Tarkus is the second studio album by the English progressive rock band Emerson, Lake & Palmer, released in June 1971 on Island Records. Following their 1970 European tour, the group returned to Advision Studios in January 1971 to prepare material for a new album. The first side is the seven-part song “Tarkus”, with a collection of shorter tracks on side two.
Tarkus went to number one in the UK Albums Chart and peaked at number 9 in the US.
Emerson, Lake & Palmer began to work on their second studio album in January 1971.
The cover artwork was commissioned from the painter and graphic designer William Neal.
“…The armadillo was simply a doodle created from a fusion of ideas while working on the Rare Bird album As Your Mind Flies By. I had produced a gun belt made up of piano keys, which somehow led to WW1 armoury; nobody liked the idea, but the little armadillo remained on the layout pad. Later on we were asked to submit ideas to E.L.P. for their second album. David Herbet and I put tank tracks on the little fellow… yet it was still basically a doodle. However, Keith Emerson spotted it and loved the idea, so we developed him further… After hearing the substance of Tarkus on the acetate I developed the ideas along with Keith and Greg, and painted all the other creatures too.”
Keith Emerson said, “To everyone, it represented what we were doing in that studio. The next day on my drive up from Sussex the imagery of the armadillo kept hitting me. It had to have a name. Something guttural. It had to begin with the letter ‘T’ and end with a flourish. “Tarka the Otter” may have come into it, but this armadillo needed a science fiction kind of name that represented Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution in reverse. Some mutilation of the species caused by radiation…”Tarkus”!”
Tarkus was released on 14 June 1971 in the UK on Island Records, appearing two months later in the US by Atlantic Records’ subsidiary label Cotillion Records. It is one of only two ELP records to reach the Top 10 in the States, making it to #9 (Trilogy, the following year, got to #5), while in Britain it is their only number-one album. Additionally, Tarkus spent a total of 17 weeks in the UK Albums Chart. In Japan the album was released on Atlantic Records. Later vinyl reissues were on the Manticore label.
Tarkus was certified gold in the United States shortly after its release on 26 August 1971.
Tarkus received generally favorable reviews from critics.
Emerson admitted that Tarkus was one of his favourite albums, “not least because the title track has taken on a life of its own.” (by wikipedia)
Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s 1970 eponymous LP was only a rehearsal. It hit hard because of the novelty of the act (allegedly the first supergroup in rock history), but felt more like a collection of individual efforts and ideas than a collective work. All doubts were dissipated by the release of Tarkus in 1971. Side one of the original LP is occupied by the 21-minute title epic track, beating both Genesis’ “Supper’s Ready” and Yes’ “Close to the Edge” by a year. Unlike the latter group’s cut-and-paste technique to obtain long suites, “Tarkus” is a thoroughly written, focused piece of music. It remains among the Top Ten classic tracks in progressive rock history. Because of the strength of side one, the material on the album’s second half has been quickly forgotten — with one good reason: it doesn’t match the strength of its counterpart — but “Bitches Crystal” and “A Time and a Place” make two good prog rock tracks, the latter being particularly rocking. “Jeremy Bender” is the first in a series of honky tonk-spiced, Far-West-related songs. This one and the rock & roll closer “Are You Ready Eddy?” are the only two tracks worth throwing away. Otherwise Tarkus makes a very solid album, especially to the ears of prog rock fans — no Greg Lake acoustic ballads, no lengthy jazz interludes. More accomplished than the trio’s first album, but not quite as polished as Brain Salad Surgery, Tarkus is nevertheless a must-have. (by François Couture)
The original Island labels
Keith Emerson (keyboards, synthesizer)
Greg Lake (vocals, bass, guitar)
Carl Palmer (drums, percussion)
01. Tarkus (20.52)
01.1.Eruption (Emerson) 2.43
01.2. Stones Of Years (Emerson/Lake) 3.43
01.3. Iconoclast (Emerson) 1.16
01.4. Mass (Emerson/Lake) 3.09
01.5. Manticore (Emerson) 1.49
01.6. Battlefield (Lake) 3.57
01.7. Aquatarkus (Emerson) 3.54
02. Jeremy Bender (Emerson/Lake) 1.41
03. Bitches Crystal (Emerson/Lake) 3.54
04. The Only Way (Hymn) (Emerson/Lake) 3.50
05. Infinite Space (Conclusion) (Emerson/Palmer) 3.18
06. A Time And A Place (Emerson/Lake/Palmer) 3.00
07. Are You Ready Eddy? (Emerson/Lake/Palmer) 2.09