Prog rock star Carl Palmer makes an exhibition of himself in Ipswich

Emerson, Lake and Palmer star Carl Palmer talks touring and shares memories of his 40-year-plus career with MARTIN HUTCHINSON.

IN the 70s, when progressive rock was at its height, Emerson, Lake and Palmer were one of the genre’s leading exponents.

The combined talents of keyboard wizard Keith Emerson and the guitar virtuosity of Greg Lake was matched by the drumming excellence of Carl Palmer.

Albums like Brain Salad Surgery, Tarkus and Works Volumes One and Two ensured a steady stream of top-selling albums. While they weren’t known for their singles, Fanfare For The Common Man spent three months in the charts in 1977 and peaked at number two.

The trio have split and reconvened on numerous occasions and all have had glittering solo careers.

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Carl, who joined the band from Atomic Rooster after having been in The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, was a founder member of Asia with Yes’ Steve Howe, Geoff Downes and John Wetton.

This band still tours and records, but Carl has his own band who are undertaking a tour of the UK to celebrate the 40th anniversary of one of ELP’s greatest albums – Pictures At An Exhibition.

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When originally released in 1971 Pictures became the band’s third hit album, reaching number three in the charts – which at the time was unusual as it was a live album.

“I’ve always wanted to do this album,” Carl tells me. “It’s instrumental anyway.”

When originally performed, the trio recorded it using drums, guitar and keyboards. But Carl’s band doesn’t have a keyboard player, it’s just him with Paul Bielatowicz on guitar and bassist Simon Fitzpatrick.

“I’m not using keyboards or voice,” Carl says.

“But we can do it because in the last eight to ten years guitar techniques have come on in leaps and bounds.”

Carl adds that although he can play any style of music from rock to jazz, he doesn’t vary in style very much.

“Basically, I’ve been between two forms, prog rock and songs. Asia is a ‘songs’ band and although ELP was a prog rock band we did some good songs as well.”

Transposing the keyboard parts to guitar must have been difficult?

“Yes,” Carl agrees, “it’s very difficult to tell the truth. On a keyboard you can do harmonies, but on guitar there’s not as much.

“You have to be very particular and sit down with people who do this sort of thing for a living. In the end I was amazed at what they said could be done.

“Obviously I’ve had to lose things in the mix, but then again I also gained. Actually, it’s more rocky and less orchestral with a guitar.”

Carl’s interpretation of the album is already available as a download album.

Working Live Volume Three, he hopes will see a physical release.

“I would imagine that it’ll see a physical release in time, because it finishes off the box-set of three live instrumental albums.”

For those going to see Carl in concert, obviously the emphasis will be on Pictures; but he promises much more.

“We’ll have Tarkus, Bitches Crystal and Peter Gunn (both also on the download album) as well as Fanfare, Carmen Burana, Hoedown and Nut Rocker (which also ended the original album).”

His stellar career has lasted more than 40 years and when asked to pick the highlight he laughs and says, “The next gig.”

“It’s hard to say really,” he says.

“Possibly it could be the first time I played at Madison Square Gardens in 1972. It was the beginning of the really big success and it was the biggest gig I’d played at that time and,” Carl remembers, “I recall that it was the start of my sponsorship with Ludwig Drums.”

After the UK tour, Carl has planes for most of 2012, as he outlines.

“I’ve set January and February aside for recording a new studio album with Asia and we’ll be touring Japan and America next autumn.”

And that’s not all.

“From April to July I’ll be touring with my own band and we might be able to tour the UK again.”

The Carl Palmer Band will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of Pictures At An Exhibition at the Corn Exchange, Ipswich, on Saturday, December 3.

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