Emerson Lake and Powell.
The first time I heard tracks from this awesome “ELP” comeback was at an audio dealer evening in Bury St. Edmunds, England soon after its 1986 release.
Original UK vinyl played on a Pink Triangle PT TOO turntable, Exposure Electronics (I seem to recall) and stunning KEF Reference 107 speakers. That was a stratospheric system for an average guy to aspire to in his early 20’s, but I did eventually own both the turntable and speakers at one stage in my ever continuing HiFi journey.
To say this record blew me away on an exalted sound system that night would be an understatement. Emerson Lake and Palmer had been a firm favourite since the early(ish) 1970s. It was immediately clear to me that this reformed band, with the late, great Cozy Powell replacing Carl Palmer on drums, really meant business.
Recorded in England and mastered at Sterling Sound in New York, not only is this a fine “comeback”, it’s one of my very favourite rock albums of all, and actually right up there with the best classic ELP material.
With the exception of Carl, sadly all the band members are no longer with us, but what Keith Emerson, Greg Lake and Cozy Powelll created here still stands up so very well.
The over nine minutes opener of The Score is signature ELP at it’s most grandiose and fabulous. Just an epic listening experience.
And I love the way it segues into the dramatic Learning To Fly. As with every track here, it’s a quite amazing showcase for Keith Emerson’s outstanding keyboard virtuosity.
Much as I love and admire Carl Palmer’s work, I wonder if I’m alone in thinking that Cozy’s more economical, but equally effective, drumming style actually allowed Keith’s contribution to absolutely soar here.
In fact the same could be said for Greg’s vocals, which never sounded more confident and perhaps most impressive of all on the amazing Side One closer The Miracle, another hugely complex and sonically colossal offering.
Seen here as near mint original US pressing on Polydor, the album’s second side starts as remarkably as the opening three tracks, with the most well-known track here, the staggering Touch and Go.
This track has it all and I love the wall of sound effect. I wouldn’t mind a pound for every time I’ve played this down the years. Superb.
Another excellent keyboard segue brings us to Love Blind, with its scintillating Greg vocal and a stellar Keith synth solo as it fades out into a great personal favourite Step Aside, with its jazzy, late-night feel. I really love that one.
Listening to this again, I was struck by the unbelievable high standard that’s maintained throughout and, as if to prove that point, Lay Down Your Guns is up next. A wonderful performance by Greg Lake here and another song, with an anti-war message, that still resonated and builds so well.
The record ends with one of those celebrated ELP classical instrumental interpretations, in this case Holst’s Mars The Bringer of War from The Planets. The effect is to leave the listener breathless at the end of a really special LP.
I also have the original US CD version and this is well worth the entrance fee for the two exceptionally fine bonus tracks, Vacant Possession and a dazzling rendition of the Goffin and King 1962 classic The Loco-Motion.
This is one of the most prized elements of my ELP collection. What a legacy. World Class rock on the grandest of scales.
Chris Wright | Now Spinning