Uncle G’s FUN Music Reviews
Spotlight: A Tribute To Keith Emerson & Greg Lake (2020 Purple Pyramid Records)
Article by Gary “Uncle G” Brown
I think it was my brother from another mother, known professionally in the music business as, Greg Z, that turned me onto, ELP (Emerson, Lake, & Palmer). I was twelve years old. This occurred in the last century; 1973.
The album I remember hearing first was the band’s debut album that was simply titled; Emerson, Lake, & Palmer – Emerson, Lake, & Palmer (1970 UK – 1971 North America). The songs that stuck out for me was Tank, and Lucky Man. A track that centered around Carl, Tank, because of the mix mainly. With headphones on the music jumps from the left to the right speakers, and vice versa. Mindcandy for those into it. Greg Lake produced it. This and many other ELP gems.
This century and not that long ago, the Ash Vs Evil Dead Tv series used another song from their first studio release, Knife Edge, in a scene (Season 1 – Episode 2 – Bait). Was fucking insane! Beautifully done. Back to ELP, in my opinion, these three guys created music that will not simply disappear, through the passing of time. The younger ones could mock me all they want for saying so, but when we are all dead, myself, and those reading this around the time I authored it, human beings in the future will be intently studying, enjoying, and for many, learning how to play the music of ELP. Could be same be said of; John Legend?
Before I get into the actual review of this skillfully put together production, I want to acknowledge that the letter P in ELP, stood for, Palmer. Mister Carl Palmer, who I had the pleasure of seeing play live, more than once. Not only with Mister Lake and Mister Emerson but, also with the 1980s group called, Asia. My first time seeing this band live, Chris Slade was behind the drum set. Two other times I saw Carl. One time with a man that had a golden voice and was also a mean-ass bass player, John Wetton. May he rest in peace.
A tribute anything to Keith or Greg when involving the music of ELP is automatically a tip of the hat, to Carl. I caught Mr. Palmer last year in Las Vegas, playing his ELP Legacy. I wish him and his other bandmates could have played a longer set. And get this, included was, Arthur Brown. I met him before the show. As he was walking by me in the opposite direction, I recognized him and called Mr. Brown by name. He stopped, and could not have been any kinder to me. We chatted (really he talked) for at least a couple minutes, if not more. Didn’t know me from Adam. Our brief interaction was akin to seeing a long lost friend. The vibe was right. Arthur filled me in on whatever was happening in his life, at that time. This happened right after he was finished with the sound-check. The man is a classic rock legend and on this very same tribute album. Saying that and without further ado, let us get on to the subject at hand.
Ten songs with a knock out bonus track. Produced by Yes bass player, Billy Sherwood. Different musicians throughout, with a core band consisting of multi-instrumentalist, Billy Sherwood, and from a prog-rock group that Billy was a part of back in the 1990s called World Trade. A drummer who plays with power and precision; Jay Schellen. In several successful projects since. I was lucky last year to be able to tell Jay personally that I’ve enjoyed hearing him play for ages, and how it was such a pleasure to finally get to see him play, live. Both these guys, Billy and Jay, knock this material, out of the ballpark.
Songs & Guests
01. 21st Century Schizoid Man (featuring Todd Rundgren & Brian Auger)
02. A Time And A Place (featuring Leslie Hunt & Derek Sherinian)
03. The Sheriff (featuring Billy Sherwood & David Sancious)
04. C’est La Vie (featuring Jon Davison & Larry Fast)
05. From The Beginning (featuring Thijs Van Leer & John Wesley)
06. Hoedown (featuring Patrick Moraz)
07. Still…YouTurn Me On (featuring Sonja Kristina & Steve Porcaro)
08. Lucky Man (featuring Martin Turner & Geoff Downes)
09. Fanfare For The Common Man (featuring Aaron Emerson & Ethan Emerson)
10. Karn Evil #9 1st Impression Part 2 (featuring Arthur Brown & Jordan Rudess)
“Uncle G” discusses…A Tribute To Keith Emerson & Greg Lake
A safe selection of songs. Many that were chosen, the greatest hits of Emerson, Lake, & Palmer.
We start with a guy who has a decades-long history of being a top notch musician and producer; Todd Rundgren. Todd’s performance on the first track, 21st Century Schizoid Man, and I can say it no other way, just fucking rocks. About a minute and forty into it, here comes renown rhythm & blues, jazz, and rock keyboardist, Brian Auger, who plays The Nice – America, like it was his own. And get this…he’s 80 years old. Wow! I hope that I’m doing what I enjoy and add to that, still producing and making money, when I hit that age. While I ponder that, you the reader can feel free to research Mr. Auger’s lustrous career on your own, should you not be that familiar.
I found track two to be one of the most interesting for the sheer fact that it’s not ready a greatest hit, but more a, deep cut. A hard-rocker called, A Time And A Place. From ELP’s album; Tarkus (1971). On vocals, Leslie Hunt. Known for being on the TV program America Idol (2007 Season Six), and as lead vocalist for a pretty cool modern day progressive rock band called; District 97. A talented bunch. Back to the song, A Time And A Place, and on keyboards, a guy who I saw play with Alice Cooper, a one-time keys player with Dream Theater. He’s played with, Billy Idol. Can you say, Sons Of Apollo? On my own personal top ten favorite pianist/keyboardist list; Derek Sherinian. Add Jay and Billy and I’d love to see them do their cover of this classic, in concert. That’s the optimist in me, saying that. I also wanna see Yes play John Lennon’s Instant Karma (Yoko Ono – The Plastic Ono Band) with the one and only, Alan White, on drums. Stranger things have happened.
The next song on the album gives me an opportunity to quickly say that when doing a song for a tribute/cover album, to always somehow make it your own, without creating just a carbon copy. Producer Billy Sherwood demonstrates this on a track from ELP’s Trilogy album (1972) entitled, The Sheriff. The actually beginning with chatter and Carl on the drums is, missing. As is the ending of the tune. So what we got here are the essence and an imaginative original closing. On the keys; Davis Sancious. Another multi-instrumentalist. Meanwhile, here I am lucky I could make a C cord on my beginner Yamaha keyboard. Arthritis has a lot to do with that. Skipping around the tracks, pianist/keyboardist Patrick Moraz (Yes – The Moody Blues) does a very faithful version of Keith’s playing on a favorite ELP song of mine; Hoedown. Included is a part that is all, Patrick. The man a musical genius (my opinion and many others). An accomplished pianist, but I love most when Mr. Moraz has a shitload of keyboards at his disposal. Examples as to why could be found in the song catalogs of both Yes, and The Moody Blues. Plus his own work and the two records he did with Bill Bruford; amazing. Billy Sherwood tackles lead vocals, on the old west (USA) influenced number. It’s lyrics (Emerson music Lake lyrics) display good storytelling, plus a nice sense of humor.
Next, comes a string of ELP’s most popular tunes. Solid compositions that are still making money, today; radio play, digital sales, etcetera. The beautiful, C’est La Vie. My preferred taste in music is more hard rock, up-tempo, catchy rhythm, kind of thing. Keith’s accordion solo in the original, that is found on ELP – Works (1977) gives listeners warm and fuzzy feelings. Not being like an R & B band in which, that’s all you ever do, One song could be about France and another about pirates, with entirely different musical approaches, and it was okay. Their followers expected it. Hats off to Yes vocalist Jon Davidson, and yet another master of the keyboards to appear on this tribute, Larry Fast. And Billy and Jay really are a strong compo here. Very powerful, akin to the Greg Lake tune.
A Quick Note
Deserving recognition just as much; Pete Sinfield. When it comes to ELP, Pete worked with Greg on more than one piece of music, helping shape the words in which Greg Lake so skillfully sang. A simple shout out, and an acknowledgment that is well deserved.
Two songs, From The Beginning, and Still…You Turn Me On, never were favorites of mine. A bit on the mellow side. Nevertheless, superior examples of well-grounded songwriting. And it’s really a pleasure hearing others, perform them. Singer Sonja Kristina gives Still…You Turn Me On, a different perspective, that I enjoy very much; sexy.
“He had white horses…”, I love ELP’s first hit song; Lucky Man.
“and ladies by the score.” Greg Lake wrote this when he was twelve years old. Imagine that. Not a number one hit on the charts, but good enough. Played more times on FM radio that you would have thought it was. Greg named his autobiography after the song that helped ELP create a fanbase, and march them towards performing sold-out shows; Lucky Man – The Autobiography. My favorite part of the otherwise folk composition is the near end with Keith on a Moog Synthesizer, and Carl and Greg helping create this other world, kind of vibe. Greg Lake again did a mind-tripping job on the separation of the instruments being heard, and then like you were transported to a secret tunnel location. On the cover being presented, we have Yes – The Buggles – Asia pianist/keyboardist, the always very cool; Geoff Downes. In certain circles; keyboard royalty. I witnessed Geoff join in with the Carl Palmer Band, last year, on this very song. Geoff’s interpretation was right on then, as it is on this tribute recording. The other guest performer; Martin Turner (Wishbone Ash). Martin’s playing is right on the mark.
Fanfare For The Common Man featuring Aaron & Ethan Emerson (blood relatives), smokes, as it should. I don’t want to sound corny, but I am certain that Keith especially, would be proud.
The last offering on the album, Karn Evil #9 – First Impression (part 2). Arthur Brown on vocals, and from Dream Theater, keyboard wizard extraordinaire; Jordon Rudess.
I was super fortunate to see Jordan play with Dream Theater live on their Systematic Chaos tour. I love that album! Mike Portnoy was still with the progressive-metal band in which he co-founded then. In my opinion, and I’ll assume the same with Neal Morse, that Mike Portnoy is one of the top-ranking drummers in metal-prog or hard rock, in today’s music scene. Whatever you label music, or whatever the style, I’m sure Portnoy could handle it. Back in the day, in certain circles, the same high praise was said of, Carl Palmer.
Found on ELP’s fourth studio album, Brain Salad Surgery, is a fan favorite like no other; Karn Evil #9 (and all its impressions). A masterpiece! I’ll just throw that out there. In my ears, that encompasses; 1st Impression (part 1) – 2nd Impression (part 2) – 2nd Impression – 3rd Impression. Not to be played on cheap sound equipment!
Along with its two special guests, Billy Sherwood and Jay Schellen absolutely nail this. The respect is there, as well as creativity. Plus it ROCKS!
Bonus Track (CD Only)
Buying the actual recordings helps those we like best, record more. Keeps the lights on. The love I have for music is down to the bone. And in my veins, along with sometimes high doses of, THC – an appreciation of the finer things in life. Such as the compact discs – Track 11:
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – ELP Suite: Tarkus / From The Beginning / Tarkus (Reprise).
Those long time ELP followers were introduced to the idea of Keith playing with an orchestra, back when he was in a band called; The Nice. I personally witnessed ELP play with an orchestra, in 1977 (Works Tour). With Keith’s classical background, it was a natural match. When in concept mood for what ELP wanted to be, that the two would at times jell, like peanut butter and jam. A fusion of classical and modern rock. Worked for Electric Light Orchestra, as well. Roll over that, Beethoven!
“Uncle G” RATES…Various Artists – A Tribute To Keith Emerson & Greg Lake (2020 Purple Pyramid Records)
Using a five star rating system whereas one star means it’s even worse then ELP’s last studio album, In The Hot Seat (1994), to five stars in which I would be strongly suggesting that the next step after completing reading this write up, would be to buy the actual product, I Gary “Uncle G” Brown rates this extremely well put together tribute album that’s in honor of two of my long time favorite musicians; 5 stars! The only thing really missing, and I can’t penalize anyone for it; Emerson, Lake, & Powell – Touch and Go. The more commercialized track off the studio album, did chart on, Billboard. And with Carl Palmer behind the drum set, the semi-hit was re-recorded (1994). Probably overlooked. Oh, and since I’m on the subject, Side A of Emerson, Lake, & Powell – Emerson, Lake, & Powel in my judgment, is a perfect album side; The Score – Learning To Fly – The Miracle. I felt it important to point that out.
Promotion: Glass Onyon PR (William James)
PH: 828-350-8158 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Research: I listened to Emerson, Lake, & Palmer – The Return Of The Manticore (1993) CD box set, to refamiliarize myself with several of the original recordings of the songs performed here. This would include ELP’s professionally-recorded version of King Crimson’s 21st Century Schizoid Man. I saw ELP do the song live, in St. Louis, back in 1997. Watching Greg, the original vocalist, sing that song right in front of me, thrilled me to no end.
ELP Suite: Tarkus – From The Beginning – Tarkus (Reprise); taken from The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Plays Prog Rock Classics (℗ 2015 Cleopatra Records)
To purchase: https://orcd.co/keithemersonandgreglake