‘It wasn’t ELP anymore': Greg Lake on a one-off experiment called Emerson Lake and Powell

Released in June of 1986, Emerson Lake and Powell represented a brawny, 1980s-era update of the old ELP sound — courtesy in part of a different drummer whose name also happened to begin with P.

Seems Carl Palmer, co-founder with Greg Lake and Keith Emerson of Emerson Lake and Palmer, became unavailable due to contractual obligations with his other band Asia — even as Emerson and Lake felt the creative itch. E and L chose not to wait for the first P. There followed a quick series of auditions before the late, well-respected sideman Cozy Powell (a longtime friend of Emerson’s who worked with Jeff Beck, Black Sabbath and Brian May, among others) was brought on board.

To that point, ELP had been dormant since 1978’s lightly regarded Love Beach. Couple that with the way Emerson Lake and Powell neatly mimicked the new-wave pop-prog sound of contemporaries like Yes and Genesis, and the resulting album soared to No. 23 on the Billboard charts — the highest Lake and Emerson had risen since 1977’s Works Volume 1, and higher than any subsequent Emerson Lake and Palmer project. “From the Beginning,” the original ELP’s 1972 hit, was the only song to chart higher than Emerson Lake and Powell’s “Touch and Go” — which remains a part of Lake’s solo setlists.

And yet, some reservations remain about this particular side road. “Cozy was great. When he joined the band, it was very, very nice,” Lake tells us, in an exclusive SER Sitdown. “He’s a great player, and a lovely guy. But the strange thing was, it wasn’t ELP anymore. The chemistry was different. Not necessarily bad, but just different. There’s something that Carl brought to the band which made ELP.”

Palmer, perhaps unsurprisingly, has also taken a dim view of the Other ELP, saying: “The way I looked at it was that they were promoting my back catalog. I let them use the logo and didn’t stop them doing anything, but I thought it was a little petty that they couldn’t wait.”

This amalgam only lasted for one album, though the music template largely remained in place when the original members of ELP convened for the 1992 reunion project Black Moon. For Lake, the sense of homecoming was palpable.

“You know when you mix chemicals together in a chemistry class,” Lake tells us, “you put two or three together and nothing happens. Put the next one in, and the whole thing froths. That’s a bit like ELP. Carl Palmer is very effervescent. It wasn’t so much that there was a good drummer and a bad drummer. It was that Carl’s personality was so energetic, and ELP missed that ingredient. It had been based around that chemistry. When that chemistry changed, you had another band actually. It was a good band. But it was a different band from that which the public had made popular. And that made for a fracturing of continuity.”

Palmer later formed the band 3 with Emerson and Robert Berry, while Powell tragically died following a car crash in 1998. Two archival albums focusing on rehearsals and a live concert from Emerson Lake and Palmer followed in 2003.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock 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! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.
Nick DeRiso