August 2, 2021

“Tarkus”, the fascinating sound armadillo from Emerson, Lake & Palmer turns 50 – Diario El Ciudadano y la Región

If during the second half of the 60s and in the first half of the 70s there were incredible rock bands, among which those with a predominant inclusion of keyboards that produced a sound that came to be called “progressive rock” –or “art rock” stood out. ”, According to the specialists, but that it was nothing else that sounded like an intense rock base from an astute collaborative facet of the keys–, one of the most relevant was Emerson, Lake & Palmer, a power trio where what would be the The lines of a first guitar were encrypted in an impressive range of sounds that emerged from the magical fingers of Keith Emerson, a pianist and composer who carried a lot of solidity and experience when he founded the group that would be named after its three members.

Emerson was considered one of the best keyboardists of the prolific stage of progressive rock, possessing an unrivaled technique and compositional capacity – although much has been said about his competition with Rick Wakeman, of Yes, their styles are far from similar – that he used to bring rock to a perfect and unusual ensemble with the symphonic universe.

Almost all the albums of the band are collectibles and it would be enough to name Pictures of an exhibition, Brian Salad Surgery, Trilogy to understand why they set a high level in the explosion of the genre in the world.

Emerson … recorded their first material in 1970, an album whose title was presented by the name of the band and the repercussion was immediate despite the fact that there was only one song composed by them.

His second album, produced a year later, in 1971, would be the monumental Wisdom, an overwhelming conceptual work that would put the band at the center of the scene and allow it to sell a whopping vinyls catching up with those of Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix during that year.

A sonic precedent that is hard to beat

On Wisdom Emerson’s symphonic ductility is evidenced, effectively supported, in a playful way to the utmost limits, by the bass of Greg Lake –also guitarist and bassist of King Crimson– and the devastating and insightful sound of Carl Palmer’s double bass drums. setting a sound precedent that is difficult to overcome.

The magnificent Close to the Edge, from Yes, recorded a year later, is an album that in its cadences owes much to Wisdom even if it has its own flight.

But Wisdom It has the character of a jewel, especially because of the way in which it carries that fusion of rock and elements of classical music – which Emerson practiced with relish and Pictures of an exhibition, the disc that follows Wisdom he tests it with a repertoire entirely based on the work of Russian Modest Mussorgsky – and flows through articulated rhythmic plates to achieve a kind of wild melody.

There is an experimental intention aimed at producing climates and even in the use of the Hammond –Emerson played an old organ from San Marco’s Basilica in Venice for this work– or the Moog, it is clear that zapar –because that is the sensation that prevails in certain passages on this album – can mean raising the subject to any height without abandoning the offered structure.

The same theme that gives it its name is presented as a suite with seven parts and occupied the entire face of the original vinyl. Here Keith Emerson builds oversized sound walls so that bass and drums also blare slowly and relentlessly.

Greg Lake’s voice sounds haunting in its “heavenly emphatic” display. Then the album has a series of short songs, if compared to the block of “Tarkus”, that flirt with even the most classic rock & roll as in “Are You Ready, Eddy?”, A song light but played with so much precision that any good band of the genre would applaud.

Conceptual and voluptuous suite

“Clear the battlefield and let me see / all the benefit of our victory / You speak of freedom, hungry children fall / Are you deaf to hear the call of the end of the season?”, Says the lyrics of one of the sequences-parts of the theme “Tarkus”, which belong to Lake and where various elements are mixed, starting with the warlike one, present on the cover with the image of an armored armadillo (like a war tank), created by the cartoonist William Neal, whom At that time, several great bands were fighting for their occurrence to capture the spirit of the compositions.

The existential, guilt, religiosity and the search for the inner being to alleviate the effects of violence and wars are explicit themes in the lyric and the vocal passages give them the appropriate development. Has the dawn ever seen your eyes? / Have your days made you so stupid? / You’ve noticed it, it’s you ”, is sung in another passage where Lake’s guitar masterfully reveals psychedelic tones.

The idea of ​​the album’s concept becomes evident in this voluptuous suite, where at the end the initial section is taken up again to “close” the structure in a clear neoclassical sense. And yet so eclectic is the sound of Wisdom There is no shortage of Emerson’s pianolas, distinctive of his musical language, animating songs like “Bitches Crystal” or the fugitive phrases that later return to the road, all inventive of this enormous keyboardist.

A challenge over time

The influence of Johann Sebastian Bach is clearly outlined in “The Only Way (Hymn)”, in which Lake leads to sacred spaces while mentioning the Holocaust and asking to continue believing in humans.

Palmer’s towering drum set will have its star moment in “Infinite Space (Conclusion),” upon which Emerson looms majestically.

So Wisdom, which turns 50 years of its appearance these days, defies the passage of time with undeniable power and becomes one of his albums without which the history of symphonic rock would be something else.

The talent, versatility and portentous rhythmic display of three musicians at their best, which are resized with each new listening, count in its bill.