22 March 2016

Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Trilogy

Barely three months into 2016, and a clutch of renowned musicians has passed on. This one hits me rather badly in the gut with a heavy heart as the rest of the bloggers here on ATTIWLTMOWOS would probably view me as the Progressive Rock dean. In terms of Prog Rock greatness, Keith Emerson is well up there certainly. He wasn't a six string connoisseur, and I suspect he never touched a guitar, yet I can relate him to Jimmy Page and Tommi Iommi in terms of instrument dexterity, and just displaying the onstage swagger that delighted the thousands thronging to watch these acts.

Throughout the 30 or so years, I heard the phrase "Keith Emerson Breaks the Moog" being tossed around. The Moog in question is a synthesiser designed by electronics wizard Robert Moog (rhymes with Vogue by the way), and music on the whole had taken its biggest quantum leap. The keen listener by the end of the 1960s was treated to this incredible twist of synth strings and keys being electronically interpreted into something otherworldly and outlandish. Keith Emerson once described it as "electronic skiffle" and was able to get his hands on one about the time he formed ELP with Greg Lake and Carl Palmer, who had already cut their teeth on Prog experimenters in Atomic Rooster and King Crimson.

The most successful commercial piece would be Fanfare For The Common Man, part of their 1977 album, The Works Volume 1, however, there are a few tracks on this piece, Trilogy which I believe perfectly encapsulate what ELP are all about, without getting too hardcore. Most of their material was classical pieces that was largely adapted by the Moog Breaker, but Trilogy is one of their few albums where their compositions were all of their own doing. Very low key for the beginning of Trilogy, The Endless Enigma (Part I) raises the curtain with a curious scene setter, one or two bleeps that you'd find on Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds, followed by sinister sounding piano low keys, and Palmer's tomswork. Not too long into the song and KE's Hammonds kick in, and Lake's vocal introductions, however unspectacular it may seem do add a bit of big musical spice into the kudos, very Floydian.

The Fugue is a largely Emerson concerto, strictly acoustic, only two minutes in length when The Endless Enigma (Part II) enters into the foray, another two minuter, basically a reprise from the opening track and maybe too brief for comfort although with the odd extra percussion. Next is From The Beginning, Greg Lake written and on the whole an odd affair. Post-psychedelia acoustics on the whole and maybe a suggestion that ELP stepped back a decade. Some Emerson overdubs towards the end but on the whole this is largely the bassist's own work. Now it's The Sheriff, stepping onstage with some uncut swagger and Honky Tonk tones, one of those stick-out-like-a-sore-thumb pieces, and still as amusing as ever. Following up is Hoedown, basically one of ELP's hallmarks. Originally a classical number with a Prog Rock makeover, the trio did dozens of them, Hoedown I believe is from a ballet called Rodeo and did capture my heart and mind when I watched it on BBC4, Normally, they would play the live version much more frenetically.

Side Two for all you vinyl lovers and traditionalists has only 3 tracks even though they are a tad long. First is the title track Trilogy, it follows the same pattern as Endless Enigma, simple Chopin stripped to the core just after the beginning before a lengthy loop of Emerson distorted organs. It's also notable for Carl Palmer as his drumming styling lends itself to fellow Prog Rock act King Crimson (Greg Lake's previous band incidentally). Now it's the lustful and probably the most commercial Living Sin, Lake has some very purposeful low tones suggesting an element of tackiness and seediness to the foray. Last track, of course not least, is the largely self explanatory Abaddon's Bolero. The beat's akin to the track popularized by the film 10 (Bo Derek and Dudley Moore, remember?) and a certain ice dancing competition. Like Ravel's famous one piece movement, it's a slow burning buildup, with some whistling sounding Moogs accompanied by Carl's equally growing marching rhythmic snare. Nice idea I guess as the Bolero beat isn't often used, it's a track which would grow on me eventually.

I said earlier that The Works Volume I was one of their more renowned albums, but I've always preferred Trilogy as the conception of the material is in the hands of ELP themselves. They're also noted for adapting many classical works, as was the norm then. This however is Emerson Lake and Palmer's offering from a clean slate and from the open scheme of things, they were more than capable of producing a strong album largely aside from the classical adaptations. For me, Trilogy is one of their finest dispatches, more than bread and butter material, and if he's up there looking down on us, well, I hope Mr Emerson I've done one of your works some justice with my appraisal.

8 out of ten. Oh, now you have my attention, and maybe my money, time and heart.
Best Track : Hoedown.

Buy Trilogy here on Amazon
Listen to the album here on Spotify
Listen to the album here on Deezer
Emerson Lake and Palmer Facebook page here
Official Emerson Lake and Palmer here

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