Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Atlantic, 1972

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Emerson, Lake and Palmer never matched the odd brilliance of their debut album, as each subsequent album became more pompous, overblown and pretentious, culminating in the bloated and nearly unlistenable Works, Vol. 1. Given what came before with Tarkus and what came next with Brain Salad Surgery, Trilogy is downright normal, if rather uninteresting.

Part of ELP's appeal is that bombastic grandeur tempered with slight pop/rock appeal. This is what made the debut so good. Here, it's all mannered precision rather than inspired playing from a band with no qualms about going over the top. Note that few of these songs ever got played on stage during ELP's later tours...nothing grabs the audience by the throat. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

"The Endless Enigma" is just that, with a piano-led song that goes nowhere broken up by a classical piano solo. It's a bored pomposity, almost, though that fits the kiss-off of the lyrics: "Your words waste and decay / Nothing you say / Reaches my ears anyway / You never spoke a word of truth." Zing!

"From The Beginning" netted the band its highest-charting single, which is fair since it's a melancholy song driven only by Lake's guitar and bass and some light percussion. There is no chorus to speak of other than Lake crooning the title, but it's a bit of a regretful love song: "Maybe I might have changed / And not been so cruel / Not been such a fool," Lake sighs. It's the best song here.

Emerson tries to liven things up a bit with "The Sheriff," one of those stupid honky-tonk Western songs this British band tried to do, and like the others of its ilk it wastes time and space, save for the last 30 seconds where Emerson's piano enters hyper-speed. Following this is a Copland tune, "Hoedown," that the guys used to open the Brain Salad Surgery tour shows. The problem is, while the tracks threatens to break out into something exciting, it never really does, sort of chugging along nicely for three minutes instead.

The title track is another three-part tune, starting with a serene piano intro and Lake's voice before giving into about the only rock of the album. "Living Sin" is an embarrassing attempt at a rock song, with Lake's growling vocals grating instead of tough and the whole feel of a love conquest sounding fake, while the closing "Abaddon's Bolero" is just nine minutes of endless noodling, not satisfying at all.

So while this is not a bad disc, like some of the band's later work, it's certainly not an exciting one. There are a handful of moments to make it interesting, and the band's professionalism and chemistry makes it listenable, but it rarely reaches the brilliance of the debut or the overblown grandeur of Brain Salad Surgery.

Rating: B-

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