Greg Lake discusses one-off Emerson Lake and Powell album: ‘It wasn’t ELP anymore’

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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 Greg 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,” Greg Lake says in an exclusive Something Else! 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.”

Carl 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.”

The Emerson Lake and Powell 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 Greg 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.”

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

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, 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 U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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  • Mason Leightle

    The Score was a brilliant return to form, as left with Works Pirates and Fanfare, it’s too bad this was the end of anything interesting from any version of ELP. Black Moon and In the Hot Seat might have been better left unreleased

    • Chip D

      Are you KIDDING? Black Moon was and is still a great album! I was blown away at how good every track sounds. It was a great comeback for ELP. Too bad you can’t appreciate it for what it is…

  • Rob Leder

    I like the ELPowell album a lot, in fact from start to finish I think it’s the strongest post-Brain Salad Surgery album the ELP camp would ever produce. Overall, it was a great modernization of the classic ELP style to fit the ’80s, my only quibbles are that the sound is somewhat sterile and there is an ever-so-slight ’80s-style cheesiness that creeps in from time-to-time (unlike with, say, Rush’s Power Windows or Yes’ 90125). Still, Side 1 (to use the old-fashioned parlance of vinyl & cassettes; the tracks are The Score / Learning to Fly / The Miracle) is splendid, almost coming across like a single extended composition, and chock full of those heroic Elgar-esque melodies that Emerson is famous for. Side 2 has got the obligatory Lake ballad (Farewell to Arms), classical piece (Holst’s Mars), and jazz/blues piano tune (Step Aside), none of which disappoint. Throw in a couple of pretty good ’80s pop tunes (Touch and Go, Love Blind) and you’ve got a great “Indian Summer” album from an old prog rock band that everyone assumed to be a decade past it’s sell-by date.

    • Mike Johnson

      I tend to agree – ELPowell is probably the best and most cohesive album by ELP since BSS. The only thing missing is the classic Lake guitar driven ballad- (Farewell to Arms is on Black Moon) – Ive actually inserted Slave to Love from Greg’s Maneuvers album although I think KE would hav edoen a much better arrangement- BM was an ok album- some great tracks but I prefer KE’s version of Closed to Home and why they didn’t use the Church from his solo album is beyond me- much better than Better days-

      • Rob Leder

        Oh you’re right! Lay Down Your Guns is the song I was thinking of. It’s a very good ballad, but true, Lake’s acoustic guitar is notably absent from the album, a definite deviation from the classic ELP pattern.

        • Rob Leder

          Just wanted to add that it’s so sad, with the loss of Keith & Greg last year, that the entire lineup of Emerson Lake & Powell is dead at this point (Carl Palmer is still alive, and still touring the music of ELP in fact). Off the top of my head, I can’t think of another band from the rock era that this is true of…

  • JW Rocque

    “The Score” seemed to be very much a contrived “Karn Evil 9 first impression, part 2” revival. And nowhere as good as the 1973 masterpiece.