by Mott the Dog
re-mastered by Ella Crew
That’s right, not Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, but Emerson,
Lake, and Powell. After nine incredibly successful years together as one of the
largest grossing bands in the world, and one of the originators of what was to
become known as Progressive Rock, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer came to a rather
ignoble ending. So at this point (1979), Emerson, Lake, and Palmer disbanded and
each member of the band went his own way to varying degrees of success.
Greg Lake recorded a couple of albums with a new band
(including Gary Moore on lead guitar), and toured the world only reaching large
audiences when he would play well down the bill of large festival dates such as
‘The Reading Festival’ in England. Keith Emerson released a couple of
soundtracks to B-Grade movies, but pretty much kept out of the limelight. Carl
Palmer formed a band called P. M., which lasted one album and one tour before
falling apart, but then he hit pay dirt when he teamed up with Steve Howe
(ex-Yes), Geoff Downes (ex-Buggles), and John Wetton (ex Uriah Heep, ex Roxy
Music, ex King Crimson) to form the extremely lucrative and commercially popular
After seven years Keith Emerson and Greg Lake decided it was
time to get back together and make some more music and top up the old bank
balance. (Sounds a bit mercenary, but then again I think it was.) Carl Palmer
was far from willing to give up his drum seat in the money spinning “Asia”
for the slightly risky opportunity of being the P, in “E. L. P.” again. A
quick look round by Keith and Greg and the choice was obvious. No need to get a
new logo. (Again financially sound and if they had got in Ginger Baker it would
of become E. L. B. Just does not have the same ring about it, does it?) Just
ring up old mate and well-known gun for hire, Cozy Powell (ex Whitesnake, ex
Jeff Beck, ex Black Sabbath, ex Bedlam, ex Michael Schenker Band... Oh, the list
is endless without even including his solo career), and get him in. Same heavy
drum sound, same love of those dynamic and long drum solos, and we have got E.
L. P. back together again of sorts.
No point going out on the road without any product though, so
off into the studio they went with a recording contract with Polygram,
production to be shared between Tony Taverner and Greg Lake, and all the
management hassles to be taken care of by Alex Grob. Perfect. So all they had to
do was come up with an album’s worth of material. In the world of Rock ‘n’
Roll, not very likely you think, but no, they came up with an absolute corker.
From the opening strands of first song “The Score” you
know you are in for an exciting journey of very special rock music. Keith
Emerson plays the keyboards as only he can, totally over the top with plenty of
use of a Hammond organ, grand piano, and, of course, the Moog Synthesizer.
Cozy Powell is all over the kit hitting the skins with barely
controlled violence, but with split second precision. When after three and a
half minutes Greg Lake comes in to sing the first stanza, you realize that he is
not only there to underpin the sound with his marvelous bass playing, but he
probably has one of the most underrated set of vocal chords from the last half
century of rock music.
In the nearly ten minutes of “The Score” the band really
flies, proving that they are a force to be reckoned with and we even get a
little snippet from days gone by when Greg Lake introduces us to a touch of
‘Karn Evil 9’ from “Brain Salad Surgery”, when he sings out the opening,
“It’s been so long my friends, so welcome back to the show that never
Then we get two more selections that are instant classics of
their genre. ‘Learning to Fly’ is another opportunity for the band to show
off their skills and how well they are gelling as a unit. ‘The Miracle’ is a
very wordy affair, almost like a short take on a storyline something akin to a
short ‘Tarkus’ complete with a full choir bringing the whole thing to a
Proving that they still had a grip on what was relevant in
the confusing modern world of rock music, just for good measure, Emerson, Lake,
and Powell released the next song “Touch and Go” as a single and had a
massive hit with it in the USA. A very catchy little tune it is, too, showing
all their collective spirit now proudly bearing their hearts on their sleeves.
They follow this with the love song “Love Blind”, the jazzy street song
“Step Aside”, and the passionate anti-war song “Lay Down your Guns”.
Considering what has happened since this was written back in 1986, it’s a pity
not more people lent an ear to the heartfelt lyrics.
Conversely they then follow this with the centerpiece of the
album with an adaptation of Gustav Holst’s “Mars, The Bringer Of War” from
“The Planets Suite”. Many bands have tried to take a piece of classical
music written for full orchestra and readapt it for rock music. Nobody has ever
succeeded like Emerson, Lake, and Powell have done here with Holst’s music,
whilst keeping its majestic sweep. They manage to make it sound like Holst had
actually written the music with a three piece rock band in mind. A truly
uplifting piece of music.
As bonus tracks for the C.D. release we get first some
marvelous fun with a cover of Carole King’s “The Loco-Motion”, a piece of
nonsense for sure, but you can almost hear the musicians grinning along as they
play out these foot tapping notes. Unfortunately the album ends on its weakest
moment, “Vacant Possession”.
An album often ignored because of its place in the history of
these musicians, and possibly because of yet another acrimonious split after
just one short American tour, and the soon to be revealed full re-union of all
of the original Emerson, Lake and Palmer. But still definitely worthy of your
attention, even if it’s only for a listen to the eight minutes of pomp that
they make of “Mars, The Bringer of War”.
Keith Emerson - Keyboards
Greg Lake - Bass and Lead guitars
Cozy Powell - Drums
Learning to Fly
Touch and Go
Lay Down Your Guns
Mars, The Bringer Of War
To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]