Emerson, Lake & Palmer


Tarkus

Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Tarkus ©1971 Rhino
1. Tarkus
2. Jeremy Bender
3. Bitches Crystal
4. The Only Way (Hymn)
5. Infinite Space (Conclusion
6. A Time And A Place
7. Are You Ready Eddy?

There are some words that many people instantly react to in one way or another. Curse words, racist words, and "ELP". Just mention this pompous, symphonic trio to someone and you'll often see one of two responses: a flinch, a frown, maybe even a hacking sound. Or you see a huge grin, short intakes of breath before furious waving of arms and long soliloquys about the glories of this band are uttered.

If nothing else, these guys made an impact. Everything that's wrong about progressive rock? Everything that's right about progressive rock? THE TITLE TRACK IS A 20 MINUTE OPUS ABOUT AN ARMADILLO TANK! At least Peter Sinfeld wasn't allowed to touch the lyrics, although Mr Lake manages to pen such beautiful poetry as "can you say God makes you breathe, why did he lose six million jews".

But what about the music? Ahhh, a mixed bag, though generally what you'll drag out of the pouch is a tasty treat. The title track, the natural focal point of the album, is one of my absolute all-time favorite pieces of music. "Tarkus" is one of the earliest examples of a side long piece, but a lot less fragmented than Genesis' "Supper's Ready" and even Yes' "Close to the Edge". It contains wonderful melodies all around and those harmonies are pretty crazy. I'll hold myself back from mentioning the lyrics. Expect solos, and plenty of them, particularly from ol' ex-Nice Keith Emerson, who must've been quite fond of the Moog at this point of his career.

It's a shame that after such a brilliant A-Side, you flip this album over (or watch a digit change on your CD player's display), and what comes out? "Jeremy Bender", an awful, awful "fun" honky tonk song. For some reason these guys felt they should try writing something more down to earth now and then on this album, being kind enough to provide two such pieces. The album-closer, "Are You Ready Eddy" is a downright cringe-inducing attempt at a piano-driven rock song. That's not to say that these shorter tracks are all bad though, as the other tracks are quite excellent, if not quite up to the standards that "Tarkus" set.

You should at least have heard this album, but it's a release that truly will test your patience for solos and exuberant compositions. Ramones this is not. Highly recommended, as well as what would arguably be the band's magum opus: Brain Salad Surgery. Just be thoroughly prepared, and keep your favorite CDs close by in case you should go into seizures.

Review by Řystein H-O

Review date: 03/2002

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