The Ron Kane Files

Writing About Music

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


3-7-06 Tarkus

TARKUS MANTICORE DE 258.171 CD 1971 13 TRKS 2nd album, original German issue
TARKUS ISLAND DE 85 527 IT LP 1971 13 TRKS 2nd album, original German issue
TARKUS JVC JPN VICP-5443 CD 1971 13 TRKS kami sleeve ('94 issue) sticker

I have listened to Emerson, Lake & Palmer on and off for 35+ years. My initial interest came about as they were signed to Island Records in EnglandKing Crimson’s label. In fact, I knew that Greg Lake had been in King Crimson, as a bass player / singer. Certainly, I was less informed as to where both Carl Palmer and Keith Emerson had come from (Atomic Rooster and The Nice, respectively).

Probably, the first ELP item I ever got was the Ampex 8-track tape for the Cotillion Records issue of their 2nd album, “Tarkus”. It remains my favorite ELP album. Of course, the 8-track tape had weird fades (for the ‘track’ changes), so I didn’t hear an uninterrupted version of Side One of the album until I found an inexpensive used US copy some months later. It took me a few years (and label changes for ELP) for me to find an original Island copy, albeit a German copy. I sold my Cotillion copy as soon as I found an “import” version – nicer pressing, better colors on the cover etc.

Side One still sounds pretty good – carrying on from their wonderful debut album for Island Records – very well written and played. What is it about? Some of Side Two sounds like filler to me – some good songs, but…some ‘less good’ songs too.

I found my first CD of “Tarkus” on a visit to Singapore in the late 80’s – unbelievably, it was on the Manticore label (ELP’s own label) via Ariola / BMG Germany – in southeast Asia, no less! Perhaps this was before there was a US version available? The sound of the disc is kind of ‘hissy’, but it’s all there – those bass pedals, those screechingly high synthesizer parts. I recently obtained a Japanese “little paper album cover” of “Tarkus”, issued in 1994 by JVC / Victory. For some reason, it has a (slightly) longer running time than the German Manticore CD! Rhino US has also issued a CD…

I still go back to the debut ELP album every now and again – but “Tarkus” (Side One, anyway) is where I will actually sit through a whole album-side of them. After “Tarkus”, I instantly bought an Island copy of their next release, “Pictures At An Exhibition” – but I never really made it all the way to “Trilogy”. I never got the chance to see them perform live – but I suspect that they didn’t get to L.A. until long after my interest had waned.

I returned to the ELP fold for “Brain Salad Surgery” – hey, Pete Sinfield of King Crimson was involved! But that was it. Once all of their LP’s made it to the $1 bin, I bought everything...and, yes, “Love Beach” is as icky as it’s ‘reputation’. I’ve done a few of the solo projects – “1PM” (Carl Palmer), some Greg Lake (hard rock) solo albums, some Keith Emerson soundtracks…but give me the first two ELP albums, and I’ll be happy.

I hope I can find a “little paper album cover” of the first ELP album when I go to Japan!


Anonymous Jim Donato said...

Re: ELP/Tarkus

It's a fascinating example of how one's taste change, sometimes dramatically, that for a year or two in the late 70s, ELP were IT for me. I had every album [except "Tarkus!"] and listened to them constantly - until New Wave happened. I think it was for me a case just like members of the Human League. They'd buy ELP albums the day of release just to hear the latest out of Bob Moog's labs, not out of any love of the music. As one of the League said "we'd listen to these ELP albums which were awful, just for a synth solo or two!" My mom really hated ELP. "Longhair music," she called it. My mom much preferred it when I moved to Blondie & The Cramps. Looking back, she had good taste! Now I really find it hard to listen to ELP. Even their "classic," "Brain Salad Surgery." I keep a copy of that to hear the almost-Crinson-in-its-intensity "Toccata" every year or so. I also like "Trilogy" and wouldn't turn down a free copy of the first one, though it's been a LONG time since I've heard it. I never owned "Tarkus" so naturally, I'm not that familiar with it. I sort of like the idea of being devoted to a band but keeping one album of their discography unheard. There's more than one instance where I've done that and though this is never planned in stone, it appeals to me when it happens.

8:36 AM  
Blogger Ron Kane said...

I have often left an album side along for 2 or 3 decades, waiting to be surprised - as in, this is a great album, let's only play Side One. Side One will be enough. Then, 25 years later, you have a whole new neat experience waiting for you.

As with much material of this nature, I "finished" with it very early - never making it all the way to "Trilogy" - only ever did the first 3 x Black Sabbaths, the first 4 (or 5) Jethro Tull albums etc.

8:51 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home