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Emerson, Keith: Emerson Plays Emerson

With Keith Emerson sadly leaving us last year, it's easy to fondly conjure images of him stabbing Hammond organs as he ruthlessly swayed them back and forth, or indeed to remember the sounds of him duelling and jousting against the guitar of Greg Lake and drums of Carl Palmer. Initially released in 2002 Emerson Plays Emerson revealed a completely different and much more personal side to the man's undoubted talent. Almost exclusively finding him sitting behind his grand piano, this reissue, which comes fulling endorsed by the Emerson family, shelves the pomp and ceremony of ELP for a much less bombastic, if still proud and expansive approach.

The likes of "Creole Blues", "Close To Home" and "Honky Tonk Train Blues" were all previously interpreted by ELP or on Emerson solo releases. Here the former two are refashioned into stand alone pieces; "Close To Home" a live take that adds atmospheric synth backdrops, whereas "Honky Tonk..." finds Emerson on the Oscar Peterson BBC television show as the duo square off with a sparky duel that proves a disc highlight. As does the closing "Medley", this wonderfully scratchy recording revealing the talents of the 14 year old Emerson as he quite seamlessly blended "Nicola", "Silver Shoes" and "I'll See You In My Dreams".

Elsewhere much of the rest of the album can be described more in terms of mood than song, the short piano pieces doing a wonderful job of conveying emotions. "Vagrant" is an ode to the unusual places the man and his piano found themselves over the years, while "Solitudinous" is a word Emerson made up to describe his mind-set as he composed the piece. It also describes the emotion it conveys perfectly. "Blade Of Grass" is the capturing of a moment of contemplation after a minor disaster struck, while "Interlude" is, well, exactly that. We also get the trad blues of "Roll' n Jelly", the jazz of "B&W Blues" where drums and bass interpret Emerson's original composition and "Ballad For A Common Man" because, well, 'we've all heard the fanfares!'

Repackaged with it's original multi-lingual booklet where every track is described by Emerson, this is an engaging album that, in truth, will never be a constant companion. This is mood music, crafted and performed with real skill and passion. It won't suit every occasion, but it will be the perfect catalyst when you want to reset your day and contemplate. That in itself is a rarity to be cherished.


Track Listing
1. VAGRANT
2. CREOLE DANCE
3. SOLITUDINOUS
4. BROKEN BOUGH
5. A CAJUN ALLEY
6. PRELUDE TO CANDICE
7. A BLADE OF GRASS
8. OUTGOING TIDE
9. SUMMERTIME
10. INTERLUDE
11. ROLL'N JELLY
12. B&W BLUES
13. FOR KEVIN
14. THE DREAMER
15. HAMMER IT OUT
16. BALLAD FOR A COMMON MAN
17. BARRELHOUSE SHAKEDOWN
18. NILU'S DREAM
19. SOULSCAPES
20. CLOSER TO HOME
21. HONKY TONK TRAIN BLUES
22. MEDLEY: NICOLA/SILVER SHOES/I'LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS

Added: May 14th 2018
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Score:
Related Link: Emerson Plays Emerson at Cherry Red
Hits: 561
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Emerson, Keith: Emerson Plays Emerson
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2018-05-15 02:51:11
My Score:

The late Keith Emerson needs no introduction in these pages. Keyboardist for The Nice, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Emerson, Lake & Powell and solo artist, his playing has spoken volumes for decades, until his tragic passing in 2016. Really, Emerson has to be considered to be one of the best rock keyboardists that has ever lived and if you, dear reader, consider him to be the best, who am I to argue.

It has been well published Emerson suffered from nerve damage in his hands and by the end of the ‘90s his playing was greatly affected by this condition. In the early 2000s he started to regain the use of his hands and in 2002 released a solo album titled Emerson Plays Emerson. Emerson’s estate has spearheaded the rerelease, fully remastered and I have to say it sounds really good although not having heard the original release I cannot make a comparison in terms of sound quality.

What is evident here is just how versatile Emerson was. In essence, this is Emerson unplugged as the album features mostly just him and his grand piano as he delves into different genres like jazz, pop, honky tonk and classical. This is Emerson at his most vulnerable and raw, stripped of the electronics that made him a world renowned phenom. This is as far as you can get from the bombast of ELP and Emerson pulls it off without a hitch. It is a wonder how he creates so many different moods with just one instrument. He was such a dynamic player as this album reveals through twenty tracks, mostly originals with a few notable exceptions.

The opening track “Vagrant” is a little jazzy, delivered in a slow and languid pace with a beautiful melody. “Creole Dance”, originally written by Alberto Ginastera, is a most rousing performance featuring vibrant piano work. More beautiful moments, made all the more poignant given the circumstances, include the wistful “Solitudinous” and the pretty classically inspired piece “Prelude To Candice”. Sandwiched between is the honky tonk feel good track “A Cajun Alley”, offering a lighter moment upon which to savour. The next two tracks are excellent as well; the jazzy “A Blade Of Grass” and a reimagining of the Gershwin classic “Summertime”, the first track to feature Mike Barsimanto (drums) and Jerry Watts (bass). Emerson’s piano playing in “The Dreamer”, written for the film Best Revenge is absolutely gorgeous while his playing is at a feverish pitch in the intense “Hammer It Out”. Another highlight has to be “Honky Tonk Train Blues” where both Emerson and Oscar Peterson tickle the ivories making for a rollicking good time.

If you are an Emerson fan and didn’t get around to this album the first time around it’s never too late to listen to one of the all time greats.




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