Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Power of Three

Keith Emerson and his many Moogs. What's amazing is all the sounds he has hooked up there can be done by one keyboard now. Progress!

In the 1980's, one of the 70's bands that had the hardest time reuniting was prog rock masters Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Which was funny, because there were only three of them. At the start of the decade, famed keyboardist Keith Emerson was doing movie soundtracks like Sylvester Stallone's Nighthawks. Hard to believe now, but there used to be disputes between rock fans on who was faster, Emerson or Rick Wakeman of Yes. In 1982, drummer Carl Palmer joined Asia and in 1983 was followed by bassist/vocalist Greg Lake. Then Lake left and teamed up with Keith Emerson to reunite ELP. But Carl Palmer stuck with Asia, so the duo recruited journeyman drummer Cozy Powell (said by many to be selected for his last initial though he is an excellent drummer). After a tour, Lake left again leaving ELP defunct.

Carl Palmer left Asia and decided it was his turn to hang with old pal Emerson again. Yet these two would not be content to rehash and update prog glories like Emerson, Lake & Powell did. They brought in singer / guitarist Robert Berry who brought a distinct pop rock flavor with him. I guess since EBP didn't have the same ring, the trio put their heads together for a group name that would be almost as impressive: Three. Oh wait, not even spelled out just the numeric 3.

3 released their one CD in 1987 and became a dorm room favorite for me and my roommate even if it wasn't that great of an album. The songwriting was kinda generic and unless you were a die hard prog fan you had to have patience to wait for the dynamic solos Emerson and Palmer hammered out. Trying too hard for an Asia or Yes style crossover onto the Pop charts was a long shot at best. But that wasn't going to stop them from trying!

Me being a die hard fan I liked the CD for what I could get out of it. Still, all this time I had no idea there was a video made for the single "Talkin' Bout". That's the beauty of You Tube, stuff you missed two decades ago you can see with a mouse click. This unintentionally silly video shows how wrongheaded the concept was from the giddy up. Straight up pop rock plastered with synthesizer heavy instrumental interludes should call for visuals that are slightly epic and fanciful. Instead, 3 does a heavy metal video with huge platform staging, unmotivated swinging spotlights over a darkened room and the leather clad babe background singers from Motley Crue's "Wildside" clip. You say you can't replicate the excitement of heavy metal poser shredding guitarists with no guitar solos? Watch Keith Emerson play synth solos on keyboards hanging way over his head! Watch those fingers fly. That's excitement!

Anywho, 3 didn't add up for the public preventing the band from multiplying and leaving them with the square root of jack. Recording an abysmal cover of The Byrds' "Eight Miles High" didn't help things either (Why did a prog band cover a vocal harmony song? What were they thinking?). After 3, the world would have to wait a few years for a legit ELP reunion.

3 "Talkin' Bout"


Anonymous said...

Not totally accurate. In the photo, Keith is pictured in front of his Korg synthesizers. He switched over and started working with Korg in the late 70s. He has since returned to his original giant Moog modular synth.

Mr. Mike said...

Cool! I can't pretend I knew the difference, when I see old keyboards with wires coming out I just think "Moog". Good catch.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the old Korg and Moog analog synths didn't look entirely dissimiliar. Here is some more info on his use of Korg instruments. And he still used them today, along with Moog and other keyboard vendors.

Mr. Mike said...

Thanks for the link, I enjoyed the article!