It’s the 10 Best Songs From Emerson, Lake and Palmer according to Members of Facebook’s ELP’s Appreciation Group and Rock History music Group. For this one we only wanted fans who had all the albums. If you only knew “Lucky Man,” “C’est la vie” and “Karn Evil 9,” you couldn’t vote. Thanks everyone for contributing especially in the shadow of losing Keith Emerson.
#10 (Released July 6, 1972 – Trilogy) Tells the story about Emerson, Lake and Palmer. How the band was so good at arranging other composers work. They certainly wrote a lot of tunes but interpreted many classical composers inspirations. Case in point Aaron Copland. The group has two of his compositions on this list. We start with “Hoedown.” Originally a fiddle tune from Copland’s 1942 ballet “Rodeo.” Like ELP the classical composer got inspiration for that piece from Williams Stepps “Bonaparte’s Retreat.” There’s lots of Emerson on this one. After playing in a Romanian Festival he leaned on that influence on the tune. It’s a lively little ditty.
#9 (Released November 19, 1973 – Brain Salad Surgery) From arguably their best album, “Brain Salad Surgery” Jerusalem opens the project and it’s another interpretation. My ex-wife’s late father (Herald Cooper)said he sang it church in Manchester, England as a boy and a choir performed it at Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding. It’s Hubert Parry’s hymn built around a poem by William Blake that started the legend of Jesus possibly coming to England to further his studies.
#8 (Released – November 1970 (UK) January 1, 1971 (US) – Debut) It was the very first song on that debut album. The Bartok inspired “The Barbarian” named after his “Allegro Barbaro.” It was a solid introduction to the band reinventing classical pieces. Something they sometimes got flack over but eventually prog-rockers accepted that this was their bag and they were the best at it. “The Barbarian” also was the most voted tune on our survey. Out of the 100+ ELP experts over 70% included it in their top 10.
#7 (Released March 17, 1977 – Works Vol. 1) No, Emerson and Greg Lake, and his King Crimson pal Pete Sinfield didn’t dress as pirates and visit Disneyland. Sinfield says the idea for “Pirates” came from watching Errol Flynn pirate movies. He told Record Collector, “The idea was pirates as an allegory for a Rock band on tour. When I read up on the subject it soon became obvious that pirates weren’t at all romantic. Keith’s music was very Gilbert & Sullivan, it was extraordinarily difficult to get the true nature of piracy into it.”
#6 (Released – November 1970 (UK) January 1, 1971 (US) – Debut) Greg Lake’s “Take a Pebble” incorporates a few different styles starting with folk but from the top but then they jam. Emerson flies on this tune. Strumming and picking the piano strings. At 12 minutes plus it’s a journey with glimpse’s of Emerson’s Jazz leanings in The Nice. Anyone who ever experienced this one live will never let anyone trash-talk ELP.
#5 ((July 6, 1972 – Trilogy) Is another Greg Lake gem. They were not a Top 40 band but this one squeaked in at #39 on the Billboard singles chart making it their only official hit. They were an album group. As we remember Keith Emerson take a second listen to his tasty, subtle solo past the halfway mark of this one. Nothing grand. It’s just a perfect fit. “From the Beginning” was also the name of their 2007 Box set.
#4 (Released July 6, 1972 – Trilogy) Greg Lake says, “We used to retrofit our titles. Certainly the album concepts were retrofitted. We made the music first, you see. And really, it fitted together, just because it was in the order that it was written and created. The word “trilogy” never occurs on the whole album, but it is the title. Lake wrote the title song with Emerson but the keyboardist shows how there would be no ELP without him on so many of their pieces especially this one. Courageous, catchy and one of those tunes to share when you really want to represent this band.
#3 (Released – November 1970 (UK) January 1, 1971 (US) – Debut) Well, mainstream classic rock audiences certainly know “Lucky Man.” Lake says he wrote it when he was 12 calling it a medieval fantasy. He says, “What motivated me really was my mom had just bought me this guitar, and I was really pleased. I’d learned the first four chords. And with these early chords, I just wrote this little song, but I never even wrote it on a piece of paper. I just made it up in my head, and that was it. But for some reason, I never forgot the lyrics. It was many years later when it got recorded on the first ELP record.” He never changed the words. So, a 12 year old boy wrote one of Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s biggest tunes.
#2 (Released June 14, 1971 – Tarkus) This might have well been a tie for first and second. This 7-piece masterpiece is incredibly moving and came within 3 votes of being #1. We all hear about songs that change you, movements that expand what you think about what music can be – this is one of those tunes. It’s 20 Minutes and The name “Tarkus” refers to the armadillo-tank from the William Neal paintings on the album cover. Which was amalgamation of ‘Tartarus’ (a place of punishment mentioned in 2 Peter 2:4) and ‘carcass. Emerson had said he was most proud of Piano Concerto from Works Vol 1 and Tarkus adding that the title tune took on a life of it’s own. It was their only #1 album in the UK.
#1 (Released November 19, 1973 – Brain Salad Surgery) As mentioned it was so close on who would come in at #1 but in the end ELP voted something that even mainstream audiences knew. It works for the die hard and the fair-weather fans. We walk into 1973 and their second tune in the top 10 from “Brain Salad Surgery, “Karn Evil 9.” It’s three movements in 30 minutes. Gordon Fletcher of Rolling Stone magazine said, “The real meat of this platter, is the “Karn Evil 9. It’s another tour-de-force where EL&P pull out all the sonic stops, this time around the themes of a tripart epic battle between man and his surroundings.” and I any band had a signature line its, “Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends.” The albums title came from a line in the 1973 Dr. John hit, “Right Place, Wrong Time.”
In 2014, readers of Rhythm voted it the tenth greatest drumming album in the history of progressive rock.
To be fair it’s hard to do a feature on Emerson Lake and Palmer in just 10 songs. Interestingly it was ELP’s third album “Trilogy” who’s song votes combined made it the #1 album, followed by Brain Salad Surgery, Tarkus, Works Volume 1, Pictures at an Exhibition, Works Volume 2 and the least votes to no onse surprise was “Love Beach.”
We did this in tribute to the late great Keith Emerson who said in the end when the dust settled, he only wanted to be remembered as a composer. “ – by John Beaudin