Our top 10 Emerson Lake & Palmer album list looks back at the music of one of the great English progressive rock bands of the classic rock era. If you were a rock and roll fan in the 1970s, there were a handful of bands that you bought every album from. Bands like Led Zeppelin, Yes, Pink Floyd, Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Genesis, and the great Emerson Lake & Palmer. These were the classic bands that everybody listened to everyday. Each one of those bands were unique in their own way. Emerson Lake & Palmer was no exception. The band had their own distinct sound fueled by the incredible piano playing and keyboard playing of Keith Emerson who took the Moog Synthesizer to a place that had not been done before. Of course the band was also fueled by the mighty virtuoso drum playing of Carl Palmer and the wonderful vocals, bass playing, and guitar playing of Greg Lake. Three brilliant musicians at the top of their game delivered seven legendary albums from 1970 to 1977 that we present here on our Emerson Lake and Palmer albums list. We have also included the latter albums to present a complete discography.
# 10 – Love Beach
We open up our Emerson Lake & Palmer albums ranked list with the band’s seventh album entitled Love Beach. The album was released on November 18th 1978. When Emerson Lake & Palmer fans first saw the album cover, their jaws dropped in disbelief saying “are you kidding me?” The group looked like a disco band, like they were trying to imitate the Bee Gees on the cover. I mean we all knew the Bee Gees were pretty popular in 1978 even though most of us hated them because we were rock heads, but come on guys, what kind of cover was this? Furthermore, what kind of album title was this. To the band’s credit they weren’t too happy with the album title either, but they were forced by the record company. Talk about record company executives just not getting it. Sadly, it didn’t get much better when we placed that vinyl on the record. And we will leave it at that. This is one you might want to skip.
# 9 – In The Hot Seat
Continuing with our Emerson Lake & Palmer albums list we turn to to the band’s final studio album entitled In The Hot Seat. It’s sad that the band left off with this album. Outside of Love Beach it’s their weakest record. Even the band admitted it, with one of the members calling the album them “simply dreadful.” When Emerson Lake & Palmer start covering Bob Dylan songs you know it’s time to move on. The album was released on September 27th 1994.
# 8 – Black Moon
Black Moon stands as the final good Emerson Lake & Palmer album. It’s not their best of course, but still it’s a good record, or we should say CD because I don’t think this was ever released on vinyl. It still doesn’t compare to any of their 1970s works but it was still nice to have a new Emerson Lake & Palmer album in the 1990s. Ten new recordings all of them being under 6 and a half minutes for the most part. No extended jams or any of that fun Emerson Lake & Palmer stuff.
# 7 – Works Volume 2
Emerson Lake & Palmer’s Works Volume II was the follow-up album to Works Volume 1. Which sort of makes sense I guess. Not as brilliant as Works Volume 1 but still a nice LP that was more of an outtakes or unreleased songs album then the new material that was presented on Works Volume 1. It was nice to get a version of Greg Lake’s “I Believe In Father Christmas,” along with the great opening track “Tiger In A Spotlight.” It was also enjoyable to hear Keith Emerson perform Scott Joplin’s legendary piano piece “Maple Leaf Rag.”
# 6 – Works Volume 1
Okay now we’re talkin! Emerson Lake and Palmer released a two record set entitled Works Vol 1 on March 17th 1977. The album was housed in a beautiful triple gatefold jacket. It was a spectacular package. The album was also followed up by a tour which employed an 80 piece orchestra that was simply mind blowing. I actually traded my second night of Led Zeppelin tickets to see this show. Side one of the Works Vol 1 album was dedicated to Keith Emerson’s Piano Concerto Number 1. Side two of the album was filled with Greg Lake songs and performances. Side three of the album was all Carl Palmer songs and performances. However, the highlight of the album was the record’s final side in which the band delivered a stunning performance of Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare For The Common Man,” and a great new original piece called “Pirates.”
# 5 – Pictures at an Exhibition
At the halfway point on our Emerson Lake & Palmer albums list we present some of the most legendary Emerson Lake & Palmer albums. It really doesn’t matter what order we put them in from this point on, because they’re all just stunning progressive rock records. Pictures at an Exhibition was actually a live album released in November of 1971. It was the band’s modern day progressive rock performance of the Modest Mussorgsky epic classical work “Pictures at an Exhibition.” There was probably no other keyboard player in rock and roll the time with the exception of Rick Wakeman of Yes that could have pulled this one off.
# 4 – Emerson, Lake & Palmer
In the number four spot on our top 10 Emerson Lake & Palmer albums list we present the band’s debut album simply titled Emerson Lake & Palmer. The album was released on November 20th 1970. This was a groundbreaking album because nobody sounded like this in rock and roll music at the time. Progressive rock was pretty popular at the time but there was no trio bands that starred a keyboardist that played like Keith Emerson. The album’s opener “The Barbarian,” which was a Bela Bartok piece just blew our minds within the first minute. Some of us had known Keith Emerson from The Nice, but many did not.
The album was loaded with more recordings that would become Emerson Lake & Palmer staples such as the Greg Lake composition “Take A Pebble,” and the super instrumental “Tank.” Of course the album’s big hit single was the track “Lucky Man.” It was a rare piece of progressive rock music that charted on the US Billboard Hot 100 similar to the success that Yes had with “Roundabout.”
# 3 – Tarkus
I never met an Emerson Lake & Palmer fan that didn’t love the album Tarkus. This was an amazing progressive rock record that stands as the band’s second album release. It was a huge commercial success as the album went all the way to number one in the United Kingdom. Tarkus was also a top ten hit in the United States peaking at number nine on the US Billboard top 200 albums charts. The album’s first side was filled by the work “Tarkus.” A 20-minute wonderful progressive rock composition written by Keith Emerson and Greg Lake. Side Two was filled with individual pieces written by all three members of the band.
# 2 – Brain Salad Surgery
Every rock and roll fan I knew in the 1970s had Emerson Lake and Palmer’s album Brain Salad Surgery in that collection. What a cool cover it had. This amazing album was released on November 19th 1973 in the United Kingdom and on January 4th 1974 in the United States. The album hit number two in the United Kingdom while also being a top 20 hit in the US. None of that really mattered. All that mattered was the great music contained within the album starting with “Jerusalem,” on side one, followed by “Tocatta,” and then on to the great single “Still You Turn Me On,” sung in most haunting fashion by Greg Lake. Then it was time for the album’s glorious gems the “Karn Evil 9 Impressions.” “Welcome back my friends, to the show that never ends…….”
# 1 – Trilogy
We close out our top 10 Emerson Lake and Palmer albums list with the band’s famous album Trilogy. The Trilogy album was the group’s third studio album release. It was released on July 6th 1972. The album was recorded in London. Trilogy would become one of the band’s masterpieces from both a critical view, fan acceptance and chart success. Trilogy went all the way to number two in the United Kingdom on the UK album charts. Trilogy hit the number five spot on the US Billboard top 200 album charts in 1972. There were a lot of great records coming out at the time so the chart success that the band celebrated was mighty impressive.
Standout tracks on the album included “The Endless Enigma (Part One)” and “The Endless Enigma (Part Two)” the hit single “From The Beginning,” written by Greg Lake, and of course the smoking instrumental cover version of Aaron Copland’s “Hoedown.” Trilogy stands as one of the truly great progressive rock albums of the 1970s and probably the best place to start in exploring the music of Emerson Lake & Palmer.
Top 10 Emerson Lake & Palmer Albums article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
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