CLASSIC ALBUM: EMERSON. LAKE AND PALMER-TRILOGY.
Classic Album: Emerson, Lake and Palmer-Trilogy.
By the time Emerson, Lake and Palmer set about recording their third studio album Trilogy, it seemed everything they touched turned gold. Their first two studio albums had been certified gold in America and so had their live albums Pictures At An Exhibition and Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends… Ladies and Gentlemen. Already, Emerson, Lake and Palmer were on their way to becoming one of the biggest bands in progressive rock.
Eventually, Emerson, Lake and Palmer would sell over forty million albums. Their most successful period was the seventies. Between 1970s Emerson, Lake and Palmer and 1978s Love Beach, the prog rock giants released six albums. Each album was certified gold in America. However, like many progressive rock bands they were more popular in America than Britain.
Only two of Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s albums were certified gold in Britain and two silver. However, in 1972, Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s star was on the ascendancy. Their first live album had been released in 1971 and was certified silver in Britain. Then their 1972 sophomore album Tarkus reached number one in Britain,
It surpassed the success of Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s eponymous debut album on both sides of the Atlantic so they began work on their third studio album Trilogy it looked like they could do no wrong. On both sides of the Atlantic, Emerson, Lake and Palmer were enjoying commercial success and critical acclaim. This had been the case since their 1970 eponymous album
Emerson, Lake and Palmer.
The Emerson, Lake and Palmer story begins in 1970. That was the year Emerson, Lake and Palmer was founded and they released their eponymous debut album.
Keith Emerson and Greg Lake first met at the Fillimore 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 was 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.
At Advision Studios, Emerson, Lake and Palmer recorded ten tracks that became their eponymous debut album. 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 has just recorded an eclectic and innovative album.
Although many people refer to Emerson, Lake and Palmer as progressive rock band, they’re much more than that. Their music is eclectic. They draw inspiration from a variety of sources. This includes classical, folk rock, jazz, psychedelia and rock. Some of the music is 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, i 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.
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 progressive rock.
Tarkus was released in June 1971 which wasn’t originally the plan. Instead, Pictures At An Exhibition was meant to have been 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 and 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 an interpretation of a classical suite was the direction Emerson, Lake and Palmer should be heading. That was why 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 progressive rock all the way. Record buyers loved Tarkus which reached number one in the UK. Over the Atlantic, Tarkus reached number nine in the US Billboard 200 and was certified gold. Following the commercial success of Tarkus, Pictures At An Exhibition was released later in 1971.
Pictures At An Exhibition.
Pictures At An Exhibition was released as a budget priced album 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. A year later, three became four.
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, which was where the nine tracks on the album took shape.
For Trilogy, Keith Emerson and Greg Lake cowrote four tracks, The Endless Enigma (Part One), The Endless Enigma (Part Two), The Sheriff and Trilogy. Keith Emerson also wrote Fugue and Abaddon’s Bolero, while Greg Lake contributed From The Beginning. Living Sin was the only song the three members of Emerson, Lake and Palmer cowrote. However, they arranged the cover of Aaron Copland’s Hoedown. It was given a makeover on Trilogy, the latest groundbreaking album from Emerson, Lake and Palmer.
At Advision Studios, Emerson, Lake and Palmer began work on Trilogy.Keith Emerson played Hammond organ, Steinway piano, Moog synth, Mini Moog Model D and and a zurna. Greg Lake took charge of vocals, acoustic, electric, and bass guitars. Carl Palmer played drums and percussion. Just like previous Emerson, Lake and Palmer albums, Greg Lake produced Trilogy. It found Emerson, Lake and Palmer at their innovative best, producing 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.
When critics heard Trilogy, they hailed the album a classic. It was a truly captivating and eclectic album, where Emerson, Lake and Palmer combined musical genres and influences. Apart from prog rock, everything from classic rock, symphonic rock, classical, folk and world music can be heard. Emerson, Lake and Palmer continued to embrace 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. Despite this, Trilogy well and truly wowed the critics. It would do the same with the record buying public.
On its release in January 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. They were now progressive rock royalty, thanks to their latest epic Trilogy, which I’ll tell you about.
Opening Trilogy is The Endless Enigma (Part One.) It’s the first of three parts that makeup The Endless Enigma. The introduction lasts ninety-six seconds and a bass drum replicates a heartbeat, while a Moog adds sci-fi sounds. Meanwhile, a piano adds sudden bursts of cinematic sounds. By now, the arrangement is reminiscent of an early seventies thriller. That’s until the synths burst into life, and with the rhythm section, urgently drive the arrangement along. Keyboards continues to inject a sense of urgency and drama and this is replicated in the vocal. It veers between tender to despairing, dramatic and frustrated. As Greg experiences a wide range of emotions, there’s a brief nod to The Who as the prog rock gives way to classic rock. Mostly though, it’s prog rock all the way, as Emerson, Lake and Palmer combine drama, urgency and emotion on the first track on The Endless Enigma trilogy.
Fugue is the second part in The Endless Enigma. Just a lone, melancholy piano plays. Gradually, though, the tempo increases, and an acoustic guitar is strummed. However, it’s Keith’s piano that plays the starring role. Greg’s acoustic guitar plays a supporting role in a track that veers between wistful and ethereal, to urgent and dramatic.
The third and final part in The Endless Enigma movement, is The Endless Enigma (Part Two). Just like Fugue, it’s a relatively short track, lasting just two minutes. During that period, Emerson, Lake and Palmer make their presence felt. Urgent stabs of a driving piano are joined by drums. Soon, the arrangement is stripped bare, and bells ring out. They set the scene for the synths and a deliberate vocal. Briefly, a vortex of futuristic synths accompany him, as The Endless Enigma, a truly ambitious epic reaches its crescendo.
Greg Lake wrote From The Beginning. It’s a Trilogy’s acoustic ballad. Every Emerson, Lake and Palmer album had one. Just a lone acoustic guitar is plucked and strummed. The playing veers between tender to firm. Similarly tender is the vocal which is also heartfelt and needy. Meanwhile, space is at a premium in the arrangement. Emerson, Lake and Palmer don’t feel the need to fill it. Instead, just understated drums and an electric guitar join the acoustic guitar and futuristic, sci-fi synths which replaces the vocal om this beautiful, atmospheric ballad.
Hesitantly, The Sheriff unfolds. It’s as if Emerson, Lake and Palmer are looking for an in. When they find it, there’s no stopping them. The rhythm section and synths combine rock and even a touch of funk. Briefly, Emerson, Lake and Palmer jam, before the vocal enters and tells the story of The Sheriff and Josie. As the story unfolds the vocal grows in power and eventually, becomes a vocal powerhouse. Then when his vocal drops out, Emerson, Lake and Palmer enjoy another opportunity to jam. When the vocal returns it completes the story and then a curveball is thrown when twenty seconds of honky tonk piano is added and is accompanied by woodblocks. This shows Emerson, Lake and Palmer at their inventive and innovative best.
Hoedown seems an unlikely song for Emerson, Lake and Palmer to cover. However, they transform the track. This required them to rearrange the track. An organ and banks of synths play important roles. So do the rhythm section. They join the synths and organ in driving the arrangement along. Literally, the arrangement unfolds at breakneck speed, resulting in the musical soundtrack to a space-age Hoedown.
Trilogy is a near nine minute epic. Its orchestral introduction gives way to the piano and Carl Palmer’s tender, thoughtful vocal. His heartbroken vocal plays a part in the pastoral quality of the track. No wonder. Just lush strings, flourishes of piano and the vocal sweep in and out. However, thing soon change as the piano injects a sense of urgency. Soon, a buzzing synth and the rhythm section have kicked loose. Now we hear a very different side to Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Gone is the symphonic, pastoral sound. Replacing it is Emerson, Lake and Palmer at their hard rocking best. They combine prog rock and classic rock. There’s even a nod to sixties psychedelia and jazz. Seamlessly, musical genres become one on this musical Magnus Opus.
Jazz-tinged synths opens Living Sin and they’re played with a swagger. This suits the throaty vocal that drifts in and out the track. It’s accompanied by banks of synths and the rhythm section. Together, they power the arrangement along. By then, the vocal is a gravelly powerhouse and it’s as if it’s been inspired by Robert Plant. Later, when Emerson, Lake and Palmer jam it’s as if they’ve been inspired. They pull out the stops and show just why, Emerson, Lake and Palmer in 1972, were regarded as progressive rock royalty.
Closing Trilogy is Abaddon’s Bolero, which is played in 3/4 time. This makes the track sound like a march. Indeed, Emerson, Lake and Palmer march to the beat of Carl’s drums. They’re understated, allowing the keyboards to take centre-stage. Gradually, as the melody is continually repeated, the arrangement builds. Layers are added. This includes strings, flutes, a Hammond organ, a Moog synth, a mellotron and a probing bass. Many of these instruments had to be overdubbed. While this took time, it was well worth it. From the earlier understated arrangement, a glorious wall of sound emerges on this eight minute orchestral epic.
Just like their two previous albums, Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Tarkus, Trilogy was a complex, innovative, genre-melting album. Emerson, Lake and Palmer embraced the latest technology in what seemed like their quest for musical perfection. They also made use of overdubbing and all this made their music difficult to replicate live.
The more complicated and multilayered Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s became the more difficult it was to replicate live. An example was Abaddon’s Bolero, where overdubbing was used extensively. Layer upon layer of instruments were added resulting in a complex orchestral arrangement. However, playing it live was impossible. After several attempts to play the track live they couldn’t make it work. Eventually, they gave up and cut it from their set. That was the problem with some of Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s music. Its complexity made playing it live a huge challenge. For a band as popular as Emerson, Lake and Palmer this could’ve proved a problem.
It didn’t. Instead, their sets featured songs that were possible to replicate live. This was just as well. By the time Trilogy had been released in 1972, Emerson, Lake and Palmer were a hugely successful band on both sides of the Atlantic. They were festival favourites and stadium fillers. Emerson, Lake and Palmer were also one of the most innovative progressive rock bands.
By 1972, Emerson, Lake and Palmer were hitting their stride and Trilogy resulted in their fourth gold disc in America alone. Eventually, the group sold over forty million albums. However, their most successful period was the seventies.
Between 1970s Emerson, Lake and Palmer and 1978s Love Beach, the progressive rock giants released six studio albums. Each of them were certified gold. So were their two live albums Pictures At An Exhibition and Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends… Ladies and Gentlemen. This made Emerson, Lake and Palmer one of the biggest progressive rock bands of the seventies. They were also one of the most innovative.
Very few bands were as innovative, inventive and influential as Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Continually, they pushed musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes, it seemed beyond. This worked. They never stood still, and their music became stale. That’s why, forty-three years after the release of Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s third studio album Trilogy, it sounds as innovative and ambitious as it did in 1972.
Trilogy found Emerson, Lake and Palmer growing, evolving and maturing as a band. They had come a long way in the past two years. Now they were tight and multitalented. Emerson, Lake and Palmer were also a visionary band, who seamlessly, were capable of fusing classical music, folk, jazz, progressove rock, psychedelia, rock and symphonic rock. All these disparate musical genres played their part in the sound, and success, of Trilogy, Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s timeless epic.
Classic Album: Emerson, Lake and Palmer-Trilogy.