Rock Around The World • October 1977   23


No Band

Has Gone Before

by Marc Shapiro

Once the music powers that be get around to creating a popular music hall of fame, it will be interesting to note just who those initial inductees are.

Sure, the likes of Evlis, Chuck Berry and the Beatles should be first ballot shu-ins while the Stones, Jerry Lee Lewis and any number of old blues greats would be sure to follow. But what about ten years down the road when any number of Seventies favorites will be eligible?

There’s an outside chance for Frampton, whose abilities at turning marshmallow weight songs into hits stands easily on a par with parting the Red Sea in the miracle department. And, allowing for the survival of today’s bat guano for brains bunch in any great number, there might just be a plaque honoring the mongoloid bleatings of Kiss and the Sex Pistols.

But assuming that votes will be case based on legitimate talent and creativity, I’m sure a niche in the progressive wing will be filled by Emerson, Lake and Palmer. For whether or not you care to admit it; this trio, on their own and in their present alignment, have pointed the way to a good many firsts in the realm of music as art.

Growing up with Keith Emerson couldn’t have been easy for those shortsighted enough to conceive of a rock future based solely on three chords and a guitar. For while the musically inclined of the day were recycling Chuck Berry licks, Emerson was plotting an approach to music that would show it possible for Mussorgsky, Charlie Parker and the aforementioned Berry to co-exist on the same creative plane.

This fusion of classical and jazz with rock found a vehicle in 1967 with the formation of the Nice, a group whose mixing of diverse influences set the standard for much of what was to come later. But far more than musically, Emerson ushered in a strain of showmanship during this period that was unique for its time. At a

time when smoke bombs and blood dripping were nothing more than theatrical wet dreams, Emerson was whipping his keyboards into submission before drawing and

quartering them with a vicious collection of knives. It was not uncommon in those Nice days to see Keith and his organ literally throwing each other around the stage.

While not frantic as the flowering of Emerson, Greg Lake’s presence was equally important to the development of music at its most progressive. His loftier musical goals (of similar disposition to Emerson) were tempered with realism by his days with such popish bands as the Shame and the legendary Gods.

In 1969 Lake and guitarist Robert Fripp pooled their common belief in a cosmic occurance into the original King Crimson; whose first album, In The Court Of The Crimson King, catapulted the group to influential heights seldom attained by mortal musician. Lake, in particular, on vocal renditions of “21st Century Schizoid Man” and “I Talked To The Wind” set forth a singing style that, in years to come, would be the subject of much emulation.

Carl Palmer’s early-on attraction to classical percussion was instrumental in bringing a whole generation of drummers out of the dark ages of merely keeping the

beat. Add to this a high degree of theatrical sense (learned as a drummer for”The Crazy World of Arthur Brown”) and you had a musician whose skins were backed with fire.

Prior to joining Emerson and Lake, Palmer founded what, by all rights, should’ve been the premier rock band of the late Sixties, Atomic Rooster. Rooster (with Vincent Crane and Chris Farlowe) combined heavymetal and jazz with classical and a strong r&b base for one of the most exciting augers going. Unfortunately, record company disinterest and sporadic touring combined to limit Atomic Rooster to cult status and creative but commercially stiff records. (The best of which Made In England is worth looking for.)

And so the consensus was, when the three got together in 1970, that sparks were about to fly. They did not disappoint.

In quick succession Emerson, Lake and Palmer and its single offspring, “Lucky Man,” opened up new possibilities for the future of popular music fusion. The album ushered in a couple of new vistas for the group who had made a career of doing it first; as Emerson’s use of the Moog synthesizer and Palmer’s synthesized percussion were adventursome landmarks.

Tarkus, Pictures At An Exhibition and Brain Salad Surgery continued making inroads in sights and sounds as the group consistantly developed and refined their attitudes as musicians. Following a much hearalded appearance at The California Jam in 1974, E, L and P took two years off to recharge their creative cells and in 1977 have returned with Works Vol. 1, an album that’s an ode to creativity and individuality.

The appropriately titled album contains a side each of individual performances as well as a side where all hands join together for a highly advanced workout.

The Emerson side, aided by the London

Philharmonic Orchestra, highlights a classic journey into symphonic form that allows for technology and

pure emotion to meet in Keith’s “Piano Concerto No. 1.”

Lake’s penchant for romantic ballads is exercised to the fullest as his clear vocals and guitar playing form a mutual auger with orchestra and choir. This expansive, yet down to earth set, highpoints the distinctive shades of “Hallowed Be Thy Name” and “Closer to Believing.”

Palmer shows his dexterity with various genres as his percussion as valid instrument runs through such diverse areas as the rocking “L.A. Nights” and the big band remake of E, L and P’s classic “Tank.”

The group side returns to a classical situation as the band’s interpretation of Copeland’s “Fanfare For The Common Man” and the swift flight of “Pirates” make for complex yet readily identifiable music.

And so, in the name of hall of fame integrity, I have presented this rather extensive brief. Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

I rest my case.

Photos by Neal Preston/Mirage