E.L.P. – An Overview

ELPAlbums In My Collection

– Black Moon
– Brain Salad Surgery
– Emerson, Lake & Palmer
– Emerson, Lake & Powell
– In The Hot Seat
– Pictures At An Exhibition
– The Return Of The Manticore
– Tarkus
– Trilogy
– Welcome Back My Friends…
– Works, Vol. 1
– Works, Vol. 2

An Overview

What can one say about E.L.P.?

With Keith Emerson’s extraordinary and unique style of playing and keyboard tones, along with Greg Lake’s instantly recognizable voice, and Carl Palmer’s sometimes insane percussion, the trio quickly developed a style all its own. (Granted, the sole album attributed to Emerson, Lake & Powell—with Cozy Powell stepping in for the missing Palmer—was the only actual clone of the original act.)

Their early days saw the band achieving almost instant success, and for good reason—not only did each of the three possess talent in spades, but they had a unique line-up, and their creativity stood almost unparalleled when it came to their contemporaries. “Karn Evil 9, Impressions 1, 2, & 3” anyone? Ah, the memories…

But unfortunately, like most of their contemporaries on the Prog-Rock scene (Yes, Gentle Giant, Genesis, etc.), when the popularity of the genre started to decline in the late 70s in favor of Punk and (groan) Disco (for hell’s sake!!!), the band attempted to reinvent itself, to alter their style to fit the times, and, for the most part, failed to stop their rapid descent. They finally called it quits after the less-than-stellar Love Beach in 1978 (where they even attempted to alter their image, looking like “hip pop studs”—or even disco studs—on the lame album cover itself).

Their brief reformation/comeback in the early 1990s with the albums Black Moon and In The Hot Seat was only a marginal success. I actually saw them several times on tour during those years, and although their lives shows were still terrific, the new albums were not. It was clear to most everyone that the old magic was generally gone. Those last two albums contained some pleasant, albeit lackluster and uninspired material. The days of the band releasing another side-long Prog-Rock epic such as “Tarkus” or “Karn Evil 9” had completely disappeared, with the band concentrating on  shorter songs in the AOR vein with only several tracks featuring any sort of nod to the glory days.

Nevertheless, the music of E.L.P. (whichever version—Palmer or Powell) inspired countless bands in the years to come (not to mention a score of future keyboardists and drummers especially). And more importantly, they left behind some of the most exciting material to have emerged from the early 1970s (the golden era of Prog-Rock), including the mighty, breathtaking, and perhaps all-around best album in their catalogue (and perhaps in all of Prog-Rock), Brain Salad Surgery.

Now, when it comes to the brief Emerson, Lake & Powell period of the band…

Although most people tend to write off this version of E.L.P. (or don’t even know about it, thanks to almost zero publicity when this sole album appeared in the mid-1980s), I find it quite enjoyable, especially after the Love Beach disaster.

Cozy Powell added some kick-ass spark to most of the tracks, and in my opinion, rejuvenated the creativity of Emerson and Lake. This sole album (especially on “The Score” and “The Miracle,” the two longer vocal tracks) showed that the guys still had something to provide the world of Prog-Rock and offered up a hopeful sign that the genre was not exactly as dead as all the American pop-loving idiot DJs and music critics claimed, despite the emergence of new music being offered by bands in the UK such as Marillion, IQ, Pallas, Twelfth Night, etc.

I, for one, embraced this brief comeback and was saddened the band (for whatever the reason) was unable to release more material. Regardless, their reappearance on the scene just after the New Wave Of Progressive Rock movement began was an added blessing to the scene and, somehow, made the NWOPR movement even more legitimate.

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Rite of Passage – Angels & Demons (2014)

RitePassage_Angels4 out of 5 Stars!

Oh no… A new band in a genre I love always comes with momentary feelings of unease, sometimes even pure dread.

Will a debut album prove a positive experience, further solidifying my faith in the genre as a whole, or will it disappoint me like so many others have in the past, thus turning me ever more cynical?

That’s exactly what was going through my mind when I stumbled upon the Angels & Demons album by Rite Of Passage last month. I took a deep breath, mentally braced myself, and prayed for the best as I hit the PLAY button.

Thankfully, I ended up exhaling a sigh of relief. This turned out to be an above-average debut album, bettering some albums by bands with much longer histories and extensive releases in their back catalogues. All but one track on this release spans 6-10 minutes, giving the band plentiful opportunities to experiment with intriguing atmospheres and complex arrangements.

There is much to like there…

For instance, the opening track “Breaking Through The Walls” has a rather dark ambiance during the verses with low, often eerie organ notes and other keyboards lending a lush background. The full and chunky guitars from Kurt Spranger and slamming percussion by the team of Jon Martin (bass guitar) and Robert Barton (drums) swept me along until the grand finish.

“Before Midnight” proved equally intriguing, with a terrific opening replete with the creepy sounds of a cuckoo clock and tolling bells before the song’s killer riff slams through the speakers and kicks everything into high gear.

“Change And Transition” features a beautiful piano intro (thanks to keyboardist Justin Valente), which soon ushers in a mellow, melodic vocal passage by Bill Quigley. Afterward, a wicked rhythm brings the song into a new phase, and the track ends with thunderstorm sound effects and keyboard passages interpreting violins and cellos.

Meanwhile, “Angels & Demons” opens with voice-over excerpts from the Bible atop another edgy backdrop, this time with some extra percussion and guitar effects that would be right at home in the Raga Rock genre. The track eventually kicks into traditional Prog-Metal before returning to finish with a reprise of the song’s intro passage.

“Saying Goodbye” offered a nice surprise with a guest female vocalist, which gives an added dimension to the band’s overall sound.

And “Flash Of Clarity,” the album’s longest track, is one of my favorites, thanks to the various mood and rhythm shifts, the mixture of both heavy and light passages, and as always, some dark atmospheres.

So summing up, the band presents professional musicianship, high creativity when it comes to their arrangements, and often-tense soundscapes—quite gothic in feeling. Some unanticipated time shifts, rhythm fills, and the occasional strange keyboard textures or guitar patterns provide additional surprises along the way. Certainly I hear the “normal” influences for a band playing in this genre—perhaps a few nods to acts such as Dream Theater, Age Of Nemesis, Vanden Plas, Derdian, Dali’s Dilemma, and Fates Warning, although Rite Of Passage seems generally “darker/edgier” when it comes to the overall sound and mood of their music.

I must say, however, that the production quality is a tad lacking, with some of the instruments (particularly the high octave keyboard runs) being either a bit too bright at times or often buried, and singer Bill Quigley’s vocals could definitely be louder in the overall mix.

Nevertheless, despite my criticism, I believe that given a little time and a more polished production stamp, this band has the potential for some great things. They certainly showed they have the talent and creativity to prove me right.

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