On This Day (March 17)…Works the First

Emerson, Lake & Palmer released Works, Volume 1 on this day in 1977.

Album cover. Art direction was supervised by Ian Murray. Retrieved from here.

There’s a fair amount of ambiguity for the release of this album. I’ve seen a range of dates from March 17 to March 25. I have decided to go with the date Greg Lake gives in his autobiography, which is March 17.

This was the first album that ELP released since taking a hiatus beginning in the fall of 1974. The trio was thus no longer strictly used to working together, and were contemplating solo albums on their own. Instead of creating those albums, however, the trio instead each recorded a single side of an LP before coming together for a side of an LP. Much like the way the second side of their debut album featured a member of the group, this gave listeners a chance to experience the individuals behind the band.

A fourth player was also brought into the mix for this album, namely an orchestra. This was the first time ELP had brought in guest instrumentalists of any sort. Only one piece on the album was performed without an orchestra, “Fanfare for the Common Man.” Carl Palmer also brought in a few other rock artists for his side of the album, most notably Joe Walsh of the Eagles. Peter Sinfield was once again asked to collaborate on lyrics.

This album was also the first ELP studio album and second album overall not to be recorded in the band’s native England (the first being their live album Welcome Back My Friends, to the Show that Never Ends…Ladies and Gentlemen, Emerson, Lake & Palmer). The band were at the time tax exiles from England, so instead recorded the album in Montreux and Paris.

(As an interesting point of trivia, this is not the first album created by a pillar of this blog to be reportedly released in late March which was recorded in Montreux! That would be Machine Head by Deep Purple, also a first album not recorded in England.)

Greg Lake recalled in his autobiography that living in Montreux was very pleasant. Stewart Young in his eulogy for Lake said similarly that the two spent a good deal of time together during the sessions. At the time, his comments in interviews were a little less glowing, however. Keith Emerson, on the other hand, did not enjoy it in the least, according to his autobiography!

Reaction

The album received some positive reviews upon release. Perhaps the most shocking was Rolling Stone Magazine, which had not normally celebrated the band, calling the last side of the album some of their finest work. It was also a huge hit with listeners and purchasers; the album went gold in the US before the month of March was out! Furthermore, “Fanfare for the Common Man” was their highest-ever charting single, hitting #2 on the UK charts. It was their only top-ten single ever and spent 8 weeks in the top ten. The whole album hit top 20 in the US according to Billboard and hit top 10 in the UK. In Germany, it was the last ELP album to reach the top ten, peaking at #10 and charting for seven weeks total.

What do you think of this album?

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Post Sources

  • Edit on 2020-05-31: Added official release date as March 17.
  • Edit on 2021-01-23: Added German chart information.

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