Cherry Red 2015
Not-so-humble origins of prog rock’s premier ivories-abuser who used to swing with a furious grace.
Well-known for his sharp attack on various wired keyboards, Keith Emerson had developed a softer touch long before his grand piano was airborne at the ELP shows. This band’s trad jazz leanings – and those of THE NICE, too – paled in comparison with the Englishman’s earlier trio, though.
In 1963, at the very start of British pop era, Keith and his friends set up in Emerson’s parents’ house in Worthing to record the gist of their live repertoire and transfer it to acetate. Each player got a copy, yet they cut an additional one which disappeared. Now. having resurfaced five decades later and made it to the hands of a collector who sought out the artist’s permission, these seven tracks are reaching much wider audience than the ensemble could ever hope for.
The trio considered themselves serious musicians, while conceding to dance fads of the period with youthful exuberance on the two original tunes on offer: the good-rockin’ “Winkle Picker Stamp” and the even brisker “56 Blues.” So while Keith runs for a bit of Oscar Peterson-like bebop bursts in the unhurried “Soul Station,” there’s some infectious boogie in Emerson’s juke-joint arrangement of “You Say You Care” where Godfrey Sheppard applies a bow to his bass as if to contrast the dexterous fingers on the ivories. Still, “There Will Never Be Another You” is both deft and deep in its elegiac playfulness, one becoming clear once David Keene’s drums start to propel the tune towards climactic finale.
As a result, this fortuitous find appears to be more than a curio and a missing puzzle piece in the career of art-rock giant: it’s a pleasant slab of history.