When I used to buy rock albums, my favorite band was Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. They were pioneers of what eventually came to be called Prog, or “Progressive Rock.” The idea was that they combined rock rhythms with classical structures–easy enough for them, since they were all classically trained musicians.
I quit listening to rock because I found that it both reflected and evoked my own worst sensibilities–and I don’t think that I’m unique in this respect. I saw in its musical language a rejection of the moral order of the universe, a rejection that I could not continue to cultivate as I came to increasingly conservative convictions. Imagine my surprise, therefore, to discover that one of my favorite conservative blogs has run a retrospective on Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. Here’s a bit of it:
What made ELP different from other rock groups was not that it was “progressive”—whatever that term might mean. Rather, it was that the members viewed their vocation as creating things of beauty. Such a motivation is a rare gift; to have it shared by three such brilliant musicians was a once in a generation gift for us all.
When I heard about Keith Emerson’s suicide last year, I went back and listened through ELP’s live album, “Welcome Back My Friends to the Show that Never Ends.” What surprised me most was how thin it all sounded. The three guys made plenty of noise, but after thirty-odd years it sounded like soup with too much water in it. Greg Lake’s voicing of the Blake/Parry “Jerusalem” was just awful, and I don’t recall that it was any better on “Brain Salad Surgery.” I can no longer imagine having to listen to a steady musical diet of this stuff.