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The Top Keith Emerson Tracks Of All Time

The readers of Prog magazine voted for their favourite Keith Emerson tracks, and the musicians of the prog world explain why they love these songs.

To find out the top Keith Emerson tracks of all time, Prog turned to you, the readers. The following list was voted for by you, while the great and the good of progressive music pick their faves from the list and explain just what makes them so special...

TAKE A PEBBLE

“This is one of most outrageous pieces of piano extemporisations from Keith. Some very jazz-influenced moments, complete with his experimental piano doctoring [strumming the strings] and an avant-garde approach that was previously unheard of on a rock album or stage. This track clearly shows that the man was capable of anything, and it goes without saying he was an enormous influence on me and a whole legion of other keyboard players.” – GEOFF DOWNES

PIRATES

Pirates is one of the best matches of rock and classical. It also shows how much Keith was influenced by American 20th century classical music. The chords and use of harmony is very similar to Aaron Copland. It’s a massive influence, as I love the more cinematic side of rock music, and you can almost see the visuals. Keith’s playing is also outrageous, and he makes it all look so effortless.” – ROB REED

PIANO CONCERTO NO. 1

“Tragically, the only thing wrong with Piano Concerto No. 1 was its timing. I truly don’t think the progressive rock market was ready for it, and the classical market certainly wasn’t. Had this fine work appeared in the last few years, I am positive it would have been wonderfully received by both camps, which in recent years have done much to merge. Piano Concerto No. 1 is a fine piece of work, written by a man who knew exactly what he wanted to do and, more importantly, had the talent to do it. If you haven’t heard this, then make the effort. You won’t regret it.” – RICK WAKEMAN

THE BARBARIAN

“What made The Barbarian such a milestone was that it was the opening piece on the debut ELP album, and it really typified much of what Keith was about: incorporating the classics in with original composition and the contemporary styles of music. It was, to my knowledge, the first time Bartok was ever employed in a rock’n’roll environment. You had this gutsy and gritty Hammond organ tone announcing itself like Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze, and then proceeding to unapologetically stride down the thoroughfare knocking over anyone and everyone that got in its way – bowling over street merchants, scattering the livestock and making women take their children off the streets. Then he comes in with Bartok’s Allegro Barbaro and silences all sceptics as to the facility and abilities of the keyboard player.” – MARC BONILLA

KARN EVIL 9

“For me, Karl Evil 9 represents ELP at their most over-the-top and ‘show-offy’. I love the big rocking synth solos and the energy of the piece. Those immortal words, ‘Welcome back my friends, to the show that never ends…’, represented Johnny Rotten and punk’s worst nightmare. And delighted all prog fans!” – MARK KELLY

PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION

“Keith Emerson shocked me as a teenager with his virtuoso prowess and stage presence. After hearing Pictures At An Exhibition, I took the record to school to play to my music teacher. She was the first one to tell me that this was progressive rock. My world was never the same again.” – NICK BEGGS

HOEDOWN

“What intrigued me as a kid when I first heard ELP’s Hoedown was how they translated Aaron Copland’s classical piece Rodeo into such a gritty rock instrumental. The sound of Keith’s Moog intro and dirty Hammond organ cut through with the type of bite and excitement you only get from blending classical with rock.” – DAVE KERZNER

TRILOGY

“I absolutely love Trilogy by ELP, and it’s possibly my favourite ELP song. Keith’s piano playing in those first two- and-a-half minutes is nothing short of astounding, and Greg’s voice is sublime. A unique track. I love it.” – LEE POMEROY

TARKUS

“When a rock musician wants to create a heavy sound on their instrument, we usually tend to go for barre chords
on a guitar or heavy fifths on a distorted organ. When I heard Tarkus, what blew me away was the power and the originality of Emerson’s harmonic concept. Here we had a keyboardist speaking in a language largely based on suspended chords, and intervals based on stacking fourths. The balance of that harmonic language with all the intricate rhythmic structure, along with the beauty of Greg Lake’s melodic moments, created one of my all time favourite pieces.” – JORDAN RUDESS

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