Review Summary: The beginning of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer’s progressive downfall…
Emerson, Lake and Palmer, as a band, were already reaching the end of their glory days after finishing Brain Salad Surgery, an album which only Tarkus and Trilogy’s standards could be easily met. This was the point when creativity would begin to run short, and botchery, treachery, pretentiousness, overindulgence, and disaster would begin to run wild out of control. All of this would begin in Works, Vol One, an album with a mixed bag of treats and tricks.
The one only real treat in this album that should deserve respect and stands on level with Tarkus and Karn Evil is Piano Concerto No. 1, written by Keith Emerson and the acclaimed London Philharmonic Orchestra. This is perhaps one of the last songs with no loss of creativity, and should easily get across to the listener. Composed into three movements, this entire piece demonstrates Keith Emerson’s classical musical prowess on the piano, which is quite impressive, along with the incredible chemistry with the orchestra. It really especially emanates a contemporary mood to the music, creating a wave of calm soothing piano passages as well as intense, hot, blistery fast movements, and a brilliant overall sound to the beginning of the album. This has to the only real impressive piece of Works Vol. One.
The rest of album is a trick at work. It is ruled by the realms of mostly overindulgence and ELP, unlike its predecessor, Brain Salad Surgery, which managed to control it. It is also overdriven, putting too much emphasis on each of members rather than the band as a whole. Whether this was meant to be an ego-stroke or not, this ultimately results in a lack of real creativity and an almost fake taste of emotion and quality. Take for example; while C’est La Vie is a very calming, emotional ballad done well by Greg Lake, it’s just another repeat of Still…You Turn Me On, French style. Plus, the mood created in the song seems almost a little fake, and not as charming as what Lake, or ELP, for that matter, would create in their earlier albums.
And as usual, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer are the kings of pretentiousness and botchery, a skill they can never seem to lose. However, in this album, it only gets worse. ELP in the process of a few years is beginning to switch their act from serious to just plain silly, placing ridiculously annoying solo passages whenever they can get the chance in almost every song. Some of the soloist passages are ok or great, but most of them aren’t very good or clever, if any of them were even worth listening to in the first place. The worst part about this is that they’re spread throughout a double album. What could’ve made this double album better is if they blew all of their disadvantages out in a few songs rather than throughout the entire two discs. This resulted in a loss of originality, something that ELP would suffer from for the rest of their band life.
All in all, Works One has a few great songs that would be worth listening to, especially Piano Concerto, but other than that, ELP really had nothing else to lean on or save them. They try to make the listener think that it’s Brain Salad Surgery, when in reality; this is something way different…something else. This is more like a pretentious copy of Brain Salad Surgery, containing copious amounts of solo sections, and botched up performances. Thankfully, this is not what Works One is completely ruled by, leaving just enough worthwhile material. If anything, Piano Concerto is still recommended, and the rest is highly cautionary, if the listener is willing to withstand overindulgence and solos.