The Rules Have Changed
When 3 released its one and only album in 1988, the Emerson, Lake and Palmer offshoot proved a curious artifact. It reunited Keith Emerson with former partner Carl Palmer in the wake of the former having united with another ELP figure, Greg Lake, for 1985’s short-lived Emerson, Lake and Powell (with ex-Jeff Beck and Rainbow skinsman Cozy taking up the drummer’s throne and the P in ELP). That venture had been met with chart success. A single, “Touch and Go” became a minor hit and for a moment it seemed like there was some zest and a bright future for the merger. That was not to be.
The next step was a new endeavor. Palmer returned, Powell took off for other parts of the rock ‘n’ roll globe, and gifted composer and multi-instrumentalist Robert Berry stepped in for the absent Lake. Though the first endeavor (To The Power of Three) met with critical derision, the trio reached radio via “Talkin’ Bout.” Alliances being what they are among British progressive rock giants, the outfit was probably doomed from the start. When plans for a sophomore release went pear-shaped all parties returned to their respective corners. Berry eventually released some of the material penned for the second set on his Pilgrimage to a Pointeffort.
Berry maintained contact with Emerson over the next few decades and the two were planning a 3 continuation of sorts when the keyboard legend unexpectedly died in 2016. Reeling from the sudden loss, Berry was also faced with the fact that Palmer wouldn’t be able to commit to the project. He found himself faced with a towering question: Move forward and honor the idea he’d hatched with his longtime friend or let it slide into the sands of time?
He soon gathered compositional elements Emerson had shared with him during their discussions and set about making an almost follow-up to 3’s debut. Armed with some tapes, ideas bandied about in conversation and a renewed enthusiasm, Berry took to the studio to create 3.2, a project he believed would honor his late friend’s spirit.
With songwriting and arrangements credited to both men, The Rules Have Changed doesn’t give up the secrets of who contributed what very easily. The pieces here seamlessly blend the ideas of the living and the departed, honoring the sound of the previous set while moving the music into contemporary terrain.
From the contemplative, classically-influenced passages of the opening “One By One” to the titular piece and beyond, we’re witness to the impeccable talents at the core of this effort. “What You’re Dreamin’ Now” features plenty of progressive sturm und drangwithout over-egging the pudding. Though Berry remains a master of the electronic keyboard, some of his most haunting and convincing playing comes from the piano, such as on “Our Bond” and the aforementioned “One By One.”
There is a specter hanging over many of the lyrics and though it’s easy to see them as direct or indirect acknowledgements of Emerson, one is probably wise to keep in mind that songs rarely derive solely from one point of inspiration. Other high points include “Your Mark On The World” and the Kevin Gilbert-esque “This Letter.”
A welcome addition to the larger bodies of progressive rock and progressive pop alike.