[Review] Emerson, Lake & Palmer: Works Volume 1 (1977)

With three solo sides, maybe they should have changed their name to Emerson, Lake or Palmer.

Kronomyth 7.0: The enemy god saves the queen.

Is this the last progressive album that mattered? Many have mused that the release of “God Save the Queen” in May 1977 signaled the death knell for progressive rock. And, really, who needed 20-minute rock concertos when you could incite a revolution in two-and-a-half minutes? But when Works Volume 1 was released, the idea of classical rock music played with an orchestra was still an exciting idea. In fact, the third movement of Keith Emerson’s Piano Concerto No. 1, C’est la Vie and Pirates still give me chills today. I’m getting old, and should probably wear a sweater around the house.

In 1976, Emerson, Lake & Palmer recorded a boatload of new material, much of it independent of one another. Releasing it under the aegis of ELP was good marketing and, in truth, the trio’s personalities had always bled through their music. On Works Volume 1, the three personalities are neatly separated: one side of Emerson’s concerto, five songs (mostly ballads) from Greg Lake, six widely divergent instrumentals from Carl Palmer and a side of heavily orchestrated classical rock recorded as a trio. Even with all this, the group had leftovers, which were packaged on the catch-all compilation, Works Volume 2.

While it was nice to have the band back after a long hiatus, an album of three solo sides didn’t bode well for the band’s future. Emerson’s ambitions were increasingly hard to contain to a trio, Lake had the talent and cachet to make a go of it on his own and Palmer’s percussive genius would have little trouble finding suitors. Unfortunately, ELP seems to have borne the sins of progressive rock more than most bands, and those promising solo careers never emerged. Of the three, Palmer had the most post-ELP success as a member of Asia.

Although it’s received mixed reviews, and earns them about half the time on plainly indulgent fare, Works Volume 1 contains an album’s worth of good music, and I’d have no trouble including the aforementioned three songs, Nobody Loves You Like I Do, Two Part Invention in D Minor and The Enemy God Dances with the Black Spirits in a discussion of the band’s better work. That said, I suspect a lot of people skipped through Palmer’s side, which features mostly mediocre jazz-funk-rock, and their oversimplification of Fanfare for the Common Man is beneath the band’s talents. An edited version of “Fanfare” was released as a single at the same time as “God Save the Queen,” and the contrast between the two styles couldn’t be more clear.

Original 2LP version

A1. Piano Concerto No. 1 (Keith Emerson, orchestrated by Keith Emerson/John Mayer)
A1a. First Movement: Allegro Giojoso (9:18)
A1b. Second Movement: Andante Molto Cantabile (2:09)
A1c. Third Movement: Toccata con Fuoco (6:50)
B1. Lend Your Love to Me Tonight (Greg Lake/Peter Sinfield) (4:00)
B2. C’est la Vie (Greg Lake/Peter Sinfield) (4:17)
B3. Hallowed Be Thy Name (Greg Lake/Peter Sinfield) (4:35)
B4. Nobody Loves You Like I Do (Greg Lake/Peter Sinfield) (3:56)
B5. Closer to Believing (Greg Lake/Peter Sinfield) (5:34)
C1. The Enemy God Dances with the Black Spirits (Excerpt from “The Scythian Suite” 2nd Movement) (Sergei Prokofieff) (3:16)
C2. L.A. Nights (Carl Palmer/Keith Emerson) (5:42)
C3. New Orleans (Carl Palmer) (2:45)
C4. Two Part Invention in D Minor (J.S. Bach, percussion arr. by Carl Palmer, strings arr. by Harry South) (1:53)
C5. Food for Your Soul (Carl Palmer/Harry South) (3:58)
C6. Tank (Keith Emerson/Carl Palmer, transcribed by Keith Emerson/Harry South) (5:09)
D1. Fanfare for the Common Man (Aaron Copland) (9:38)
D2. Pirates (Keith Emerson/Greg Lake/Peter Sinfield, orchestration by Keith Emerson/John Mayer, arr. by Keith Emerson/Greg Lake/Carl Palmer) (13:20)

The Players

Keith Emerson (Steinway piano, keyboards, Yamaha GX-1), Greg Lake (vocals, bass, guitar), Carl Palmer (drums, xylophone, timpani, vibraphone) with James Blades (marimba), Tony Harris (orchestral arrangements), Andy Hendriksen (tuned percussion), London Philharmonic Orchestra (A1), John Mayer (conductor on A1), The Orchestra de l’Opera de Paris (D2), Godfrey Salmon (orchestra & choir conductor, orchestral arrangements), John Timperley (tuned percussion), Joe Walsh (guitar and scat vocal on C2). Produced by Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, Carl Palmer, Peter Sinfield; sound engineered by John Timperley, Roger Cameron.

The Pictures

Photography by David Montgomery, Kenny Smith, Alex Grob. Art direction by Ashley Newton. Design and art work by Ian Murray.

The Plastic

Released on 2LP, 2CS and 8-track on March 17, 1977 in the UK (Atlantic, K/K4 80009), the US (Atlantic, SD/TP 2-7000) and Germany (Ariola, 28614) with trifold cover. Reached #9 on the UK charts and #12 on the US charts.

  1. Re-issued on 2CD and 2CS in the US (Atlantic, SD/CS 2-7000).
  2. Re-issued on 2CD and 2CS in November 1993 in the US (Victory, 84002).
  3. Re-issued on 2CD in 1996 in the UK (Essential, ESM 360).
  4. Re-issued on 2CD on May 21, 1996 in the US (Rhino, 72229).
  5. Re-issued on 2CD in 2008 in the US (Shout Factory, 10785-S1).

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