THE MU­SI­CAL BOX

Com­plet­ing a cir­cle that be­gan 30 years ago with the Emer­son, Berry and Palmer project 3, Robert Berry brings his late band­mate’s ideas and ar­range­ments into the light.

Prog - - Contents - Words: Philip Wild­ing Il­lus­tra­tion: Stu­art Bri­ers

Robert Berry’s new take on work with Keith Emer­son for 3.2 takes cen­tre stage, along­side re­views from Be­tween The Buried And Me, Mar­il­lion, Roger Eno, Nik Turner & Youth, Clan­nad and more.

Keith Emer­son re­mains strangely pro­lific for a man who died in 2016. To para­phrase the song: death brings many changes, while an artist’s death brings deluxe reis­sues and un­earthed demos. There’s no deny­ing the power of Emer­son’s mu­sic or the rea­sons why it should echo through his­tory. That said, no one needs an­other edi­tion of Tarkus be­cause some­one at the record la­bel thought to re­mas­ter it and add an es­say that has about as much worth as a Wikipedia en­try. You might think it’s akin to danc­ing on a dead man’s grave. And you’d be right.

The orig­i­nal 3 al­bum, To The Power Of

Three, fea­tur­ing Emer­son, Carl Palmer and Robert Berry, was forged in the twin flames of cre­ativ­ity and op­por­tu­nity in 1988 when mar­ket­ing was still con­sid­ered an art form.

It’s fair to say that ELP were breath­ing hard at that point, still strug­gling, even 10 years later, in the shadow of the cum­ber­some Love Beach, while 1992’s re­demp­tive Black Moon seemed an im­pos­si­bly long way off.

It’s not hard to un­der­stand what they were think­ing. Palmer’s other project, Asia, had burned briefly but brightly, espe­cially in the USA where they turned plat­inum with what seemed like in­de­cent haste. An­other Asia alum­nus, in the shape of Steve Howe, had also trou­bled the Bill­board charts when he teamed up with Steve Hack­ett for their GTR band that turned over a sur­prise smash in the shape of When The Heart Rules The Mind. Pop prog – it re­ally was a thing. Well, for a lit­tle while.

In an age when the Gef­fen la­bel was adopt­ing a scat­ter­gun ap­proach to A&R that was more rem­i­nis­cent of a chef throw­ing spaghetti at a wall to see what sticks than a con­sid­ered strat­egy of re­lease sched­ules and ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paigns, it was no sur­prise that this take on the su­per­group was snapped up al­most in­stantly. It paid div­i­dends, too: the al­bum charted and the sin­gle, Talkin’ Bout, went into the Top 10. And then, as quickly as they ap­peared, and with Emer­son un­happy at the di­rec­tion Gef­fen were push­ing the band in, they folded like a cheap deckchair in a storm. But, sur­pris­ingly, not be­fore Emer­son and Berry had al­ready started writ­ing new ma­te­rial for the fol­low‑up record.

In the au­tumn of 2015, Keith Emer­son and Robert Berry (who had re­worked some of those un­heard songs for his Pil­grim­age

To A Point al­bum) be­gan talk­ing again, and re­hash­ing the mu­si­cal ideas from what must have seemed like an­other time. Old cas­settes were un­earthed, and new pi­ano parts recorded and ex­changed via email in a flurry of re­newed en­ergy and ac­tiv­ity. And then, like all the best‑laid plans, fate in­ter­vened and Emer­son was gone just six months later.

It’s un­clear what hap­pened in the in­ter­ven­ing two years, Berry’s in­dus­tri­ous en­deav­our not­with­stand­ing, but 3.2 sounds like it could have landed in, say,

1989. And we mean that in the kind­est way: 3 should have been on tour with Asia, criss‑cross­ing the globe, Palmer rush­ing from one drum kit to the next.

It’s a glo­ri­ous racket, pomp, prog and AOR col­lid­ing in a fizzing dis­play that wants to be both a pop hit and the jump­ing‑off point for an­other Emer­son solo spot. Case in point, the lush‑sound­ing Some­body’s Watch­ing, which could have sat quite com­fort­ably on the St. Elmo’s Fire soundtrack un­til the key­board line pops up and Berry recre­ates a dex­ter­ous and dizzy­ing Emer­son solo that sounds like it would have en­com­passed ev­ery key­board he’s ever owned.

Opener One By One, which goes rat­tling by to be­lie its er­ratic seven min­utes, puts Emer­son’s del­i­cate pi­ano ar­range­ment front and cen­tre, open­ing on a tan­ta­lis­ing, al­most lan­guid note be­fore a rich, dense

AOR hook, a baf­fling synth solo and then some beau­ti­fully un­der­played, loose jazz riff. Berry re­ally does a great job of cap­tur­ing his band­mate’s spirit – it makes you re­flect, sadly, that he’s no longer here to dizzy our senses.

What You’re Dreamin’ Now is a rel­a­tively scant four min­utes of rolling pi­ano and stabs of dense syn­the­siser that, sound‑wise, is rem­i­nis­cent of the pal­ette Rush were us­ing on their Hold Your Fire al­bum, with Berry’s rous­ing, rau­cous vo­cal mak­ing it sound like Gra­ham Bon­net jam­ming with Rick Wakeman. If they’d man­aged to place it in a film mon­tage at the time, it would have sold enough copies to have bought them all sec­ond homes.

The whole thing’s tinged with sad­ness that Emer­son never got to re­alise this record when he was alive, but glory in the mo­ment in­stead, that time­less snap­shot of Emer­son with­out lim­its, zigzag­ging through life.

Pomp, prog and AOR col­lid­ing in a fizzing dis­play that’s both pop hit and

Emer­son solo spot.

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