AMP 1995 / Esoteric 2014
Ecstatic and eclectic, Emerson emerges in eerily elegant position.
Unlike his sparring partner Greg Lake, the E of the most glorious prog trio has never been consistent on a solo front beyond his soundtrack work, and if Keith’s debut in his own right on 1981’s "Honky" seems conceptually hilarious, its follow-up, recorded more than a decade later, feels perplexing, genre-wise. Some of these pieces fell into place when ELP returned with “Black Moon” in 1992, before its prototype saw the light of day, but “Changing States,” laid down in Los Angeles with producer Kevin Gilbert, famous for his work with Michael Jackson and Sheryl Crow, lives up to its title by never staying in one place. The album’s titular mini-epic, familiar to many from the band’s version of it, arrives as “Another Frontier” here, yet stylistic lines are blurred now as well as the temporal ones.
As a result, ’80s hard rock of “The Band Keeps Playing” and “Shelter From The Rain” – featuring Marc Bonilla’s guitars and Gary Cirimelli’s voice alongside heavy Hammond and choir – comes on more bombastic than “Abaddon’s Bolero” performed with the London Philharmonic, dusted off from 1976’s tapes and given a tuba solo by Gilbert. Still, that’s the serious side of the album, which can’t be said of Keith treatment of two more classics: the cheesy synthetic reading of Prokofiev’s “Montagues And Capulets” and boppy piano jam around Gershwin’s “Summertime” that’s totally out of the record’s context – if there is one at all. Save for the title track, also orchestral in its scope of organs and pianos, Emerson’s melodic nous shines on the sensual “Ballade” whose acoustic ripple ELP stripped of the background electric ornament, and the keyboard wizard is in his heavy element on “The Church” where solemnity rips across the ivories and rocks abetted by Tim Pierce’s six strings.
For all its fine moments, “Changing States” simply doesn’t gel and looks like even its creator wasn’t so much interested in putting out the record straight away that remains a peculiar addition to the great artist’s catalogue, albeit mostly for completists, and a testament to the talent of Kevin Gilbert who died young soon after this work was released.