The epitome of 70s Prog Rock pomp, Emerson, Lake and Palmer were one of the genre's most successful acts, selling over 40 million albums and headlining huge stadiums. They were also singled out by critics for embodying some of Prog's excesses. Although the trio produced several shorter, melodic tunes that found radio airplay at the time of their release, ELP's real forte was epic Classical-Rock pieces that often took up entire album sides and became centerpieces of the threesome's increasingly grandiose concert extravaganzas.
As a supergroup whose members had previously been featured in notable English bands, ELP was tipped for success from the start. Flamboyant keyboard wizard Keith Emerson, notable for his banks of multiple synthesizers, had experienced U.K. success with the Nice. Singer/bassist/guitarist Greg Lake, whose distinctive voice and catchy melodic sensibility were among ELP's most accessible elements, had been prominent in King Crimson's original lineup. Drummer Carl Palmer, who was known to augment his huge kit with gongs and various other percussive implements, had previously been a member of Atomic Rooster and the Crazy World of Arthur Brown.
Such early-70s ELP albums as Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Tarkus, Trilogy and Brain Salad Surgery balanced longer pieces with such radio-friendly tunes as "Lucky Man" and "From the Beginning," while Pictures at An Exhibition's status as an album-length Classical suite didn't stop it from becoming a Top 10 seller in America.
The threesome's adventures reached their logical conclusion with 1977's Works, Volume I, a two-LP set that combined group collaborations with solo pieces, including a side-long Emerson piano concerto. That set and its single-disc sequel, Works, Volume 2, were commercial disappointments, as was a massive tour featuring a full orchestra, whose overhead led to losses reported at $3 million. The Works albums and tour proved to be ELP's last big hurrah. Changing public tastes, including the rise of Punk and New Wave, had rendered the group's style unfashionable, and after 1978's slick Love Beach, ELP disbanded.
All three musicians launched productive solo careers, with Emerson becoming a busy soundtrack composer, Lake recording several solo albums, and Palmer co-founding another massively successful Prog supergroup, Asia. But ongoing fan interest was sufficient to generate a series of full and partial reunions. Emerson and Lake teamed with drummer Cozy Powell for a 1986 album as Emerson, Lake and Powell, while Emerson and Palmer partnered with bassist Robert Berry two years later under the band name 3. Emerson, Lake and Palmer finally staged a full reunion in 1992, releasing the well-received comeback album Black Moon and continuing to tour until 1998; the trio reconvened once again in 2010 for a 40th-anniversary concert in London's Victoria Park.