Friday, January 6, 2017

Hippies vs. Punks: Keith Emerson Band / Münchner Rundfunkorchester Three Fates Project (2012)

One of the interesting things about the many "those who have passed" retrospectives that filled the newspapers at the end of the year was the absence of any mention of either Keith Emerson or Greg Lake, the 'E' and 'L' of ELP, Emerson Lake & Palmer, the Prog Rock super-group that came to define the bloated and doomed bombast of pop music in the 1970s that was such easy prey for the Punks.

Keith Emerson blew his brains out in March; Greg Lake succumbed to cancer last month. I only read one year-end round-up that granted the barest of mentions to these Prog Rock originators, William McDonald's "Among Deaths in 2016, a Heavy Toll in Pop Music":
Pop music figures fell all year, many of their voices still embedded in the nicked vinyl grooves of old records that a lot of people can’t bear to throw out. The roster included Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane; Keith Emerson and Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake and Palmer; Glenn Frey of the Eagles; and Maurice White of Earth, Wind & Fire.
Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen -- even George Michael -- were featured prominently in McDonald's piece. But at least Emerson and Lake were listed with a hyperlink to their obits.

I took the omission of Emerson and Lake as a telling bit of cultural forgetfulness. It is hard for people who didn't come of age in the 1970s to understand how huge Emerson, Lake & Palmer were. The band was the apotheosis of hugeness itself. Coming as they did right before Punk, blending Moog electronica with classical music and Carl Palmer's propulsive drumming -- all of which really hastened Punk's ascension -- ELP represents sort of a Francis Fukuyama "End of History" cultural signpost, a zenith of postwar amalgamation. The fact that this was nowhere on the radar as 2016 came to end should tell us something.

It tells us that the Punks, synonymous as they are with the installation of neoliberalism, have carried the day, have won the battle, have eclipsed the Hippies. The dialectic has been severed. As a society, we cannot fathom what the world looked like before 1977. We have not a clue what the aspirations of youth were prior to Never Mind the Bollocks (1977). We are floating on a cloud of nihilistic reaction. Things are going to have to continue to disintegrate before we can find a sustainable way forward.

There is a hip young man who works at my neighborhood comic shop. Simon is his name. Simon is also a DJ. When I am thinking about music I ask him his opinion. On Wednesday I asked him if he had heard that Greg Lake had died last month. He gave me a blank stare. I said, "Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake & Palmer." Simon said something to the effect that while some Prog Rock outfits have aged well, like King Crimson, ELP is not one of them.

At this point I could have said, "Well, Lake was a co-founder of King Crimson." But I didn't. Instead, like an affable buffoon, I replied, "I don't know. I have gone back recently and listened to some of those albums. They're really not that bad."

"Appropriately qualified," said Simon.

In any event, the point is that apex of popular Prog Rock is cut off from today's youth. The youth of today have no idea of what it was like to listen to Wendy Carlos' A Clockwork Orange (1972) or the soundtrack to Lina Wertmuller's Swept Away (1974). Even into the early 1980s I would put on Brain Salad Surgery (1973) when I needed a shot of testosterone to finish a column for the high school newspaper.

Testosterone is not an offering in Three Fates Project (2012). A lot of the time it sounds to me like John Tesh's Live at Red Rocks (1995), which is to say horrible. Three Fates Project is Keith Emerson's last studio album. It is not all bad. "Tarkus - Concertante" has its moments.

But it is not what it was.


  1. While I was not a full devotee of orch rock, or whatever they called it, I was mostly a rocker and would prefer Eddie Money's single version of "Get A Move On" over a lot of the stuff that they put out, there were some moments. I actually go back to The Nice, always loved the overdone version of Dylan's "She Belongs To Me" and "Azrael Revisited" (loved the weird timing, 5/4?, and the idea of a song about the Angel of Death). Then there were a couple of poppy songs by ELM that Lake sang, the one about having been meant to be here from the beginning and the one about the lucky man. When Lake died Janis Ian (yes, that one) mentioned on her Facebook account that she had met Lake and they had talked about writing together. Ponder that for awhile.

    My favorite super group that never quite got together was one where Stevie Winwood and Jimi Hendrix were talking about getting together with Arthur Lee of Love for something. That would have been after Blind Faith kicked it and WInwood was looking for someone to jam with. Love's original lineup was long-gone and Lee was trying to put other versions of Love together. And Hendrix was looking for a new project. Never happened, Hendrix died, and that was that. When Lake died I sent off for a used version of ELP's greatest hits so that I could listen to the forlorn whistly outro solo of "From The Beginning".


    Dmitri Alperovitch keeps showing up. The best I can find about his history is that he went to school at Georgia Tech and he's a Russian "ex-pat". He somehow appeared in the US, got a place on a Washington think tank and is fairly well ensconced with the ruling class. Keep an eye out for him. He also alleges that Fancy Bear is hacking the Ukrainian armed forces, somehow. Again, Ukraine. Keep an eye out.

  3. As Mark Farner once sang, barechested at the Fillmore East, "I'm getting closer to my home."

    Check this:

  4. Yes, the Ukraine connection does keep popping up. Alperovitch has been refuted by a guy by the name of Jeffrey Carr:

    "Not only did Crowdstrike choose to quote improbably high losses estimated by a Pro-Russia analyst, we know have confirmation from Ukraine’s MOD that (1) those figures were wrong, (2) Crowdstrike’s reason for the losses were wrong, and (3) Crowdstrike’s spread of false information caused harm.
    — — — — -
    "Crowdstrike’s latest report regarding Fancy Bear contains its most dramatic and controversial claim to date; that GRU-written mobile malware used by Ukrainian artillery soldiers contributed to massive artillery losses by the Ukrainian military. 'It’s pretty high confidence that Fancy Bear had to be in touch with the Russian military,' Dmitri Alperovich told Forbes. 'This is exactly what the mission is of the GRU.'
    "Crowdstrike’s core argument has three premises:
    Fancy Bear (APT28) is the exclusive developer and user of X-Agent Fancy Bear developed an X-Agent Android variant specifically to compromise an Android ballistic computing application called Попр-Д30.apk for the purpose of geolocating Ukrainian D-30 Howitzer artillery sites The D-30 Howitzers suffered 80% losses since the start of the war.
    If all of these premises were true, then Crowdstrike’s prior claim that Fancy Bear must be affiliated with the GRU would be substantially supported by this new finding. Dmitri referred to it in the PBS interview as “DNA evidence”.
    In fact, none of those premises are supported by the facts. This article is a summary of the evidence that I’ve gathered during hours of interviews and background research with Ukrainian hackers, soldiers, and an independent analysis of the malware by CrySys Lab. My complete findings will be presented in Washington D.C. next week on January 12th at Suits and Spooks.

  5. I've been trying to track down Alperovitch without much luck. He's described as an ex-pat and from Russia. His personal history is pretty empty going back past 2009 or so. I saw a mention of him the alumni section of a Georgia Tech magazine. Looks like he was in the class of 2003. He married a woman named Maureen Hinman who works for the government, and they went scuba diving on their honeymoon. Much before 2009 is a big question mark. His dad might be a Mikhail/Michael Alperovitch, a plastic surgeon. Or not. When a name starts popping up I try to find his background. It's surprising how many lone nuts have relatives in the intelligence community, for ex. But this guy is a mystery.

  6. He was born in 1980 in Moscow, moving with his family to the U.S. in 1995.

  7. What the Atlantic Council is: