(All Album Reviews by Octavio Trimmingham)
As you hear the fade-in opening of “Tarkus” for the first time, you wonder just when and how that first explosive chord is going to hit you. When it finally does kick in, you realize it didn’t hit that hard at all, but rather smooth and transitional. Similar to a B-1 bomber making a smooth, yet booming landing on an imaginary airstrip between your ears. Emerson’s anabolic steroid popping moogs, organs tend to instigate this type of imagery…with me at least. Being ELP’s sophmore effort, Tarkus was a bit more ambitious an album than their self-titled debut release.
The side long track "Tarkus" would also be their first concept piece to be put on record. It is a strange and interesting tale, in multiple parts, that stars a mutated creature that is part armadillo and part tank. It tells of the creature’s journey from birth (Eruption) to who knows where (Aquatarkus) and all it’s struggles in between (Manticore, Battlefield, etc.). This ominous creature also graces the album cover along with the carnage he leaves in the wake of his fantastic, musically narrated journey.
The second side of the album seems a bit rushed and less refined. It is a hit or miss proposition as the side unfolds and doesn’t balance well with the first side. Of the six tracks found on this side, half are very good. My choice for best track would be “The Only Way (Hymn)” which features Keith playing his part on a magnificent pipe organ in St. Mark’s church (wherever that might be). “Infinite Space (Conclusion)”, a piano driven instrumental, and “A Time and a Place” come in second and third place respectively.
The remaining tracks; “Jeremy Bender”, “Bitches Crystal” and the humorous “Are You Ready Eddy” are kinda forgettable and I see them more as filler than anything else. Regardless of the sketchy second side, this album is a must have just for the title track alone. “Tarkus” makes up for the minor shortcomings found on the latter park of this album.
The Silent Man
(All Album Reviews by The Silent Man)
Ah yes, one of the touchstones of classic 70s progressive rock. This was the album that introduced me to the world of prog, back when I was 13 and heard it for the first time, and I still maintain it's ELP's finest album. However, I do differ from the general tide of opinion on it in a few ways.
The received wisdom seems to be that this album consists of a flawless first (original) side, consisting entirely of the title track, with the remainder being something of a patchy collection at best. In my opinion, while the Tarkus 'suite' itself is superb, it is flawed. For a start, I always had a problem with "Aquatarkus". It might have worked OK live, but for me the track really should finish with the end of the magnificent "Battlefield", or possibly with just the (annoyingly uncredited) reprise of "Eruption". "Aquatarkus" just destroys the carefully built up atmosphere of the piece for me. The other small thing which has always frustrated me is the majestic full band intro to "Stones Of Years", which then drops as the subdued verse begins, and never really returns in all its power - it's a great section, but I think it could have been more.
As for the rest of the album, I personally don't think there's a poor song (well, OK there's "Are You Ready Eddy", but it's fun...). "Jeremy Bender" I always quite enjoyed - it's the only ELP 'comedy song' that I like, as I don't much care for "The Sheriff", and "Benny The Bouncer" is quite horrible. "Bitches Crystal" which follows is a marvelous track, by turns delicate and brutally powerful, as is "A Time And A Place", with again a great, heavy chorus. "The Only Way / Infinite Space" seems to be a contentious piece, with many people having a problem with the clichéd 'Six Million Jews' section, but I think it works very effectively, with the echo applied to the vocals in that verse making it scarily effective on headphones.
Overall, as I said, a great album fully deserving its reputation. I just think there's so much more to Tarkus than "Tarkus"...
(All Album Reviews by flutie479)
thoughts: militant men turning into half machine
religious undertones condoning war vs. letting nature take its course
Taken as a conceptual piece, I'm going to give my personal analysis on some of these things. Whereas I can be a pedantic literalist, there's also a side of me willing to reach out and embrace theories.
What we start off with here is a sort of land over sea theory. Volcanic rock, let's thing about its makeup. Stones become heated volcanic liquid rock. Eruption, okay, something is born from this, so now we must backtrack into the stones of years. There is rock that still remains mountainous, will not budge. Watching this sort of frame-by-frame accompaniment, we get a bird's eye view of the inside of the mountain. The song “Stones of Years”, then, logically becomes this sort of dichotomous dilemma where the dialog starts. The mountain is sort of asking the question about which is which. In “Stones of Years”, the questions posed seem to come from within; and those two spinning disconnected entities flying attached by a filament over the top of this structure below are analogous to the factions within. Is anybody following me here or am I taking it too far?
Stones of Years
Has the dawn ever seen your eyes
Have the days made you so unwise
Realize, you are
Had you talked to the winds of time
Then you'd know how the waters rhyme
Taste of wine
How can you know where you've been
in time you'll see the sign
and realize your sin
Will you know how the seed is sown
All your time has been overgrown
Have you walked on the stones of years
When you speak is it you that hears
Are your ears full
You can't hear anything at all
where the victims
were the blades of grass and arrows rain
Then there'd be no sorrow, be no pain
Taking the pictures, as strange as they are, and trying to come up with what is really intended, is indeed a bigger question than answer session as far as I can tell. Nevertheless, I like this album in that it stretches the boundaries into the imaginative and leaves it somewhere farfetched enough that being right isn't really a question.