Three Fates Project

Keith Emerson Band

Varese Sarabande, 2012

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


What’s most surprising about Three Fates Project is that it took so long to come to fruition. More than any other rock artist, Keith Emerson has sought to mix classical and rock music, a move that brought him and Emerson, Lake & Palmer much derision in their ‘70s heyday.

The name of this disc refers to an ELP song from the debut (which is nowhere to be found here) and the three principals behind it: Emerson, guitarist Marc Bonilla, and conductor Terge Mikkelsen, who leads the Munich Radio Orchestra in this studio performance. Emerson has been working with Bonilla for several years now, so the songs selected for this disc are a mix of ELP classics, Bonilla originals and covers, and a new Emerson song.

Yet the results are less than stellar; this will appeal primarily to classical music students and those who like Broadway shows, but few else. Even ELP fans may be scratching their heads at how the covers of the songs are just…there.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

See, at their best, ELP created dynamic, layered music that did not need an orchestra or more noise to be powerful. A song like “Tarkus” works perfectly fine on its own, but here the mystery and power is stripped away, leaving only, well, an orchestral cover of “Tarkus.” If that kind of thing sounds appealing to you, then you’ll love it. If you are a classical fan and haven’t heard much ELP, “Tarkus” is a 20 minute epic, faithfully recreated here with little of the original’s spirit.

The opening wimpy cover of “The Endless Enigma” could double for any standard opening number of a Broadway show; I half expected a segue into “Memories” from Cats. “Abaddon’s Bolero” drags on interminably and “Fanfare For The Common Man” is slightly better, but only because it was originally a classical piece by Aaron Copland and is, therefore, played the way it was supposed to be. However, I’d recommend seeking out Greg Lake’s solo version from 2007, which has far more power and muscle.

There is actually very little rock about this; the orchestra rules the day and Emerson seems happy to be pushed to the background, acting more as a composer and less as a perfomer. As far as modern classical goes, short pieces like “After All Of This” and especially “The Mourning Sun” are quite nice, while Emerson’s stately piano and the strings on “Walking Distance” are the highlight of the album. “Malambo” is about the only time the rock and orchestra fuse into something original. Had they gone down this route instead of recycling those ELP tunes, this could have been more successful.

Bonilla gets points for his guitar playing; the normally flamboyant Emerson gets points for toning it down a notch or 12, and the orchestra does a fine job with what they’re given. But Three Fates Project is less than the sum of its parts, which is unfortunate, given the talent involved.

Rating: C-

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© 2012 Benjamin Ray and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Varese Sarabande, and is used for informational purposes only.