One Track Mind: Carl Palmer, “Fanfare/Drum Solo” (2004; 2011 reissue)

This tune begins, in its familiar way, with a soaring keyboard signature we’ve all come to associate so fully with Keith Emerson’s opening of Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,” as interpreted in 1977 by Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

But then the Carl Palmer Band, led by the drummer from that concept-rock trio, goes into a new place … and it’s loud. No, not loud. Make that furiously, bashingly, skull-crackingly loud — a place that trades out soaring synthesizers with a heavy guitar grind. It’s not beyond the elastic definition of progressive music, which certainly has its harder edges these days, but a surprise to anyone looking for the more classically tinged stylings of the band Palmer first came to fame with. (Not to mention his more pop-oriented fare with Asia in the decade that followed.)

Instead, “Fanfare” — and all of Working Live Volumes 1-2, reissued last week by Eagle Records — tears its way along a more adventurous thoroughfare. Guitarist Shaun Baxter and bassist Dave Marks provide these rambustious, pulsing interjections, shattering the fragile boundaries of ELP original remake — and that’s all before Palmer takes a set-closing turn, beginning almost six minutes in.

[SOMETHING ELSE! FEATURED ARTIST: Reliving a few of our favorite moments by Emerson Lake and Palmer from ‘Trilogy,’ ‘Tarkus,’ ‘Black Moon’ and others.]

The Drum Solo, of course, has become almost synonymous with the overblown pretentions of ’70s rock and, on first blush, this rambling, audience-propelled moment might seem like another example. Until Marks, who continues along in a hard-edged funky path, is joined by a series of soaring and then jagged and then perfectly manic interjections from Baxter.

Now, make no mistake: Palmer unfurls his own series of machine-gunned taps and thwacks, sticking his way from one end of what must be a panoramic kit to the other. But, as they do throughout this muscular, surprisingly vital update of an age-old ELP track, the Carl Palmer Band finds a way to make it all sound compelling again.

This new version of “Fanfare for the Common Man” is not the only track from Emerson Lake and Palmer’s 1977 release Works to be remade in the early part of the last decade by the Carl Palmer Band. The Palmer group’s 2003 project Working Love Vol. 1 also included “The Enemy God Dances with the Black Spirits,” a Prokofiev excerpt; “L.A. Nights,” originally featuring a guest turn by the Eagles’ Joe Walsh; and “Tank,” which had itself be reimagined for Works from ELP’s eponymous debut. “Bullfrog” from Works Volume II was included on Palmer’s Working Live Vol. 1, while “Hoedown – yet another Copland composition, the time originally included ELP’s Trilogy from 1972 – can be found along with “Fanfare” on the Carl Palmer Band’s Working Live Vol. 2.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso