Sunday, September 2, 2018

3.2 - The Rules Have Changed

Rating: RRRR
Label: Frontiers 2018
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

ELP! ELP! HELP! To make a long story short(ish). U.S. musician Robert Berry (Alliance, Hush) got drafted by Keith Emerson (RIP) and Carl Palmer to work on the project of the late eighties. Carl didn't fancy ASIA anymore and Keith recorded one album as Emerson, Lake & Powell (drummer Cozy), and broke up shortly thereafter. Thus the idea of getting together as a new power-trio under the brilliant moniker of 3. They recorded 'To The Power Of Three', released worldwide by Geffen Records in 1988 and the first single 'Talkin' 'Bout' reached #9 on the Billboard charts.

Fast forward to 2015. Emerson listened to an upcoming 3 live album from their 1988 tour that was being released by the record company. Berry and Emerson got together again and Frontiers Records gave them a deal and complete artistic control over the material and recordings requesting only that it was a "3" record in the 80s style. The two wrote and collaborating long distance on music up until the tragic moment in Mars 2016 when Emerson decided to end his time here on earth. After months of grieving, Berry decided to resume work on the material that was created and craft a record that would ultimately be a fitting tribute to Keith Emerson’s musical legacy and at the same time re-energize and update the musical style started with 3 some 30 years ago. According to Berry. "The phrase ‘what would Keith do’ drove me, it guided me, it consumed my creativity". In other words. Keith is basically Jesus on this record and he's definitely turning water into wine as well as walking on water.

Some people think of this as Prog-Rock. Not entirely sure if I agree to 100%. This has also a lot in common with Symphonic Rock and the keyboard driven POMP/AOR which became popular in the early eighties. It's tons of dut-dut keys (fanfare) and the arrangements are overall a bit shorter and not quite as complex nor long as proper progressive work. Sure. You can still find the occasional old segment. The title track goes on forever, and both "Somebody's Watching" and "Your Mark On The World" takes you on a trip via all the different avenues of prog-land. However, the opening tracks are ever so radio friendly and more in the style of ASIA, Gowan, and obviously the 3 album. What's your definition of Prog? And what about Symphonic Rock? Pomp? Let's just type down that all mentioned genres/styles are included on this record.

Opener, "One By One", the grand piano intro based on a piece by Grieg, prior to the three headed beast known as Korg/Roland/Moog is unleashed and it's all very perky and Asia. The Berry/Emerson composition clocks in at +seven minutes and that's not shabby at all. "Powerful Man" goes straight to the heart with its fun and innocent eighties sound and the massive attack of fanfare keys. Really catchy, sunny, uplifting work by Berry and you can't help to grin along to the melody. Still got those innocent kid eyes. The title track is grand and epic and about losing someone and the disbelief in people being capable of ending their lives. "What You're Dreaming Now", originally intended for the the second 3 album and Emerson did the music with melody and lyric added by Berry 28 years later. Again. Those massive fanfare keys and I love the break-down. "This Letter", one of those songs that just as easily could have been the work of Todd Rundgren or Lawrence Gowan for that matter. Final verdict: 3.2 is definitely 4.0. It may well be the last compositions we'll ever hear by Emerson?

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