In 2008 Keith Emerson, keyboarder of the famous prog rock trio Emerson, Lake & Palmer, surprised everyone with the release of his new solo album under the name Keith Emerson Band after years without any new music. The main studio band consisted of Gregg Bissonette on drums, Bob Birch on bass and Emerson’s long-time guitar player and singer Marc Bonilla.
Just like in the early days of ELP the first 15 tracks more or less form a 35 minute long concept piece called ‘The House Of Ocean Born Mary’. It starts off with the soundscape ‘Ignition’ and the short recurring church organ interlude ‘1st Presence’. But the first notes of the first actual song ‘Last Horizon’ already make clear who is playing: this is Emerson’s typical Hammond organ sound. The addition of different synthesizer and guitar sounds as the song progresses make this track very interesting but it gets even better with the following ‘Miles Away Pt. 1’ which almost sounds like a Porcupine Tree ballad. The interplay between piano and electric guitar is really great but the song sadly is only two minutes long. It segues directly into the much faster second part which finally features the complete band. ‘Crusaders Cross’ and ‘Fugue’ are variations of this second part. Here the band shows what they are capable of but the abrupt ending sounds like slamming on the brakes. A longer jam would have been better and much more interesting.
After the very short ‘2nd Presence’ the band delivers ‘Marche Train’, a typical rock song with catchy melodies, but it’s getting better with Emerson’s Hammond solo and synthesizer fanfares. Sadly it fades out and ‘Blue Inferno’ follows. The title almost says it all: this is Emerson’s luckily short tribute to the infamous 80’s Adult-Oriented Rock with pumping beats and rather cheesy synthesizer sounds. ‘3rd Presence’ finally gives these church organ interludes a sense of being because it is worked out to a longer track now and sounds very good. The following ‘Prelude To A Hope’ is a beautiful piano ballad without the band. The added synthesizer sounds in the background create a haunting atmosphere as well as the great piano melody itself.
After a pause follows ‘A Place To Hide’, a powerful ballad, again with synthesizer fanfares. But much better is the third part of ‘Miles Away’, this time with fantastic synthesizer and guitar interplay. The instrumental ‘Finale’, starting anthem-like (and almost pathetic), gets very interesting after Bissonette’s drum solo as the band jumps through different styles and exchange interesting riffs – just to return to the opening sequence and bring the song to an end in a pompous way.
The major problem of this concept piece is that it doesn’t work as a whole. All the abrupt endings and pauses between most of the songs split it into several parts which are too different from each other to be considered as one piece.
The other songs of the album are mixed in their quality with the piano- and guitar-driven Ginastera adaption ‘Malambo’ being best and the honky-tonk ditty ‘Gametime’ being best considered as a musical joke. Somewhere in-between are the mediocre rocker ‘The Art Of Falling Down’ and the powerful ballad ‘The Parting’ which ends with the sounds of the album’s opener ‘Ignition’, creating a musical circle.
With this album Keith Emerson shows that he can still create good music although some songs are too simple for a man of his abilities. He could have done much more despite the fact that he certainly has great moments on this album.