and Palmer were on their way to becoming rock royalty.

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 Tarkus.

It was a case of striking when the iron was hot for Emerson, Lake and Palmer. They returned to  Advision Studios, in London to record what became their sophomore album Tarkus. It was much more of a “band” album. Emerson, Lake and Palmer were now a tight, musical unit. This was very different from Emerson, Lake and Palmer, which was more like an album of solo pieces. Tarkus saw the birth of Emerson, Lake and Palmer as one of the giants of prog rock.

Tarkus was released in June 1971. That wasn’t originally the plan. Instead, Pictures At An Exhibition was meant to be Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s sophomore album. This was a live album which was recorded in March 1971. It saw Emerson, Lake and Palmer interpret Modest Mussorgsky’s opus Pictures At An Exhibition. it was a groundbreaking album. There was a problem though. Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s management didn’t agree. They weren’t sure that what essentially a interpretation of a classical suite was the direction Emerson, Lake and Palmer should be heading. So, Tarkus became the followup to Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

On its release in June 1971, critics realised that Tarkus marked a much more united Emerson, Lake and Palmer. They were well on the way to finding their trademark sound. Gone were ballads and jazz-tinged tracks. Instead, it was prog rock all the way. Record buyers loved Tarkus. It reached number one in the UK. Over the Atlantic, Tarkus reached number nine in the US Billboard 200 and was certified gold. Emerson, Lake and Palmer had released the best, and most successful album of  their career. That was why, following the commercial success of Tarkus, Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s were keen to release Pictures At An Exhibition later in 1971.

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Pictures At An Exhibition.

Three months before the release of Tarkus, Emerson, Lake and Palmer arrived at Newcastle City Hall, in Newcastle, England on the 26th March 1971. They were about to record their first live album, Pictures At An Exhibition. This was no ordinary live album.

Instead, Emerson, Lake and Palmer had decided to adapt Russian classical composer Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures At An Exhibition. This was one of the first times classical music had been adapted by a rock band.  That night in Newcastle, just four of the original ten pieces in Mussorgsky’s suite, along with the linking Promenade were recorded, They  were performed live as one continuous piece, with new parts written by Emerson, Lake and Palmer. These new parts linked Mussorgsky’s original themes, which Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s played with enthusiasm and energy. Despite this, Pictures At An Exhibition was nearly never released.

It seemed that Pictures At An Exhibition was fated. Problems with their management meant that Pictures At An Exhibition’s release was delayed.  It wouldn’t be until November 1971 the album was released. However, at one point it looked as if Pictures At An Exhibition wouldn’t be released. Atlantic Records were reluctant to release what was essentially a classical suite as an album. This they feared, wouldn’t sell well. So the project was put on the back burner, Suddenly, it looked unlikely that Pictures At An Exhibition would be released. That was until Tarkus was certified gold in America. All of a sudden, Atlantic had a change of heart,

Rather than release Pictures At An Exhibition on the main Atlantic label, a decision was made to release the album as a budget priced album. Atlantic Records it seemed were hedging their bets. That seemed a wise move when the reviews were mixed. Rolling Stone magazine was far from impressed with Pictures At An Exhibition. Neither was the self styled Dean of American Rock Critics, Robert Christgau, Despite this, Pictures At An Exhibition sold well.

When Pictures At An Exhibition was released in November 1971, it reached number three in the UK. In America, Pictures At An Exhibition reached number ten in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s third consecutive gold album. Emerson, Lake and Palme were also one of the biggest selling progressive rock bands, and were about to enjoy release another successful album, Trilogy.

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 Trilogy.

Just like previous albums, Emerson, Lake and Palmer were determined to push musical boundaries on Trilogy, their third studio album. Just like their two previous albums, Trilogy was recorded at Advision Studios, London. Emerson, Lake and Palmer were at their innovative best, recording  progressive rock, but with a twist. 

An example of this was the inclusion of Abaddon’s Bolero on Trilogy. Rather than the usual 3/4 rhythm a Bolero would have, it was turned into a march by using a 4/4 rhythm. Emerson, Lake and Palmer also pioneered the beating heart sound on Trilogy. Pink Floyd would use it to such good effect on Dark Side Of The Moon. So would Jethro Tull on A Passion Play and Queen on Queen II. This sound was first heard on Endless Enigma Part One. It came courtesy of Carl Palmer’s Ludwig Speed King bass drum pedal. Once again, Emerson, Lake and Palmer were demonstrating that they were one of the most innovative progressive rock bands. Their efforts were rewarded.

On its release in July 1972, Trilogy reached number two in the US. As usual, Emerson, Lake and Palmer enjoyed more success in the US. Trilogy reached number five in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in another gold disc for Emerson, Lake and Palmer. In the space of just two years Emerson, Lake and Palmer were one of the most successful progressive rock bands, and were had  released what was their most ambitious album, Trilogy. They were in the middle of the hottest streak of their careers. Incredibly, though things were about to get better for Emerson, Lake and Palmer though.

Of the three previous studio albums Emerson, Lake and Palmer had recorded, they complex, innovative, genre-melting affairs. Emerson, Lake and Palmer embraced the latest technology in what seemed like their quest for musical perfection. They also made use of overdubbing. This made their music difficult to replicate live. The band always felt they came up short live. So Emerson, Lake and Palmer set about recording an album they could replicate accurately live. This was Brain Surgery Salad.

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Brian Surgery Salad.

Recording of Brian Surgery Salad took place between June and September 1973. Brain Salad Surgery was a fusion of prog rock and classical music. This is obvious straight away. 

Emerson, Lake and Palmer adapted  William Blake and Hubert Parry’s hymn Jerusalem and then Alberto Ginastera’s Toccata. Greg Lake wrote Still…You Turn Me On and then cowrote Benny The Bouncer and Karn Evil 9: 3rd Impression with Keith Emerson and Peter Sinfield, one of the founding members of King Crimson. Keith Emerson penned Karn Evil 9: 2nd Impression and cowrote Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression, Part 1 with Greg Lake also penned Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression, Part 1. These tracks were brought to life by Emerson, Lake and Palmer at their inventive best.

On Brain Salad Surgery, Keith Emerson played Hammond organ, piano, accordion and a myriad of synths. Greg Lake took charge of vocals, acoustic, electric, and twelve-string guitars. He also played bass guitar. Carl Palmer played drums, percussion, percussion synthesizers, gongs and timpani. Greg Lake produced Brian Surgery Salad, which was released in November 1973. Before that, critics had their say on Brian Surgery Salad,

Mostly, the reviews of Brain Salad Surgery were positive. However, the usual contrarian critics were’t as impressed. They seemed unwilling to recognise that Brain Salad Surgery was the finest hour of Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s four album career. Brian Surgery Salad featured Emerson, Lake and Palmer at their tightest and loudest. Here was a tight, visionary band fusing prog rock, jazz and classical music. It was an ambitious, powerhouse of an album. Emerson, Lake and Palmer were at the peak of their creative powers, and record buyers on both sides of the Atlantic realised this.

When Brain Salad Surgery, was released in November 1973, it became Emerson, Lake and Palmer most successful album. It reached number two in the UK and number eleven in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in two more gold discs to add to Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s collection. They were well deserved though.

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Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen.

After the release of Brain Salad Surgery, Emerson, Lake and Palmer embarked upon a lengthy and gruelling world tour. It began in November 1973, continued into the first half of September 1974. Night after night, Emerson, Lake and Palmer took to the stage and played a selection of songs from their first four studio albums. Some nights, the tapes were running and the concert was recorded. Emerson, Lake and Palmer were considering releasing another live album. It would be very different from Pictures At An Exhibition, which featured a selection of Modest Mussorgsky’s classic pieces.

This time around, Emerson, Lake and Palmer would get the opportunity to showcase their talents as songwriters. That hadn’t been the case on Pictures At An Exhibition. It would also allow record buyers to hear that live, Emerson, Lake and Palmer were versatile and accomplished musicians. They were equally comfortable playing live, and capable of replicating what was complex music live. That music Emerson, Lake and Palmer had recorded between 1970 and 1973. Some of this music would find its way onto Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen.

Each night of what seemed to be the tour that never seemed to end, Emerson, Lake and Palmer were improving as musicians. Review after review remarked upon this. Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen would document this.

Rather than record one or two shows, Emerson, Lake and Palmer ensured that tapes were running on a number of nights. This allowed them to cherry pick nine tracks, which included four suites. This included Tarkus, Take A Pebble. Piano Improvisations and Karn Evil. There was also the medley of Jeremy Bender and The Sheriff. Along with Hoedown, Jerusalem, Toccata and Take A Pebble (Conclusion), Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen was representative of the first three years of  Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s career. However, having chosen such lengthy tracks, Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen was going to be unlike most live albums.

Instead, Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen was a triple album. The nine tracks were spread across three LPs, and in the 2016 Remaster across two CDs. Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen which had been produced by Greg Lake, and scheduled for release in August 1974.

Before that, critics had their say on Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen. Critics were won over by Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen. Many critics expressed surprise that Emerson, Lake and Palmer were so accomplished live. So much so, that there was Emerson, Lake and Palmer eschewed overdubbing on Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen. It was live and uncut, and a true musical document of Emerson, Lake and Palmer live.

When Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen was released on 19th of August 1974, it reached number nineteen in Britain, and ten in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s sixth consecutive gold disc in America. Elsewhere,  Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen reached the top ten in the Canadian, German, Finnish and Dutch album charts. The Emerson, Lake and Palmer success story continued. Or so it seemed.

Following the release of Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen, Emerson, Lake and Palmer decided to take a break to work on side projects and solo albums. Nothing was heard of  Emerson, Lake and Palmer until 1976.

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That’s when they reunited in Mountain Studios, Montreux, Switzerland  to record Works Volume 1, which was released on the 17th of March 1977.  It was certified gold in America, Canada and Britain. The followup Works Volume 2, was released on 1st November 1977. Although it was certified gold in America, Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s were no longer as popular.  Sadly, that was the case with many progressive rock bands.

That had been the case since  the birth of punk. The punks saw  progressive rock as musical dinosaurs. They were the antithesis of everything that punk stood for. As punk and then post punk’s popularity grew, progressive rock’s popularity declined. 

On 18th November 1978, Emerson, Lake and Palmer released Love Beach. This allowed Emerson, Lake and Palmer to discharge their contractual obligations to Atlantic Records.  Although it wasn’t well received by critics, it was still certified silver in Britain and gold in America. However, Love Beach failed to reach the upper reaches of the charts.  Love Beach proved to be Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s  swan-song,  and the band split-up shortly thereafter. 

Nearly fourteen years later  Emerson, Lake and Palmer returned on 27th June 1992 with Black Moon. Sadly, the album failed to reach the heights of their previous albums. It was a similar case with In The Hot Seat, which was released on 27th September 1994.  In The Hot Seat failed to make an impression on the charts, and it was a disappointing way to end  Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s recording career. It had spanned nine studio albums which were released between 1970 and 1994.

For many people, Emerson, Lake and Palmer released some of their finest music during the early years of their career.  This includes their first four studio albums,  1970s Emerson, Lake and Palmer, 1971s Tarkus, 1972s Trilogy and 1973s Brain Salad Surgery. That’s not forgetting  Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s first two live albums, 1971s Pictures At An Exhibition and 1974s Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends… Ladies and Gentlemen. Each of the six albums feature Emerson, Lake and Palmer at their innovative and groundbreaking best. 

That wasn’t surprising, given Emerson, Lake and Palmer were three of the most gifted and visionally musicians of their generation. They were able to seamlessly combine musical genres, and had been since their eponymous debut album. 

On their first four studio albums, Emerson, Lake and Palmer flitted between prog rock, jazz and classical music,  creating genre-melting music. This music was ambitious, complex and innovative. That was no surprise. Emerson, Lake and Palmer had always embraced the latest technology in what seemed like their quest for musical perfection.

To achieve musical perfection, Emerson, Lake and Palmer made use of overdubbing extensively. They added  layer upon layer of instruments. The result were complex, multilayered, orchestral arrangements. The only problem was replicating the songs live. 

This Emerson, Lake and Palmer soon realised was impossible. After several attempts to play these songs live,  Emerson, Lake and Palmer realised there was no way they could play these songs live. Eventually, they gave up, and cut these songs from their set, as they embarked on extensive tours.

This included their eleven month 1973-1974 tour, which is documented on  Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen. It found Emerson, Lake and Palmer at their most accomplished, as they toured North America and Europe. Several of these shows were recorded, and parts of these concerts found their way onto Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen. It’s a reminder of just how good a live band  Emerson, Lake and Palme were.  

After the release of Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen, Emerson, Lake and Palmer took a prolonged break. Sadly, Emerson, Lake and Palmer never reached the same heights.  

By 1974,  Emerson, Lake and Palmer had released the best music of their career. This included four cohesive studio albums and two live albums. Each of these albums were certified gold in America. However,  it wasn’t just in America where Emerson, Lake and Palmer enjoyed commercial success and critical acclaim.

Between 1970 and 1974,  Emerson, Lake and Palmer were one of the most successful bands  on both sides of the Atlantic. They also were popular in Canada, Europe and Australia.  Emerson, Lake and Palmer were titans of progressive rock, who were already  festival favourites and stadium fillers. Emerson, Lake and Palmer were well on their way to becoming one of the most successful progressive rock bands.

From 1970s Emerson, Lake and Palmer, 1971 Tarkus and Pictures At An Exhibition, 1972s Trilogy and 1973s Brain Salad, Surgery and 1974s Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen it seemed that Emerson, Lake and Palmer could do no wrong. They were one of the most successful bands of the progressive rock era. Their music was innovative, inventive and influential. 

Even today, Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s music continues to influence a new generation of musicians. Especially, the music Emerson, Lake and Palmer released between 1970 and 1974. During that period, Emerson, Lake and Palmer were a visionary band, who created what was without doubt, the best music of their career. The albums Emerson, Lake and Palmer recorded during that four year period, aren’t inventive, innovative and influential, but timeless, epic and ambitious that feature a group at the peak of their creative powers during their glory years.

Emerson, Lake and Palmer-1971-1974: The Glory Years.

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