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Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Tarkus (1971) front cover.jpg
Studio album by Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Released 14 June 1971[1]
Recorded January 1971 at Advision Studios in London
Genre Progressive rock
Length 38:55
Label Island
Producer Greg Lake
Emerson, Lake & Palmer chronology
Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Pictures at an Exhibition

Tarkus is the second album by British progressive rock band Emerson, Lake & Palmer, released in 1971.

The band's March 1971 live recording, Pictures at an Exhibition, an interpretation of Modest Mussorgsky's work of the same name, was to be released as the band's second album. Due to management conflicts, the recording was not released until after Tarkus. The record company was reluctant to release a classical suite as an album, and insisted it be released on their classical music label instead. Fearing that this would lead to poor sales, ELP instead decided to shelve the work. After the success of Tarkus, however, the label agreed to release Pictures as a budget live album.

Recording and concept[edit]

Emerson, Lake & Palmer began to work on their second studio album in January 1971.[2]

The cover artwork was commissioned from the painter and graphic designer William Neal.[3]

"...[T]he 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 pianokeys [sic], 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 2nd 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..."[4]

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"!"[5]


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.[6] 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.[6] Additionally, Tarkus spent a total of 17 weeks in the UK Albums Chart.[7] 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.[8]

In 1993, the album was first digitally remastered by Joseph M. Palmaccio at PolyGram Studios. This remastered version was released by Victory Music in Europe and Rhino Records in North America.

Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab issued Anadisq 200 Series LP (MFSL-1-203) and Gold CD UltraDisc II (UDCD 598)[9] remasters in 1994. These items are currently out of print.[10]

In May 2012, Steven Wilson announced that he had recently remixed two classic albums by ELP, their first (eponymous) album from 1970 and second album Tarkus from 1971. Both albums were subsequently released by Sony 27 August 2012 as 3 disc sets. In each case disc one is a CD of the original mix (duplicating the Palmaccio master), disc two is a CD of the stereo remix in the form of an alternate version of the album, adding a lot of bonus material and previously undiscovered tracks recorded during the sessions. Disc 3 is a DVD-Audio containing lossless 5.1 surround sound mixes and high resolution versions of the 2012 stereo mixes.[11]


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3.5/5 stars[12]
Rolling Stone (unfavorable)[13]

Tarkus received generally favourable reviews from critics.

François Couture of Allmusic, in a three-and-a-half-star review, praised the album and said that Tarkus made "a very solid album, especially to the ears of prog rock fans - no Greg Lake acoustic ballads, no lengthy jazz interludes." Couture concluded, "More accomplished than the trio's first album, but not quite as polished as Brain Salad Surgery, Tarkus is nevertheless a must-have."[12]

Keith Emerson admits that Tarkus is one of his favourite albums, "not least because the title track has taken on a life of its own."[6]

Track listing[edit]

Original vinyl[edit]

All lyrics written by Greg Lake. 

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Tarkus"
  • "Eruption" (Emerson) – 2:43
  • "Stones of Years" (Emerson, Lake) – 3:43
  • "Iconoclast" (Emerson) – 1:16
  • "Mass" (Emerson, Lake) – 3:09
  • "Manticore" (Emerson) – 1:49
  • "Battlefield" (Lake) – 3:57
  • "Aquatarkus" (Emerson) – 3:54"  
Emerson, Lake 20:40
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Jeremy Bender"   Emerson, Lake 1:41
2. "Bitches Crystal"   Emerson, Lake 3:54
3. "The Only Way (Hymn)"   Emerson, Lake 3:50
4. "Infinite Space (Conclusion)"   Emerson, Palmer 3:18
5. "A Time and a Place"   Emerson, Lake, Palmer 3:00
6. "Are You Ready Eddy?"   Emerson, Lake, Palmer 2:09
Total length:
  • "The Only Way (Hymn)": Themes used in intro. and bridge only – Toccata in F and Prelude VI, Bach.
  • Although not credited, the music to "Are You Ready Eddy?" was largely inspired by Bobby Troup's 1956 song "The Girl Can't Help It." In his 2004 autobiography Pictures of an Exhibitionist, Keith Emerson refers to the track as "an impromptu jam" played in celebration of completing work on Tarkus.[14]

2012 Remix[edit]

All lyrics written by Greg Lake. 

CD 2 - The Alternate Tarkus New 2012 Stereo Mixes
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Tarkus"
  • "Eruption" (Emerson)
  • "Stones of Years" (Emerson, Lake)
  • "Iconoclast" (Emerson)
  • "Mass" (Emerson, Lake)
  • "Manticore" (Emerson)
  • "Battlefield" (Lake)
  • "Aquatarkus" (Emerson)"  
Emerson, Lake 20:46
2. "Jeremy Bender"   Emerson, Lake 1:57
3. "Bitches Crystal"   Emerson, Lake 3:59
4. "The Only Way (Hymn)"   Emerson, Lake 3:47
5. "Infinite Space (Conclusion)"   Emerson, Palmer 3:23
6. "A Time and a Place"   Emerson, Lake, Palmer 3:03
7. "Are You Ready Eddy?"   Emerson, Lake, Palmer 2:12
Bonus tracks
No. Title Writer(s) Length
8. "Oh, My Father"   Lake 4:07
9. "Unknown Ballad"   Emerson 3:04
10. "Mass (Alternate Take)"   Emerson, Lake 4:30

Wilson's stereo and 5.1 mixes of Tarkus include the previously unreleased song "Oh, My Father", described by Wilson in the sleeve notes as "a wonderful Greg Lake song that seems to be a deeply personal piece about the death of his father, which could well be why it wasn't used at the time". The stereo mixes also include another unreleased song, with vocals by Emerson, entitled "Unknown Ballad" and an unreleased mix of "Mass" without vocals. The validity of "Unknown Ballad" as a real Emerson, Lake and Palmer recording has been disputed. It is a piano ballad with, supposedly, vocals by Keith Emerson, and at the end, studio chatter that seems to be Lake. In an interview about the reissue, Emerson points out that he doesn't remember having composed or played the song, and some forums have suggested that it doesn't seem to be Emerson singing. In fact, on the 2013 reissue of the 2 CD deluxe edition (by Razor & Tie), the track was removed.





Year Chart Position
1971 UK Albums Chart 1[7]
1971 Billboard 200 9[16]

Sales certifications[edit]

Country Organization Sales
US RIAA Gold[8]


  1. ^ "Tarkus page on the Emerson, Lake & Palmer official website". 
  2. ^ Dome, Malcolm (2011). "Emerson, Lake & Palmer's Tarkus". Classic Rock Presents Prog (17): 74. 
  3. ^ "William Neal talks on the Tarkus cover artwork and origin of the title.". www.williamneal.co.uk. 
  4. ^ "Tarkus". Williamneal.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-02-20. 
  5. ^ Dome, Malcolm (2011). "Emerson, Lake & Palmer's Tarkus". Classic Rock Presents Prog (17): 76. 
  6. ^ a b c Dome, Malcolm (2011). "Emerson, Lake & Palmer's Tarkus". Classic Rock Presents Prog (17): 77. 
  7. ^ a b "Emerson, Lake & Palmer chart positions in the UK". The Official Charts Company. 
  8. ^ a b "RIAA's Gold & Platinum Program searchable database". Recording Industry Association of America. 
  9. ^ "Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab complete Gold CD UltraDisc and UltraDisc II discography". 
  10. ^ "Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab album discography". 
  11. ^ "Emerson Lake & Palmer - TARKUS [DVD-A]". 
  12. ^ a b Couture, François. "Tarkus - Emerson, Lake & Palmer". Allmusic. 
  13. ^ Lebin, David (1971-08-19). "Emerson, Lake & Palmer: Tarkus : Music Reviews". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 2007-11-10. 
  14. ^ Emerson, Keith (2004). Pictures of an Exhibitionist, John Blake Publishing Ltd., ISBN 1-84454-053-7, p. 205.
  15. ^ Tarkus (Media notes). Island Records. 1971. ILPS 9155. 
  16. ^ "Tarkus chart position in the US". Billboard. 

Further reading[edit]