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Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Emerson, Lake & Palmer were progressive rock's first supergroup. Greeted by the rock press and the public as something akin to conquering heroes, they succeeded in broadening the audience for progressive rock from hundreds of thousands into tens of millions of listeners, creating a major radio phenomenon as well. Their flamboyance on record and in the studio echoed the best work of the heavy metal bands of the era, proving that classical rockers could compete for that arena-scale audience. Over and above their own commercial success, the trio also paved the way for the success of such bands as Yes, who would become their chief rivals for much of the 1970s.

Keyboardist Keith Emerson planted the seeds of the group in late 1969 when his band the Nice shared a bill at the Fillmore West with King Crimson, and the two first spoke of the possibility of working together. After the Crimson lineup began disintegrating during their first U.S. tour, Lake opted to leave the group. Upon officially teaming in 1970, Emerson and Lake auditioned several drummers before they approached Carl Palmer, not yet 20 years old and already an overpowering talent, as well as a former member of the Crazy World of Arthur Brown and Atomic Rooster.

The trio's first rehearsals mostly picked up from the Nice's and King Crimson's respective repertoires, including such well-known numbers as "Rondo" and "21st Century Schizoid Man." In August of 1970, ELP played their first show at the Plymouth Guildhall, just ahead of the Isle of Wight Festival in August of 1970, where they astonished more than half a million onlookers with their sound and instrumental prowess. One month later, the group finished their debut album, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, comprised of their strongest early originals and two dazzling classical adaptations filled with rippling piano and synthesizer playing by Emerson along lightning-fast drumming by Palmer, anchored around Lake's bass work. That album was an instant success, rising to the Top Five in England and the Top 20 in America with considerable help from a last-minute addition -- pressed to fill out the running time of the album, the group settled on a composition that Lake had written as a boy, called "Lucky Man." The latter became their debut single and made the Top 50 in America.

The trio's stage act rapidly became the stuff of legend, Emerson's organ pyrotechnics -- which dated from his days with the Nice -- getting him compared to Jimi Hendrix. The recording of the second ELP album, Tarkus (1971), tested their cohesiveness while stretching their sound in new directions and dimensions, with a much more complex electronic keyboard sound and a running time on the title track that took up the entire first side. But "Tarkus" the composition, despite its difficult birth (at first, Lake didn't resonate very well to the musical textures or time signature that Emerson and Palmer had begun with), ultimately defined the ELP sound as most people understood it: loud and bombastic, somewhat gloomy in its lyrical tone, and boundlessly exultant in its instrumental power. The Tarkus album reached number one in England and the Top Ten in America, and it seemed at this point as though the trio could do little wrong -- after a couple of abortive attempts, they captured a new feature of their concerts, a rock adaptation of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, at a March 21, 1971, concert at Newcastle City Hall, and it, in turn, became another major hit. Indeed, as a result of the release of that album, several million teenagers of high-school age suddenly had Mussorgsky's name and music -- after a fashion -- in their consciousness, to the delight or chagrin of music educators (depending on their outlook) everywhere.

It was eight months before ELP's next record, Trilogy, was released in July of 1972. In the interim, they toured extensively, and made it their business to cultivate the college audience that took most naturally to their work. Lake never sang better, nor did the group ever sound more comfortable and laid-back on that album, and among the eight very solid numbers in a classical-rock vein, there was tucked a track that became virtually the band's signature tune, a version of Aaron Copland's Hoedown. The group also enjoyed its most successful pop single off of that album in the Lake-authored ballad "From the Beginning."

Such was the group's credibility that when it came time to record a version of the first movement of Alberto Ginastera's Piano Concerto No. 1 and the publisher denied them permission, they approached the composer himself, who fully approved of the track that became "Tocatta" on Brain Salad Surgery, released in 1973.

The most popular album in their history, Brain Salad Surgery dominated the charts and the airwaves upon its release -- it was also their boldest group effort, offering the "Karn Evil 9" epic that filled more than the side of an LP, as well as the best playing and production in their history, and some of the most elaborate packaging of the fairly daunting progressive rock boom. By this time, the band had formed its own label, Manticore Records (named for one of the mythological creatures portrayed in "Tarkus"). Through Manticore, ELP also released material by ex-King Crimson lyricist Pete Sinfield and the Italian progressive rock band PFM; Sinfield's presence as a composer with Lake on Brain Salad Surgery also helped strengthen one of the group's lingering weaknesses, its lyrics -- where Lake's use of language had always tended toward the pleasant but simplistic, Sinfield, a veteran of King Crimson, provided lyrical complexity nearly as daunting as the best of the group's music.

In the wake of this string of successes, ELP released a triple live album, Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends, in August of 1974, which was their last new release for over three years. It was also at this point that the bandmembers began chafing at the restrictions that the trio put on their individual ambitions -- Emerson's boldest compositions were pure classical music, requiring orchestral accompaniment; Lake's songs didn't necessarily have much for Emerson or Palmer to contribute; similarly, Palmer's music was going in directions that would have left the others as little more than sidemen. A trio of solo albums would have been the answer, but they'd also seen how solo releases by members of such top acts as Yes and the Moody Blues had failed to sell in numbers resembling those of their respective groups.

The result was Works, Vol. 1, a double LP that was essentially three one-sided solo albums by each member and a fourth group side. Released in March of 1977, the record fared relatively poorly, both commercially and critically. Additionally, following the release, the group was never the same -- Works destroyed ELP's unity, and their remaining motivation for recording seemed only to be their contractual obligations. Worse still, they had squandered valuable time over the hiatus between Brain Salad Surgery and Works, during which the public's taste was changing -- by 1977, the notion of extended suites, conceptual rock albums, and classical-rock fusion that were trademarks of ELP's sound seemed hopelessly ponderous and pretentious, as the rise of punk rock and disco combined to undermine any notion of intellectualism in rock. Works, Vol. 2, released in November of 1977, was nothing more than a collection of obscure B-sides and odd tracks dating back four years -- though it received more positive reviews in some quarters than did its more ambitious predecessor.

Their next album of new material, Love Beach, was later described by the bandmembers themselves as nothing more than a matter of going through the motions. ELP split up in 1979, with Lake embarking on a moderately successful solo career, while Emerson took to composing film scores and recorded the occasional solo project and Palmer, after a stint with the band Carl Palmer's PM, joined the pop supergroup Asia. In the mid-'80s, Emerson and Lake got together with drummer Cozy Powell as the short-lived Emerson, Lake & Powell, complete with a self-titled 1985 album and a tour.

In 1991, Emerson, Lake & Palmer reunited for the Black Moon album, followed by a tour, which led to the release of Live at the Royal Albert Hall and another studio album, 1994's In the Hot Seat. The trio mounted several additional international reunion tours during the mid- to late '90s, although disputes over an intended new album, however, short-circuited their planned late-decade recording comeback. Emerson re-formed the Nice for a reunion tour and live album early in the new century, and later collaborated with Mike Bennett in the making of a triple-disc set entitled Reworks: Brain Salad Perjury, exploring new permutations of ELP's sound. He and Palmer have each toured with their respective bands, with Palmer later rejoining Asia for a 25th anniversary tour, while Greg Lake toured with Ringo Starr in 2001, and subsequently formed his own band. Lake and Emerson scheduled a tour of the United States and Canada performing in an acoustic format in 2010, and the trio planned to reunite for a single 40th anniversary performance in July of 2010, presented as part of Classic Rock magazine's High Voltage Festival at Victoria Park in London. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: A Time And A Place (Live Recordings)

Disc 1
Disc 2
Disc 3
Disc 4

Comments

I love this song ❤
Umm, why is a Wartenberg Wheel showing up as their album cover art?
dmholl52
Saw them in Dallas. Hands down THE BEST CONCERT I've experienced. Ever. I've been to quite a few. Keith has manic hands!!! Never saw anything like it. Just WOW.
richard.berk e
Great read.. thanks :3
Love elp. Unfortunatel y the one time I saw them at the Capitol center their sound system was muddy and it was freezing cold.
in the picture above... they look like babies... i wonder if they still have their hair...
saw them for the Works tour,they were totin' around a 64peice orchestra! ELP were in in a class of their own I had all their albums and did a ritual burning of Love Beach(what a dissapoitmen t , e m b a r a s s i n g .
tiger in the spotlight is the musicsl equivalent of watching a beloved sister p hook for quarters
Just to know who's driving what a help that would be let me take over then
Saw in 1973, the Brain Salad Surgery tour - 1st rock EVER, 13 yrs. old, just entering hs. Mind expanding. Still love it, all the good stuff. Love Beach is an abomination if not a crime; E, L nor P will disagree. On the record.
Is there any sound so all encompassing as a Emerson's synthesizer?
I have seen ELP 5 times since the 1970s and there are very, very few bands out there that can do what they did on stage with just 3 - no one can compare with Emerson on keyboards.
Saw them on Black Moon tour..they did Tarkus :)
Saw ELP and Yes in concert in early 70s. Will forever b highlights of my concert memories.... b e s i d e s seeing Pink Floyd. What more could u ask for?
golden-voice
Still they turn me on....
swiser0
Brain Salad Surgery in quad sound was my first concert. At a $4.50 ticket price I spent more on enhancements that weren't needed. Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends......
Tarkus the most amazing song ever
ELP Blazed a trail that is still being explored.
ELP was a band that mentored me in the 1970s
james.caslin
Flying Piano tour at Nashville Colliseum 1976 was an amazing experience
rosellar
elp WOW 1974 IN FRANKFURT FESTIHALLEYO U STILL TURN ME ON !!! F.R.G.
I recall an old photo of rick wakeman cringing over a pint with the heading I think keith emerson just peed in my beer
I WAS AT THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL CONCERT. IT WAS MY 3RD EVER CONCERT. IT WAS FANTASTIC. I LOVED LIVING IN ENGLAND DURING THE 1970'S.
The most rock & metal stations on Pandora Radio!
Saw Brain Salad Surgery world tour on 73, Works I w/ orchestra in 87, Works II in 78, ELPowell years later (mid 80s?), and Black Moon a few after that. Truly memorable, every one. Two of the best moments in the history of live music - Tarkus & Aqua Tarkus from the Welcome Back tour, and Fanfare from Works I tour. Never to be repeated or improved upon!
Pİctures at an Exhibition and brain Salad Surgery were the most extraordinar y LPs of their time or most extraordinar y LPs ever with the most impressive album covers. I can name a few more from 60s and 70s well ... I can name a lot more! So don't start ME up!
73 was a great year for concert tours. ELP was among my all time favorites. I have many photos from those concerts and travels.
I saw them perform a concert in 1973 in quadrophonic , with an incredible animated projection display behind the band. It was quite a good show.
loved them forever!
Brain Salad Surgery Tour back in '74. The absolute LOUDEST concert I've experienced. Deaf for two days!! (Of course standing front row next to Keith and the speakers didn't help)
zukoswife
Prof vs Punk .. Nice
@tilton62 - Yes was actually a year ahead of ELP, but interesting comment. ELP got instant recognition because of their backgrounds and over the top performance at Isle of Wight. Yes had to work their way through a couple of albums before the recognition began to stick. And the Emerson/Wake m a n comparisons/ c o m p e t i t i o n certainly put both bands out there in their own territory through the '70s.
tilton62
ELP paved the way for Yes, huh?
they opened with Fanfare, awesome. pete fornatele introduced them. RIP Pete
that concert with the 90 piece orchestra was in 1977, i saw it in madison square garden it celebrated WNEW radio 10th anniversary
marfyou
My honor to see Brain Salad Surgery. Quad sound system was unreal.
rtarraza
Don't read this because it actually works. You will be kissed on the nearest Friday by the love of your life. Tomorrow will be the best day of your life. However if you don't post this you will die in 2 days. Now you've started reading so don't stop. This is so scary put this on at least 5 songs in 143 minutes when done press f6 and your lover's name will appear on the screen in big letters this is so scary because it actually works!
Saw them in Wichita 1973 in quadraphonic sound. It was amazing!
@david.weste n d o r f f - Welcome Back!
dominick528
nothing like this band today - they were the best of their time - legendary - will never forget the many concerts i went to and was blown away by the musical talents of all 3 - miss this guys - wish they would reunite
dgsummerfun
Great band! Give them a listen:):):)
Today is he first time i've listened to ELP in more than 30 years. I am transported to such a wonderful place that I can't imagine how I ever stopped listening to them. Very much enjoyed the comments of ELP listeners who had the privilege of following the band through their lives until now! Bravo!
Back in the seventy's during the summer one year, my friend and I thought we would play this music for the girls down the street to impress them, we also played BTO, not fragile, we stuck the speakers from my quadraphonic stereo that I bought with money from my paper route, up in the window of my second floor bedroom and cranked it, the girls weren't very impressed, but my neighbor who was a fat bald postman asked us if we had loudspeakers in our windows, we of coarse told him no!
dgsummerfun
Saw ELP with 90 piece orchestra in the 70s what a concert
ROCK AND ROLL
dgsummerfun
LOVE ELP:):):)
blankaflip
I was four years old and came running into my dads room when he was playing this album. "What's IS this?!" love ELP, wish I could have seen them in their prime!
dgsummerfun
Going to learn this on guitar!!
I would have loved to have seen ELP on some of the tours from the early 70's!
I was at the ELP concert at Freedom Hall here in Louisville, KY on May 24, 1977. I believe it was the opening night of their tour with a full orchestra; awesome show! I still have the ticket stub.
I wish these guys would put aside any differences and go out one more time on tour!
jggregs
First concert ever 1978 Nassau collisium Long Island never will forget the amazing talent. Still feel eighteen again again!
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