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Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Tarkus (2021 Record Store Day 50th Anniversary Edition Vinyl Picture Disc)

Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Tarkus (2021 Record Store Day 50th Anniversary Edition Vinyl Picture Disc)

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Upon its original release Tarkus went straight to No. 1 in the UK and No. 9 in the US, and is still considered to be one of ELP's finest albums to this day. Featured are a wide variety of musical styles from honky tonk (Jeremy Bender) to 50s rock 'n' roll (Are You Ready Eddy?). Of course, it also contains plenty of solid progressive rock and the conceptual masterpiece that is Tarkus.

Tarkus was released on 14 June 1971 in the UK on Island Records, appearing two months later in the US by Atlantic Records' subsidiary label Cotillion Records. It is one of only two ELP studio albums to reach the Top 10 in the United States, making it to No. 9, while in Britain it is their only No. 1 album. Additionally, Tarkus spent a total of 17 weeks in the UK Albums Chart.

Side One of the original album is taken up by Tarkus, a 20-minute piece in seven parts written by Emerson, with Lake credited for the Battlefield section and contributions to Stones of Years and Mass. The track was written in six days and the band rehearsed it for another six, after which they put it to tape. Lake said the song is about 'the futility of conflict, expressed in this context in terms of soldiers and war — but it's broader than that. The words are about revolution, the revolution that's gone, that has happened. Where has it got anybody? Nowhere.' He went on to describe the track, which opens 'in frustration' with the Eruption section, an instrumental in a 5/4 time signature which he considered a frustrating meter. The lyrical songs that follow concern 'the hypocrisy of it all' and noted the closing march at the end 'a joke'.

Side Two features a series of shorter numbers unrelated to the conceptual title track. The Only Way (Hymn) contains themes from Toccata and Fugue in F major, BWV 540 and Prelude and Fugue VI, BWV 851 by Bach. Although not credited, the music to Are You Ready, Eddy? was largely inspired by Bobby Troup's 1956 song The Girl Can't Help It. Emerson refers to the track as 'an impromptu jam' played in celebration of completing work on Tarkus.

The cover image of a giant armadillo on tank treads was created by William Neal and has become an iconic image in progressive rock. Emerson said, 'To everyone, it represented what we were doing in that studio. The next day on my drive up from Sussex the imagery of the armadillo kept hitting me. It had to have a name. Something guttural. It had to begin with the letter 'T' and end with a flourish. Tarka the Otter may have come into it, but this armadillo needed a science fiction kind of name that represented Charles Darwin's theory of evolution in reverse. Some mutilation of the species caused by radiation… "Tarkus!"'


Track Listing 

Side One

  1. Eruption              
  2. Stones of Years
  3. Iconoclast           
  4. Mass    
  5. Manticore          
  6. Battlefield          
  7. Aquatarkus 

Side Two    

  1. Jeremy Bender
  2. Bitches Crystal
  3. The Only Way (Hymn)
  4. Infinite Space (Conclusion)
  5. A Time and a Place
  6. Are You Ready Eddy?
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