Works, Vol. 2

Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Shout! Factory, 1977

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Just as yin is the flip side of yang and McDonald’s is the flip side of quality and taste, ELP’s Works, Vol. 2 is the flip side of its predecessor. But where the first Works was pretentious, dull as hell and interminably long, the sequel is a lighthearted, throwaway, fun affair that zips by.

How light? The longest song is under five minutes, and in ELP land that is a downright jaw-dropper. No 20 minute piano concerts, songs about mythical tanks or computers taking over humankind here…just 12 short, poppy acoustic and piano-based tunes.

Since they both came out in 1977, it’s likely that the songs here were recorded around the same time as the original my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Works but left off the first album because they did not fit the style or sound. This disc is the sound of an art rock band unwinding and having some fun. If that doesn’t sound appealing to you, well, then what are you doing reading this review in the first place?

Half the songs are instrumentals, and only short jam sessions at that. “When The Apple Blossoms Bloom…,” “Barrelhouse Shakedown” and “Maple Leaf Rag” are inconsequential fun, good for a couple of listens, but skip the irritating “Bullfrog.” “Close But Not Touching” features some great drumming from Carl Palmer, a pretty good Lake solo and some mild background touches from Emerson, who seems happy to let his other two bandmates take the lead. Also of note is Emerson’s solo take on “Honky Tonk Train Blues,” a rollicking number far better than any of his other efforts in this vein.

Lake gets two solo acoustic spots that are much better than his side on Vol. 1. “Watching Over You” is a simple yet heartfelt ballad and “I Believe In Father Christmas” became a minor hit, notable for the stellar and clear acoustic guitar work and pretty good lyrics (for Pete Sinfield, anyway).

The other songs are band efforts; a cover of “Show Me The Way To Go Home” is superfluous and “So Far To Fall” squanders a swinging 1930s beat by going on far too long and including the line “She did a thing to my thing like it’s never been done before.” The opening “Tiger In A Spotlight” is an energetic number that sounds a bit unfinished; with some sort of a bridge and louder production, this could have been a late period ELP classic, but instead it settles for being a flawed gem that is still worth hearing.

You won’t get your normal ELP sound on this record, but if you only know the band from “Lucky Man” or hate them for the overblown pretentious tracks, you may be surprised at the depth and sense of fun on Works, Vol. 2, even if the album itself is mostly inessential.

Rating: B-

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