Despite all the pretentiousness, there's still some good stuff that can be found on the band's first five albums, such as "The Barbarian", "Tarkus", "The Curse of Baba Yaga", "The Endless Enigma" and, most definitely, "First Impression, Part 2" of Karn Evil 9 ("Welcome Back, My Friends to the Show that never ends!")
Excerpts from "First Impression, Part 2" have even been used for the theme song and incidental music of BBC Television's prime-time show "The Generation Game" — though not the bit about "seven virgins and a mule", obviously.
Let's not forget songs like "Take a Pebble", "From the Beginning", "Trilogy"... really, ELP had quite a few classics on their first five albums, and even the often reviled Works had their great arrangement of Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man". Their King Biscuit Flour Hour live appearance, later issued on compact disc, also has quite a few great performances in it.
Black Sheep Hit: "Lucky Man" was their first hit, but very atypical of the band. It is a straightforward acoustic-guitar ballad, as opposed to their long winded, keyboard-heavy style. As a result, most following albums had at least one ballad penned by Lake, such as "The Sage", "From The Beginning", "Still... You Turn Me On" and "C'est La Vie", some of which became black sheep hits in their own right.
Deader Than Disco: Some claim ELP was the final nail on Progressive Rock's coffin. While huge in the '70s, they're not nearly as fondly regarded these days as their contemporaries like Pink Floyd, Yes or Rush. Most critics see them as embodying the worst aspects of prog and everything wrong with rock in the '70s.
Ending Fatigue: "Memoirs of an Officer and Gentleman", a 20-minute song that has a five-minute coda consisting of marching music with no vocals.
"Funny Aneurysm" Moment: From "Karn Evil 9": "Come inside, the show's about to start/Guaranteed to blow your head apart..." In light of Keith Emerson's doing just that, this line has suddenly become much more uncomfortable.
Harsher in Hindsight: Emerson's suicide makes the end of "Lucky Man" that much more haunting, particularly because he shot himself.
Hell Is That Noise: "Toccata," most definitely. A prog version of a twentieth century composition that features strong discontinuity, dissonance, and Sensory Abuse. One of ELP's more frightening recordings. It's also so very much Creepy Awesome.
Emerson actually played an early version of the "Toccata" to composer Alberto Ginastera, who praised it as "diabolical" and commended its creepiness, largely since the "Toccata" had been written to be terrifying in the first place.
"Lucky Man". Yes, the lyrics are simplistic and naive (it was written by a twelve-year-old Greg Lake). Yes, the guitar and vocals are pretty. And yes, it's pretty sadnonetheless.
The band's music itself. Sure, it's pretentious and bombastic, but their early albums are awesome.
Nightmare Fuel: On the one hand, a lot of ELP's attempts at this come across as Nightmare Retardant. On the other, they could pull it off when they tried, as seen with "The Barbarian", "Toccata", possibly "Knife Edge" and maybe Keith Emerson's distorted, Dalek-like computer voice at the end of "Karn Evil 9".