Emerson, Lake and Palmer
Tarkus


4.5
superb

Review

by ProgressiveTheory USER (9 Reviews)
August 2nd, 2009 | 40 replies | 12,317 views


Release Date: 1971 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Tarkus is an unlikely album to draw in more listeners to the progressive rock fan base, but will be a treasure to those who love prog.

1 of 1 thought this review was well written

When a band takes a new direction, it usually brings the band vast success or total failure. During the transition of the 80’s to the 90’s, Metallica began doing things much more radio friendly and as a result lost many of their older fans by being mainstream instead of thrash. Many of their older fans deemed them a failure or sell-out. However some albums, such as Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s 1971 release Tarkus, were strides to a different place that proved overwhelmingly successful. In fact when first approached by compositional ringleader Keith Emerson, Greg Lake was extremely apprehensive about the new musical direction. Interesting proof lies in a booklet included with Brain Salad Surgery: Lake is quoted saying to Emerson, “…if you want to play classical music do it on your solo album.” ELP’s eponymous debut album showed musicality but really, as are most debuts, was quite a bit off of what the power trio ended up playing as fan favorites. A mixture of social criticism and humor, Tarkus is the first move that the trio made which brought them closer to the standard ELP sound.

Tarkus is really a difficult record to tonally describe, as it is not very cohesive and travels through many moods and ideas. On Tarkus ELP sounds a bit like Rush blended with elements of Yes and a touch of Genesis’ early days. Overall, the sound of the album is very similar to Genesis’ Trespass, but contains a much more classically influenced sound in Emerson and Lake and a far jazzier drum performance from Palmer. Except for the two fun tracks, the performance and atmosphere created are extremely dark and reflective: this is an album that was made to make a (very melancholic) statement about war and religion. Parts of the album are intentionally, ironically spiritual sounding with anti-religious lyrics, which adds an extra complexity and depth to such intriguing music. Other parts sound rather cluttered (also intentional) and busy, while still others sound like straightforward 70’s rock charts. A record that upholds any preexisting, high standards about ELP, Tarkus delivers the goods that prog fans crave.

The technical performance of the album is absolutely superb! The sound of the trio fuses together seamlessly and creates a virtuoso ensemble sound. Carl Palmer’s light, jazz-influenced drumming is an amazing foundation and really helps add motion to different parts of the album. It is incredible how he keeps such focus while going through passages that have extremely complex time signatures; for example the 10/8 section that the first movement of “Tarkus” is dominantly comprised of. Greg Lake has a stellar performance on this album as some of his most spot-on vocal work can be found on this album. “Bitches Crystal” and the three movements of “Tarkus” that have vocals highlight his great lyricism and his versatile vocal tonalities. Not to mention, Lake’s bass playing is also up to par as he demonstrates his skills on the title track and the faster sections of “The Only Way.” Emerson is, as always, a complete octopus behind his wide array of keyboards, pianos, and organs. One of the downsides to his extreme lead playing are that the abilities of some of the other members of the group, although equally talented, are somewhat overshadowed musically and are also much lower in the overall mix.

Emotional performance is also there but definitely shows in some places more than others; places where the lyrics are more reflective of the band’s social views are definitely better. The section of the title track called “Battlefield” shows some extremely expressive, deep lyrics about the costs of war and its futilities. Most of the lyrics of “Tarkus” really have to deal with a satirical version of war expressed through symbols like Tarkus (the armadillo-tank on the album cover), representing the war machine. Another emotive lyrical theme is social criticism of religion, Christianity in particular. Some of the lyrics may be equivocal, as they could possibly just be attacking the current state of religion, i.e. “Bitches Crystal” lyrics talk about gypsies, fortune tellers, and crystal ball predictions. However other lyrics throw more direct blows to monotheistic religions (again mostly Christianity) in “The Only Way” and “Mass” from Tarkus. Whether the listener agrees with these views or not, these sections show a lot of passion and are oddly some of the finest moments on the album (Note: Due to likely possibilities of offending audiences, ELP doesn’t perform “Mass” with lyrics often and “The Only Way” isn’t included on any live release). Obvious humor is present on the tracks “Jeremy Bender” and “Are You Ready Eddy?” and nicely rounds off the overly serious edge of the band.

Thusly, this is not Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s magnum opus, but is definitely the next best thing and contains moments that are very dark, inspiring, and capturing. “Tarkus” is must have for hardcore prog fans, and both “Bitches Crystal” and “The Only Way” are worth a listen for fans of classic rock or neo-classical rock. Tarkus is an unlikely album to draw in more listeners to the progressive rock fan base, but will be a treasure to those who love prog.



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user ratings (272)
Chart.
3.9
excellent
other reviews of this album
Brendan Schroer STAFF (4)
Recommended for any progressive rock fan, even if the second half isn't quite as good....

sonictheplumber STAFF (3)
...

tarkus (4.5)
ELP's sophomore effort, and a solid step up from their debut. May not be their best, but certainly o...


Comments:Add a Comment 
ProgressiveTheory
August 3rd 2009



44 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This turned out a bit longer than i wanted it to... but that's okay i guess. Any comments or criticism are welcome

Prophet178
August 3rd 2009



6397 Comments


Pretty good review, you might want to go back again and proofread it a little bit more. There are some minor grammatical errors in there, but it doesn't take much away from the review.

For example: "Technical performance of the album is absolutely superb!"

You might want to reword that a bit, maybe something like, "The technical performance on this album is superb" or something like that.

I might break up that third paragraph into two smaller ones also. The first going over the sound of the music, and the second about the lyrics.

Just give it a quick once over and I'm sure you'll catch some of those small errors, but overall good review!

ProgressiveTheory
August 3rd 2009



44 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Weird, on word it is in two paragraphs... ill fix that bit you said tho. thanks much.

Willie
Moderator
August 3rd 2009



15774 Comments


Another 70s prog review. Again, good review but nothing I'd ever like.

Digging: Teramaze - Esoteric Symbolism

ProgressiveTheory
August 3rd 2009



44 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I promise that next time i'll review something you would listen to.

Willie
Moderator
August 3rd 2009



15774 Comments


ha ha. ok.

JesusV4
May 7th 2010



391 Comments


Is it true that Hendrix was going to be in ELP at one point? But then died, of course, and so didn't?

TRMshadow
July 11th 2010



4982 Comments


Saw this and Rush's "Hemispheres" for 2$ each at the record store (iffy quality), Should I buy?

Ire
July 11th 2010



41454 Comments


Go for hemisperes

TRMshadow
July 11th 2010



4982 Comments


Never really checked out ELP, what do they sound like?


Dryden
July 11th 2010



12813 Comments


10 minute drive away from me is a town called emerson ^_^

Ire
July 11th 2010



41454 Comments


I only have Love Beach(it was free)

pile of shit

cheesy 70s prog with heavy synth use. Doubt you'd like them.

TRMshadow
July 11th 2010



4982 Comments


You live in ND? (dryden, I know where you live Ire)

Dryden
July 11th 2010



12813 Comments


canada manitoba

TRMshadow
July 11th 2010



4982 Comments


so, Is it okay to make "eh" jokes in your presence?

Ire
July 11th 2010



41454 Comments


I know where you live Ire


hawt

demigod!
February 10th 2011



40970 Comments


i love the album cover

cjgone
March 19th 2011



761 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

First song (Tarkus) is amazing.

MO
March 19th 2011



17364 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

good album

Digging: Soundtrack - Turok 2: Seeds of Evil OST

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
September 3rd 2011



18213 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

THE WEAVER IN THE WEB THAT HE MADE!

Digging: Benoit Pioulard - Hymnal Remixes



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