Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time
[Welcome to Thirty Year Thursday, the weekly series on my favorite albums of 1986]
Artist: EMERSON, LAKE & POWELL
Album: EMERSON, LAKE & POWELL
I’ve already written about several albums from 1986 in earlier posts, which I was planning to feature toward the end of this series, but after Keith Emerson’s death this past week I decided to highlight this record now as a tribute to one of my favorite keyboard players. His career spanned decades and genres, from his early work with The Nice through Emerson, Lake & Palmer (the supergroup that cemented his reputation as a rock & roll legend) and on to his film scores and solo work. His 2008 Keith Emerson Band Featuring Marc Bonilla proved that he was still at the top of his game in his 60s. He was one of the most adventurous & influential musicians of the last half-century, who was equally adept at acoustic piano, electric keyboards & synthesizers. I only got to see him live once, when Emerson and Greg Lake teamed with drummer Cozy Powell on the second, short-lived incarnation of ELP. The show was incredible, leaving me with fond memories of Emerson’s instrumental prowess and showmanship.
Here’s what I wrote about Emerson, Lake & Powell in my One And Done series:
>>Emerson, Lake & Palmer is an essential part of any progressive rock fan’s collection, one of the earliest supergroups that featured Keith Emerson (of The Nice), Greg Lake (of King Crimson) and Carl Palmer (of Atomic Rooster). Two of their previous bands may no longer be household names (although they’re all excellent), but their collaboration was as celebrated as another much-lauded trio of that era, Crosby, Stills & Nash. ELP petered out by the end of the ‘70s, and by the time a reunion was suggested in the mid-‘80s Carl Palmer was otherwise occupied with his latest supergroup, Asia. So Emerson & Lake turned to another great British drummer, Cozy Powell, who was best known for pounding the skins with The Jeff Beck Group, Rainbow and Whitesnake. Whether or not he was chosen solely for his “P” surname is still up for debate, but he was an inspired choice for this record. He may not have had the swing and rat-a-tat chops of Palmer, but he was a technically great drummer who had a massive sound that was a perfect match for this material, which was more consistently bombastic than anything else in their catalog. They immediately drew me in with the symphonic fanfare that is 9-minute album opener “The Score.” There are moodier moments as well, such as “Lay Down Your Guns” & “Love Blind,” and the light, bouncy jazz of “Step Aside” is a personal favorite, but the Mainstream Rock hit single “Touch And Go” remains the ideal calling card for this album. Some people might be turned off by the “Final Countdown”-esque keyboards, but with musicianship this great and Lake still in fine vocal form, I had reason to be excited when this was released…and it still sounds wonderful all these years later. I also saw them on the tour in support of this album and they were unsurprisingly amazing.<<
R.I.P. Mr. Emerson.