Saturday, March 12, 2016

RIP Keith Emerson: Take A Pebble

The musical world is reeling over yesterday’s untimely death of Keith Emerson from an apparent suicide. This great talent is now only with us through his recordings. My connection to Emerson came from my first hearing “Lucky Man” in 1970 on the radio and the band’s first two albums at my brother’s house in Lexington, Kentucky during the summer of 1971. Being a high school student on a limited budget, I settled for the “Lucky Man” single. The next year, I received as a gift “Five Bridges” by Emerson’s previous band – The Nice and purchased ELP’s single “From the Beginning.”

I had the opportunity to see ELP in concert during their “Works” tour on May 28, 1977 at the old Charleston, WV Civic Center. It was originally to be one of two consecutive shows in Cincinnati, but the first show was cancelled and Charleston became the venue for the 28th. Since it was a smaller hall than most of their shows that tour, there was no orchestra – just Emerson, Lake, and Palmer.

The Charleston show was festival seating and I sat down front and was quickly amazed at the pyrotechnics of Keith Emerson’s playing. Not only was he a fantastic musician, he was quite the showman. He attacked his keyboards with vigor – especially his Hammond organ – which he pulled down on himself several times during the night – never missing a note. He also used daggers to hold the keys down to create a drone sound.

A friend of mine who worked in a record store in Huntington, WV saw the Charleston show as well as the Cincinnati show on May 29 with the orchestra. She admitted the Charleston show was much more interesting. I know I enjoyed myself immensely.

To remember this great musician, I selected a song that features Keith Emerson on piano. Not only does it show his classical and jazz chops, he strums the grand piano in a prepared fashion twice during the tune. “Take a Pebble” is the second and longest cut on their debut album. This is one of my favorite album cuts by ELP.

Long live the music of the master of the keyboards: Keith Emerson.

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