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KEITH EMERSON 'Hammer It Out - The Anthology'
Sanctuary CMEDD1111 (2CD)

One of rock and progressive rock’s most talented and influential, if self indulgent, pianists gets a full retrospective - and how due it is.

While many will think of Emerson, Lake and Palmer (with whom he had most success), Keith has had a long and varied career, and there’s a couple of tracks from each chapter.

It’ll be very easy to pick holes in the track listing, but many chapters do require full investigation in their own right - this is only a sampler.

Kicking off with what sound like home recordings, we get an idea of how both talented and flamboyant Emerson was at a young age (is it 12? These CDrs don’t tell you too much) and moving to The Nice (PP Arnold’s original backing band) we also get ‘America’. An obvious choice would have been ‘Rondo’ - their greatest track and one of the earliest prog tracks, sadly missing. Several solo and ELP tracks get an airing, including the excellent ‘Old Castle Blues Variations’ from Pictures At An Exhibition, and an excerpt from ‘Karn Evil 9’. ‘Fanfare’ is essential, as is ‘Barrel House Shakedown’ and the first solo hit ‘Honky Tonky Train Blues’. All here showcasing Keith’s piano rather than the relevant band’s best works.

Disc one closes with ELP’s live rendition of ‘Peter Gunn’ and the instrumental version (b-side) of ‘Up The Elephant And Round The Castle’ - the a-side a vocal collaboration with Jim Davidson.

Disc two leads off with some of the film score work Keith did on first really going solo in 1980. Inferno, Nighthawks, Best Regenge et al. Then on to the mid 80s and Emerson Lake & Powell; a great band and a great album, so why choose the b-side rendition of ‘Locomotion’? A genuine rarity but hardly the band’s or Keith’s best of the era. The Three project also gets a look in, followed by more solo work.

An interesting project, that does prove that each era does warrant individual investigation. A sampler with some odd choices but thoroughly enjoyable all the same. But a career like a Keith’s, 3 or 4 CDs would still only be a sampler.

Much of the non-ELP/Nice work is rare or non existent on CD, maybe that should be next, done properly in full?


Review by Joe Geesin

***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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