Saturday, March 3, 2012

Pavlov's Dog

In the continuing saga of preserving the forgotten classic rock bands of the 70's I offer a couple more that had albums out, but are never played anymore.

Pavlov's Dog

Great name and if their music was as great as their album covers they would be in the hall of fame.  They hailed from St Louis and originally signed to ABC/Dunhill but was traded over to Columbia for Poco as the legend goes.  Blue Oyster Cult producer Sandy Pearlman produced their two albums but the problem was David Surkamp's high octane vocals, which comes across as a blend of Geddy Lee and Tiny Tim.  Bob Dorr from his program played a track of the Pampered Menial album and this song is a perfect excuse why they were not for everybody.  At The Sound Of The Bell (1976) Pearlman and Murry Krugman toned down Surkamp's vocal  but it didn't sell and Columbia dropped them soon afterward.

Nevertheless, David Surkamp has continued to record under the Pavlov's Dog banner and his last album Echo & Boo came out last year. Somewhat more mellow but was is amazing is how Surkamp's vocals haven't changed all the years, it's more controlled and more streamlined.  Echo & Boo just might be the best Pavlov's Dog out there.  And Surkamp can still give Geddy Lee a run for the money with those vocals.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Emerson Lake & Palmer

Critics never liked them, the mainstream public looked at them as a cult band at best and Keith Emerson's Over The Top keyboard playing is the stuff of legends made.  All were accomplished players in the bands before ELP.  Greg Lake in King Crimson, Carl Palmer in Atomic Rooster or Crazy World Of Arthur Brown (That's him playing the drums on the hit Fire) and Keith Emerson playing in The Nice.

So when they got together to record their S/T album, they manage to score a hit with Lucky Man although in AM land they played it towards closing time before midnight.  But I didn't discover ELP till my dad came home with a bunch of 8 tracks he got a garage sale and Taukus and Trilogy were the two 8 tracks that was in the collection.  Even though their specialty was 10 to 20 minute epics, I actually enjoyed their throwaways more.  Living Sin and The Sheriff from Trilogy, Are You Ready Eddie and Bitches Crystal from Taukus.  The 20 minute side was a bit too boring for 12 year old ears but it's gotten better over the years.  They got another classic rock hit with From The Beginning and later Karn No. 9 from Brain Salad Surgery the next year.  Some consider that to be their best album.

Thoughout the years, ELP would tour, break up and tour again but the mid 70s wasn't too kind to them.  Critics slag their Works Volume 1 and I haven't heard that one but Works Volume 2 was better since it was a single album and had better outtakes but Rolling Stone didn't give it a very good review either.  Their worst album is Love Beach (1978) an album that even Greg Lake calls it uninspired and basically record label product.  And with that ELP took a leave of absence.  Lake went solo and made a couple decent albums for Chrysalis, Emerson toyed around in classical music and Carl Palmer joined up in Asia to which Greg Lake made a appearance in a 1982 show.   Keith Emerson rejoined Lake with Cozy Powell for a 1985 album for Polydor and it has its moments but a couple years later Emerson and Palmer recruited Robert Berry for the ELP sounding 3 which made a album for Geffen and sounds more pop than prog rock and had a minor hit with Talkin' Bout.

Greg Lake rejoined them on the up and coming prog rock (later punk label go figure) Victory Records for Black Moon and while reviews of this was mixed it was a improvement over Love Beach although it sounds more like an extension of what 3 would have sounded if you replace Berry with Lake. By then Lake's vocals were a little bit more shot although not as bad as Stephen Stills has been in years.  But Black Moon managed to get some airplay with the title track.  In The Hot Seat I haven't heard, I did read a good review about it but perhaps the strangest thing about that album is that Keith Olsen produces it.  Maybe I'll keep an eye open for it.

ELP is noted for their albums to be reissued over and over and after started out on Atlantic, Victory, Rhino and Shout Factory they have taken their catalog over to Razor & Tie for a fifth time.  I don't think you need to replace them if you have the Victory remasters, the sound is still pretty good (The Atlantic CDs are a bit more muddier sounding).  With Shout Factory, ELP did reissue some of classic concerts that they did, the best was the 1972 Live At Mar Y Sol Festival 1972 with a wild version of Rondo to conclude things but also a killer lead off with Hoedown, the Aaron Copeland number originally on Trilogy and the preferred version of the 20 minute Taukus driven by Palmer's amazing drumming.   With seven songs closing at 78 minutes it probably too long for the ADD crowd but this shows ELP was at top at their game.  For studio albums, the first four remain their highlight, I'd go with Trilogy myself in terms of being familiar with it.  Works Volume 2 showing their influences and what got them there and even though some of the stuff is strange you can at least sit through it better than Works Volume 1.  And Love Beach still remains a fucking mess 35 years after the fact.  At least Black Moon has enough going for it that you can listen to the whole thing.  The jury is still out on In The Hot Seat.

As for best ofs, no shortage of them although I'm thinking that the Razor & Tie is probably the better deal of the fact they stuck Peter Gunn on there.  The Shout Factory 2 Essential ELP goes all the way up to Black Moon but they leave Love Beach and In The Hot Seat to their own devices.   But then again if you really think about it, the 1985 record with Cozy Powell and later recordings shows them more in terms of MOR than prog rock. and opinions vary.  I still can't get into Love Beach but at least Black Moon or In The Hot Seat I can.

Buyer Beware, most of the ELP albums are out of print and sell for ridculously high prices via Amazon.  With Razor & Tie, they'll return the classic albums back into print for a few years before moving on to another label.  But the lesser albums still can be found for under 3 bucks if you look hard enough.  Or really looking for something to listen to outside of Lucky Man or Karn 9.