3 – …To the Power of Three (1988)

Every once in a while, I listen to a CD that I am almost certain no human on the face of the earth would ever listen to. For example, take this CD by the Keith Emerson-derivitave band simply called 3. This CD, called …To the Power of Three consists of eight songs that are top-40 friendly in the same way that the exceedingly sterile Pink Floyd album A Momentary Lapse of Reason was supposed to be radio-friendly. With a reunion of former ELP stars Emerson on keys and drummer Carl Palmer, the band was fronted by Bay-Area producer and singer/songwriter Robert Berry.

This is a 1988 attempt at a serious rock album, back on the tail end of when Asia was charting pop tunes, and Yes actually got a smidge of mainstream airplay and even time on MTV. (Anyone else remember the April Fool’s day when they played like 267 different versions of the video “Leave It,” with the band upside down and singing? Except they swapped out band members for roadies and office staff at the studio and whoever else for the different iterations, and even played some of the commercials upside-down to keep with the joke. I know only like three people found that truly hilarious, but I was one of them…) This CD came out on the tail of an ELP reunion (but with Cozy Powell), a GTR album that sold some copies, and a few other prog-rock has-beens that picked up some Korg M1s and headless Steinberger basses and made another serious go at it. And this peaked at #97 on the Billboard 200, which tells you this formula worked to some extent.

Although it did chart, the 3 album is a pretty weak stab at world domination. Everything’s very ballady, and the sound overall is very tinny and brittle. The highlight is probably a song “Desde La Vida” that is a three-parter, the middle showing that Emerson can still get around the ivory. It’s also got a cover of “Eight Miles High” that’s marginally interesting, but the whole thing is basically 37:38 of vintage cheesomatic synth and very cookiecutter drums that could’ve been done by a synth or drum machine. Some of the songs have a slight memorable quality, but they are very much pop numbers and not prog-ish in any way, except for maybe a quick run or two on the keyboard by Emerson. It is not by any means an extension of ELP’s previous work, and even if you expect it to be 66% of something like Trilogy, you’d be very far off the mark.

I think I borrowed the tape from my friend Derik Rinehart at the time, and I’m not sure if I ever returned it (my old car had holes in the floors, many tapes didn’t make it.) A couple of years later, I found a used copy of the CD for 88 cents, and picked it up. It’s one of those albums that is definitely stuck in my head, that I listened to at the time and thought “wow, Emerson sure can play! This MIDI shit is the wave of the future!” and then got sidetracked when I found out about Primus or Nine Inch Nails or whatever else was cool at that second. Now, every once in a while, I listen to it (mostly because 3 is the first band on my iPod’s alphabetical display) and it immediately takes me back to 1988, when I listened to this stuff constantly. But yes, it’s a tough sell.

Rating: 6.5