Black Moon

Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Victory, 1992

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


There must have been a meeting somewhere, in early 1992, where the following sentence was spoken: "Fellas, grunge and alternative rock rules the charts, the hip-hop movement is gaining steam and sweeping up American youth, and electronic drums and ‘80s beats have become ridiculously dated. The time must be right for an Emerson, Lake & Palmer comeback."

Evidently, since Asia was no more and Emerson, Lake And Powell had succeeded at nothing, the original progressive rock supergroup decided a reunion and new album was what the public really wanted. It was not; Black Moon, the band's first studio album in 14 years, scraped the lower reaches of the Billboard charts and is almost universally disliked by ELP fans and critics.

To be fair, this is not a bad album, better than 1978's awful Love Beach or the overlong, bombastic Works, Vol. 1, but it comes nowhere near the pretentious brilliance and over-the-top jamming of Brain Salad Surgery, "Tarkus" or Emerson, Lake & Palmer. This album is probably the closest in style to Works, Vol. 2, a mix of acoustic ballads, keyboard instrumentals and the occasional nifty psuedo-rocker, with every song between four and seven minutes.

What keeps this from reaching those heights is the lack of what made ELP so special (read: both beloved and hated) in the first place. Carl Palmer's drumming is quite basic, sounding more like his work with Asia (complete with electronic drums in spots) than his previous complex and skillful work. Greg Lake's voice has succumbed to aging; inevitable, perhaps, but still a bit depressing to hear him sing or growl in a much lower register than he employed on, say, "Take A Pebble" or "Karn Evil 9." my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The music also rarely strives for anything special. Nothing about this is progressive, as it tends to purloin from older ELP works or else mine a generic rock vein. Again, that is not to say what's here is bad – about half of this is decent, in fact – but it's not really ELP, and it doesn't seem to have been worth the trouble.

What works is the lovely "Affairs Of The Heart," an acoustic Lake piece written in the late ‘80s with ex-Buggle and ex-Yes man Geoff Downes, which relies solely on guitar and some light piano and strings for accompaniment. Lake's closing "Footprints In The Snow" is similar and also good; though that voice takes some getting used to for longtime fans. "Paper Blood" is not bad, trying for an attitude similar to 1970's "Knife Edge" set to an anti-greed lyrics (the paper in question being money).

Emerson gets three solo spots here, but only the synthesized take on Prokofiev's "Romeo And Juliet" is worthwhile, recapturing that bombastic spirit of yore while thumbing his nose at the classical establishment, the way he has always done. "Changing States" is a six minute instrumental with absolutely no ideas to offer, while "Close To Home" features some fine piano work but functions mostly as background music, except for the parts that steal outright from "Take A Pebble."

The rest is uninspired, tired arrangements and trite lyrics, with only a hint of fire in the title track. Trying for something menacing and meaningful, "Black Moon" falls apart because of its computerized drumming (swiping the "boom-boom-PA" pattern from Queen's "We Will Rock You"), the squiggly dated synth fills and Lake's lyrics (sample: "We never learn / Even deserts burn / And all politicians lie"). The song has a rough charm that grows on the listener, I suppose, but it is nowhere near the epic statement it thinks it is.

This places Black Moon in the for-fans-only category, and even they will probably be turned off by most of this. Better than most latter-day ELP, this is still far from being a classic to the point where the listener may wonder what the point of this reunion was. Paper blood, probably.

Rating: C

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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