In the mid-1960s, electric music pioneer Robert Moog created modular synthesizers using transistor technologies. His early synths featured modules that generate and modify the pitch, timbre, and volume of sounds when connected, or “patched” by cables. This allowed for unprecedented control of sonic parameters but made it difficult to replicate the same sound twice. Moog’s inventions came to the attention of the rock world when they were demonstrated at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. The following year, Wendy Carlos’s album Switched-On Bach became the first chart-topping hit utilizing a Moog synthesizer. The instrument has its performance debut at a 1969 concert in the Sculpture Garden at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC, where Moog introduced a quartet of synthesizers built specifically for live events. Continue reading Eye On Design: Keith Emerson’s Moog Synthesizer
Prog Rock Keyboard Legend and all-around Musical Genius, Keith Emerson, passed away last night, March 10th, 2016, of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. My Obit for Keith up is now at Ink19 Dot Com.
It is no secret that I am pretty sweet on the music of Emerson, Lake & Palmer. I can’t really bring anything new to the party that wasn’t already said in the post hyperlinked above, so maybe go read that for some background on my obsession and them come back and rejoin us. Continue reading Razor & Tie Re-Issues 3-Disc Sets of ELP’s Debut Album and Tarkus
Emerson, Lake & Palmer are one of those favorite bands from my youth that, like The Beatles or Queen, I can pretty much talk about forever. For all the overblown pomp and ceremony that defined 1970s Progressive Rock, few bands dished it out bigger or better than the “super group” trio known as ELP. Keith Emerson (formerly of The Nice) broke all kinds of ground with the use of keyboards – organ in particular – in rock music, being responsible for greater innovation than any other musician of his ilk save for perhaps Rick Wakeman. Greg Lake, bassist and vocalist, had previously lent his impressive and wildly fluid voice to the first two King Crimson albums. On the drums, ELP had a percussive force of nature in Carl Palmer. One of the first rock drummers to tackle a massive kit, Palmer surely influenced the showmanship of renowned players from Terry Bozzio to Tommy Lee and Mike Portnoy. While they haven’t necessarily maintained household name status, for a sizable chunk of the seventies ELP enjoyed global popularity – and deservedly so.
In the context of what’s going on musically today, ELP’s often-bombastic musical scenarios are undeniably identifiable with seventies Arena Rock excess, while their roots in classical composition allow them to remain oddly timeless, and therefore totally accessible. Quite a feat, if you ask me. I never get tired of listening to their music, which is why it was such a nice surprise to recently find an ELP collection in my mailbox. Originally released in 2008, the 14-song, single disc retrospective, Come and See the Show: The Best of Emerson, Lake & Palmer was just re-released by Razor & Tie as part of a catalog licensing deal that will see the label re-issue expanded and remastered versions of the group’s first six albums over the next year. Bring it on!
The disc kicks off with the song whose lyrics give the CD its title, “Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression – Part 2.” Arguably ELP’s best-known song – or the song they are best-known for – “Karn Evil 9” takes its own little journey, as Greg Lake’s post-apocalyptic carnival barker hawks the greatest sideshow “In Heaven, Hell or Earth” – promising “sights to make you drool” including Jesus conjured magically from a hat and “Rows of Bishop’s Heads in Jars.” I’m there! Of course, when Lake declares, “You gotta see the show / It’s Rock ‘n’ Roll!” he reminds his audience that ELP are basically singing about themselves. Come and See the Show, indeed.
If ever a band could be said to have written the soundtrack to The Church of Rock & Roll, ELP’s music is (for some at least) akin to a religious experience: from the bone chilling organ fugue of “Knife-Edge” to the trio’s epic re-working of the traditional English hymn “Jerusalem.” They were also the first band to successfully meld two seemingly disparate musical genres. As an interpreter of the classical tradition, Emerson’s pop hook-laden keyboard arrangements made modern day classical compositions such as Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” and “Hoedown,” and Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera’s “Toccata” accessible to a rock audience.
But for all its musical sturm und drang, ELP weren’t just about “blowing your head apart.” The group also recorded many of the most gorgeous ballads of the prog rock era, and a few of their best are on this disc. The baroque, arabesque flourishes of the transcendent, aching lament “C’est La Vie” and the lush acoustic guitar / hand percussion arrangements of the ridiculously romantic “From The Beginning” are a gazillion miles away thematically from the chaotic aural battle ground of a piece like “Toccata.” It’s almost hard to believe the same band recorded these two songs.
While it would have been fun to have “Love Beach” – the title song from the band’s most misunderstood album – included, the only really perplexing omission is the absence of “Karn Evil 9: First Impression, Pt. 1,” which firmly sets that suite’s end-of-days tone before segueing seamlessly into part two’s signature mix of exhilaration and foreboding. As essential to a completist seventies rock collection as any Queen or Alice Cooper album, Come & See The Show is a nearly-flawless introduction to ELP’s particularly dynamic and versatile brand of progressive rock, and something cool to throw on the iPod if you already own the band’s catalog.
1. “Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression – Part 2”
2. “Lucky Man”
3. “From the Beginning”
5. “Hoedown (Taken From Aaron Copland’s Ballet, Rodeo)”
7. “C’est La Vie”
8. “Still…You Turn Me On”
10. “Fanfare For the Common Man”
12. “Peter Gunn”
14. “I Believe In Father Christmas”
Left to Right: Emerson, Palmer and Lake
Whenever anyone mentions legendary prog rock drummer Carl Palmer, I can’t help but flash back to an image of Palmer that is burned into my brain: that of his performance with Emerson, Lake & Palmer at the 1974 California Jam, where he performed an extended drum solo for “Karn Evil 9,” during which played part of his kit with his teeth. It’s not something one forgets. When you see Palmer behind – almost lost within – his massive kit, you just know guys like Terry Bozzio, Mike Portnoy and even Tommy Lee schooled themselves on Palmer’s considerable chops. Given his status in rock history, it’s hard to believe that such a respected and groundbreaking drummer, who recently celebrated his 61st birthday, is just now releasing his first instructional DVD, simply entitled Carl Palmer Drum Solos. Released on February 22, 2011 by Music Video Distributors (MVD), this DVD presents a unique note-for-note study of three of Palmer’s drum solos.
First up is Palmer during the legendary Brain Salad Surgery era of ELP, performing the aforementioned seven-minute “Karn Evil 9” solo, as dissected from the group’s 1974 California Jam performance. Here is the kit that Palmer is famous for playing: accented with multiple gongs, it was also likely one of the first spinning kits. While Palmer’s furious and precise kit work preceded the hyper-subdivided time now championed by many of today’s aggressive players by three decades, his playing is nevertheless awe-inspiring. His flawless and highly creative use of traditional grip is also impressive.
Each solo performance is shown four times: once as live original footage, and then again in 100% time, 75% time and 50% time, each with an accompanying Midi soundtrack. By watching the solos in the slowest motion, drummers can see exactly what Palmer is doing and how he appears to be doing it. Even when slowed to 75% of a performance’s original tempo, the man is a machine. At 50% speed, his toms on “Karn Evil 9” take on an almost tribal feel, and his obvious jazz background comes through in his snare attack. I just wish they had included the entire band’s performance of this amazing song, so you could see his playing in context.
The second solo included is “The Heat Goes On” from a 2008 performance with Asia. For this track, Palmer plays a stunning blue Vistalite kit and appears to be sitting noticeably higher. Finishing out the lesson is Palmer’s performance of Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” as performed with Asia in 2009. This track includes a cymbal solo that is just insane and that must be seen to be believed. In addition, for those who sight read, the DVD comes with note-for-note sheet music transcriptions of each solo, which can be easily downloaded for viewing with Adobe Reader.
While I understand that this is meant to be a drum-centric instructional DVD, I think that the package could have only been enhanced by adding an additional track showing the complete performance of Palmer with both ELP and Asia. Something like that certainly would’ve given the disc cross-over appeal to non-drummers that just love the music. At any rate, this is an educational DVD that I would recommend to drummers, fans of Carl Palmer’s playing, and fans of drumming in general.
Carl Palmer: http://www.carlpalmer.com