Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Emerson, Lake & Palmer

  • Emerson, Lake & Palmer [Cotillion, 1971] C
  • Pictures from an Exhibition [Cotillion, 1972] D+
  • Trilogy [Cotillion, 1972] C-
  • Brain Salad Surgery [Manticore, 1973] C-
  • Works: Volume 2 [Atlantic, 1978] C+

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Emerson, Lake & Palmer [Cotillion, 1971]
This opens with "The Barbarian," a keyboard showpiece (not to slight all the flailing and booming underneath) replete with the shifts of tempo, time, key, and dynamics beloved of these bozos. Does the title mean they see themselves as rock and roll Huns sacking nineteenth-century "classical" tradition? Or do they think they're like Verdi portraying Ethiopians in Aida? From such confusions flow music as clunky as these heavy-handed semi-improvisations and would-be tone poems. Not to mention word poems. C

Pictures from an Exhibition [Cotillion, 1972]
This cover version of Moussorgsky's mouldy oldie does have a big new beat, but you can't dance to it, and the instrumentation seems a bit spare. Anyway, the truth is that I don't even listen to the original much. D+

Trilogy [Cotillion, 1972]
The pomposities of Tarkus and the monstrosities of the Moussorgsky homage clinch it--these guys are as stupid as their most pretentious fans. Really, anybody who buys a record that divides a . . . composition called "The Endless Enigma" into two discrete parts deserves it. C-

Brain Salad Surgery [Manticore, 1973]
Is this supposed to be a rebound because Pete Sinfield wrote the lyrics? Because Certified Classical Composer Alberto Ginastera--who gets royalties, after all--attests to their sensitivity on the jacket? Because the sound is so crystalline you can hear the gism as it drips off the microphone? C-

Works: Volume 2 [Atlantic, 1978]
When the world's most overweening "progressive" group makes an album less pretentious than its title, galumphing respectfully through Scott Joplin and Meade Lux Lewis, that's news. But is it rock and roll? C+

Further Notes:

Everything Rocks and Nothing Ever Dies [1990s]