Emerson, Lake and Powell

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Emerson, Lake and PowellEmerson, Lake & Powell was a quasi-supergroup which existed in the mid-1980s and released a singular, self-titled studio album. The trio was two-thirds of the 1970s group Emerson, Lake & Palmer with drummer Cozy Powell replacing Carl Palmer, who was contractually obligated to his own 80s supergroup, Asia. While this 1986 album contained some elements of the prog-rock compositions of years past, there is no doubt that this is a product of its time with heavy use of digital synths and a slick production style.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer was very successful in the early 1970s but as the decade wore on, the group began to burn out. With the group committed to record one more studio album, they released the forgettable Love Beach in late 1978 and ultimately disbanded by early 1979. Both keyboardist Keith Emerson and guitarist/bassist/vocalist Greg Lake started solo careers, with Emerson also becoming involved with several film soundtracks in the early 1980s. Palmer went on to form a band called PM, before ultimately joining Asia, which reached incredible mainstream fame with their 1982 debut album. Powell was a strong veteran on the music scene, playing with acts like Jeff Beck and Rainbow as well as a longtime friend of Emerson’s. Despite the coincidence, the group insists that they weren’t looking for a drummer whose surname start with a ‘P’, in order to retain the initials ‘ELP’.

Recorded in England in 1985 and early 1986, Emerson, Lake and Powell was produced by Lake and engineer Tony Taverner. Beyond the eight tracks of the original 1986 album, these sessions produced two further tracks that would be featured on later album issues. A unique instrumental jam rendition of the Goffin/King pop hit “The Loco-Motion” was an obvious attempt at some radio notoriety, while “Vacant Possession” is a decent, melancholy pop ballad surprisingly left off the album proper.

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Emerson, Lake & Powell by Emerson, Lake & Powell
Released: May 26, 1986 (Polydor)
Produced by: Tony Taverner & Greg Lake
Recorded: Maison Rouge, London & Fleetwood Mobile, Sussex, 1985-1986
Side One Side Two
The Score
Learning to Fly
The Miracle
Touch and Go
Love Blind
Step Aside
Lay Down Your Guns
Mars, the Bringer of War
Group Musicians
Greg Lake – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Bass
Keith Emerson – Keyboards
Cozy Powell – Drums & Percussion

The album begins with its longest track, “The Score”, featuring Emerson’s fanfare boards and animated rudiments by Powell during extended, nearly four-minute-long intro. When Lake’s vocals finally enter mid-song, it is clear that this track is a sequel to earlier work with the refrain “Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends”, famously lifted from the opening line of “Karn Evil 9: First Impression, Part 2” from their 1973 Emerson, Lake and Palmer album Brain Salad Surgery, as well as the title to the subsequent 1974 live album from that album’s tour.

“Learning to Fly” is more in line with a mid-eighties pop song, driven by synth motifs, steady bass and simple drum rhythms with little to no guitar. Still, this is not an unpleasant listen with good melodies by Lake as he delivers a slightly profound lyric. “The Miracle” is a long, narrative-fueld song with a dramatic, doomy entrance which lifts a bit during the refrain sections. Later, the song settles into a steady rhythm for the middle bridge section of this seven-minute tune.

Emerson, Lake and Powell

The album’s second side features more standard length, pop-oriented tracks, starting with the album’s only single, “Touch and Go”. Here we have catchy intro and interlude synths broken by verses driven by Lake’s melodic vocals. “Love Blind” sounds more like a soundtrack montage than a standard song, albeit Powell’s drumming is fine throughout, while “Step Aside” offers a cool break and true highlight of this second side, as a unique jazzy piano tune where all three members work the vibe well with Emerson leading the way. After the forgettable “Lay Down Your Guns”, the trio cleanse their palate of sappiness with a jam of the dramatic classical movement, “Mars, the Bringer of War”, a song Lake performed with King Crimson a decade and a half earlier.

After a short tour to support the album, Emerson, Lake & Powell disbanded as quickly as they formed. In 1992 the original ELP lineup reformed with Palmer for the album Black Moon, an album with a similar style to this Emerson, Lake & Powell album. Powell tragically lost his life in a 1998 car accident, forever sealing this mid-eighties confluence as a one time occurrence.

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1986 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration anniversary of 1986 albums.

 

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Rainbow Rising

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Rainbow RisingRainbow returned with a revamped lineup and fresh approach for the group’s second studio album, Rising. The record is comprised of six solid compositions which are comparable to the material the band had done before with dynamic and tight performances. The quintet started as a project by former Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore after he departed from that group because he was unhappy with the stylistic direction of the group on their 1974 albums, which drifted towards funk rock and away from the band’s signature hard rock.

Blackmore established Rainbow when he joined with the American rock band, Elf, in 1975. Blackmore wanted to record some material that was rejected by Deep Purple members and he enlisted Elf vocalist Ronnie James Dio who in turn suggested his band mates to back up on the recordings. Soon, this project turned into the album Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, with the album name (and ultimately the band name) inspired by the famous Rainbow Bar and Grill in Hollywood, CA. However, Blackmore was unhappy about the live performances of many in the Elf line-up and he fired everybody except Dio.

Keyboardist Tony Carey, bassist Jimmy Bain, and drummer Cozy Powell were recruited to complete this second incarnation of Rainbow. Further, Blackmore began constructing interesting chord progressions, inspired by his new found interest in playing cello and composing material with Dio supplying mythical lyrics. Rising was recorded in less than month in Munich, Germany with producer Martin Birch in early 1976.

 

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Rising by Rainbow
Released: May 17, 1976 (Polydor)
Produced by: Martin Birch
Recorded: Musicland Studios, Munich, Germany, February 1976
Side One Side Two
Tarot Woman
Run with the Wolf
Starstruck
Do You Close Your Eyes
Stargazer
Light In the Black
Primary Musicians
Ronnie James Dio – Lead Vocals
Ritchie Blackmore – Guitars
Tony Carey – Keyboards
Jimmy Bain – Bass
Cozy Powell – Drums

 

From the jump, the sound of this album features sonic elements which are beyond its time. “Tarot Woman” starts with a long, wild synth intro by Carey, which sets a dramatic stage before Blackmore’s guitar riff gradually fades into the song proper. This opening track has a definitive Deep Purple quality especially during Blackmore’s soaring guitar lead. “Run with the Wolf” settles into a more conventional rock sound, still employing dramatic and satisfying overtones, but much more compact and succinct in its delivery.

“Starstruck” follows as the best overall rocker on the first side, based on classic heavy blues rock constructs and the rollicking rhythms by Bain and Powell and an excited melody by Dio, whose vocals soar and shout with great emotion. The most ordinary song on the album, “Do You Close Your Eyes” is a pretty standard hard rock song in the vein of mid seventies contemporaries like Kiss, and it does suffer slightly from compositional underdevelopment and sonic overproduction.

rainbow in 1976

The album’s second side features two extended tracks, each with a duration of over eight minutes. “Stargazer” is the epic track from Rising, starting with an interesting and inventive drum intro and working its way through several slow but powerful sections, with potent lead vocals by Dio and fantastic lead trade-offs by Blackmore and Carey. The song features mystical lyrics which tell the fable of a wizard who builds a tower from which to fly only for him to fall and die like any mortal man and includes a contribution by the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra. The rudiment-filled hard rocker “A Light in the Black” completes the album and sets a template for the future sounds of groups like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. This closer is highlighted by an incredible instrumental section with multiple keyboard and guitar leads.

Rising did well on the UK charts but not quite as well in the US. However, the influence of this album would reverberate for decades and it is considered by many to be Rainbow’s best overall album. Rainbow continued with several more albums through various lineups in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The biggest change occurred when Dio left Rainbow in 1979, briefly replacing Ozzy Osbourne in Black Sabbath shortly afterwards. Ultimately, Blackmore would rejoin the classic Deep Purple lineup for the 1984 album Perfect Strangers and Rainbow disbanded in April of that year.

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1976 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1976 albums.

 

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Slide It In by Whitesnake

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Slide It In by WhitesnakeWhitesnake made its first real splash with the release of their sixth album, Slide It In in 1984. Although the album was far from a blockbuster hit, a second version of the album finally established Whitesnake in America and set the stage for greater future success. Under the tutelage of producer Martin Birch, the group found the perfect sound for the mid-eighties hard rock audience. However, this pivotal album for the band was actually constructed during a time of shifting personnel for Whitesnake, with lineup shifts around founder and front man David Coverdale before, during, and after the record’s production.

In 1978, Coverdale founded Whitesnake as a solo project following his brief gig as Deep Purple’s lead vocalist. The new band’s earliest sound utilized some of the blues-rock basics of British groups years earlier. Joining Coverdale in this new band was fellow Deep Purple member Jon Lord on keyboards, guitarist Micky Moody, and a rotating rhythm section. Whitesnake’s first four albums did well in the UK but failed to make any waves in the US. In 1981 guitarist Mel Galley, who had spent a dozen years with the band Trapeze, became the group’s second guitarist and was on board for the recording of the 1982 release Saints and Sinners, the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful album to date.

First recorded in late 1983, Slide It In cam out as two distinct mixes, each with differing personnel. After the group’s new American label Geffen objected to the “flat sounding” mix on the UK release, Coverdale fired Moody and bassist Colin Hodgkinson and had their parts re-recorded by new members John Sykes and Neil Murray respectively, before the entire album was re-mixed and re-sequenced for a U.S. release. While the newer mix was sonically superior overall, some fans lament that it diminishes the presence of Lord’s keyboards and the overall bass guitar.


Slide It In by Whitesnake
Released: January 1984 (Geffen)
Produced by: Martin Birch
Recorded: 1983
Side One Side Two
Slide It In
Slow and Easy
Love Ain’t No Stranger
All or Nothing
Gambler
Guilty of Love
Hungry for Love
Give Me More Time
Spit It Out
Standing In the Shadow
Group Musicians
David Coverdale – Lead Vocals
Mel Galley – Guitars, Vocals
Jon Lord – Keyboards
Neil Murray – Bass
Cozy Powell Drums

An AC/DC inspired riff and beat on the opening title song is contrasted by Coverdale’s distinctly non-AC/DC vocals on this track of rock raunch to the core with not-so-subtle lyrics. “Slide It In” is really an entertaining and melodic musical showcase with a good guitar lead by Moody under an alternate chord structure. Co-written by Moody, “Slow an’ Easy” is a track of pure rock drama, slowly unfolding with every note, breath, and rudimentary beat. Built on a diverse collection of guitar motifs, the track takes nearly two and a half minutes until it finally gets to the hook, which contains claps and chants, perfectly setting it up for future arena shows. Held together by Powell’s precise drumming, once fully realized this song never relents from its drive, which helped propel the song into the Top 20 of the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart.

Next up in the parade of classic rock gems is “Love Ain’t No Stranger”, which starts with long synths accompanied by an acoustic guitar, before ultimately kicking into a steady rocker, While there are no real “power ballads” on Slide It In, the short intro verses on this track may be as close as the group gets. “All or Nothing” is pure hard rock in the spirit of groups like Rainbow, solidly built on a heavy metal riff by Galley with dramatic vocal wails by Coverdale and a consistent jam drive throughout. The fine first side closes with “Gambler”, which may be the perfect Whitesnake song as a moody track with rotating riffs and great keys. Vocally, Coverdale shows much range within each verse, while the lead section contains back-to-back solos by Lord and Galley, continuing the great hard rock parade.

Whitesnake in 1984

Unfortunately, the second side is not as potent as the first. It starts with “Guilty of Love”, an upbeat rock song which was the first recorded for the album and released as a single in mid 1983. With this, the song was the only one produced by Eddie Kramer. The similarly titled “Hungry for Love” is slightly better than its predecessor due to a better rock jam by the musicians and cool bluesy riff lines by Galley and Murray. “Give Me More Time” is very melodic and well put together and sounds like it should have been a hit song. Constructed in pristine fashion from verse to pre-chorus to chorus, with a great lead section that contains a harmonized lead by Galley over wild drumming by Powell.

“Spit It Out” continues where the previous song left off, but with the sharp return to sexual gratuitousness. Still, the song is solid musically with nice mid-section built on a rapid hi-hat beat by Powell and slight guitar strumming by Galley before it explodes back for the guitar lead. The album concludes with the apt, steady, and slightly dark rocker, “Standing In the Shadow”. While the track pales in comparison to songs earlier on the album, it is probably the best of Coverdale’s several solo compositions on the album.

Slide It In did squeak into the Top 40 in America, while reaching the Top 10 in the UK, eventually reaching double platinum in sales. However, the personnel shifts continued as Lord joined a reunited Deep Purple and Powell joined the revamped super group Emerson, Lake, and Powell. Coverdale and Sykes later composed and recorded the blockbuster 1987 album Whitesnake, but Coverdale then fired the entire band for the more “photogenic” younger group that appeared in all the late eighties videos.

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1984 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1984 albums.

 

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